December 28, 2008
Reducing Consumerism

I have a roof over my head, a closet full of clothes, cupboards of dishes and pots, furniture to sit and sleep on. I have books to read, music to listen to, a computer to help me communicate. There are bins of fabrics and boxes of art supplies in my studio, and plenty of tools to use on them.

I think I have enough.

So what if I stopped buying things for a year? I mean no more clothes or furniture, no tools or gear. No new toys or books or supplies. Food and consumable daily essentials excepted, of course.

Can I make do with what I have? I think so. I have enough.

But why would I stop buying things? Largely because I dislike consumer culture (easy for me to say, since I think I have enough stuff). It is more satisfying to me to make my own stuff, as you probably realise from reading past entries here. But not buying anything for a year is broader than my DIY skillset. So doing this is definitely a personal challenge, but to what end? Here are some points that I’d hope to achieve:

  • become mindful of my consumption
  • exercise creativity by repurposing what I already have
  • improve skills in repair, maintenance, & construction
  • build networks through bartering and trade
  • reduce my “ecological footprint” by decreasing waste and increasing the life of my things
  • refocus my desires to more meaningful things, rather than an LED hula hoop

But what implications am I overlooking? What grey areas am I going to have to clarify? Before I jump into this, which I am likely to do for the new year, what hurdles can you think of that might make me stumble or fail?

Posted by kuri at December 28, 2008 10:09 AM


You’ll need to consider a few things:

1. You’ll need repair/replacement for the current things you own. Since you are a techie, you’ll need things to upkeep your electronics and generally these must be bought. I think it a fair compromise that you don’t purchase anything new but it is fair to replace parts, or if necessary upgrade parts such as storage or memory, if your work requires it. That’s not rampant consumerism, that’s being well prepared to offer your services.

2. Consumerism for others - do you often hit up Amazon for gifts? It may cost the same to buy something new as to ship it to someone in the States. Where does this fit in?

3. I doubt you’re doing this to save money but rather as an ideological experiment. But you may wish to save the money and dine in rather than out once a week. Put the cash in a retirement fund, a charity, a travel budget, etc.

4. How about trade offs? If you can save electricity by buying a greener power supply for one of your servers, does that count? Compact florescent light bulbs for replacements of your current ones? Is that allowed?

5. Magazines? English books? I doubt there’s an easy library of English books nearby but I could be wrong. Maybe you could start an expat lending library….

6. Health items. What about massages or shiatsu? Is that consumerism purchasing services? A new pillow that might help with headaches? Etc.

That’s it off the top of my head. I do think you can do this and do it reasonably easily. If you’ve accumulated the same amount of stuff we have, you should easily be able to pull this off.

You have to let us all know more.



Posted by: Seth on December 28, 2008 12:02 PM

Always forward thinking. What a challenge for the new year. I love stopping by and reading your entries. Thanks, Kuri!


Posted by: Doris on December 29, 2008 03:13 AM

I think it’s an interesting experiment if used as a tool for exploration as you indicate. In that spirit, I would be just as interested in knowing what exceptions come up. Rather than an evidence of failure or shame, exceptions would be interesting psychological revelations…instances of thought-provoking consumption.

I guess in the end, I’m just interested in thoughtful action. To draw a line and say, “I won’t buy anything.” is not any more intriguing than people who give no thought to what they buy. But then, I’m always wary of absolutes. For example, if one took a vow of silence, should he or she break it to save sleeping people from a burning building? Practical me says, of course.

I’m trying to make the opposite resolve—to go out more, to spend more…although not necessarily on things which I have my fill of…but of experiences.

Posted by: mss @ nipponDAZE on December 29, 2008 08:18 AM

Thanks for your comments; you are giving me interesting things to think about.

I seem to be leaning towards “experiences aren’t stuff” so buying a museum entrance, getting a haircut, or traveling would be OK. Education is an experience, too. I am sure I can rack up quite large bills for experiences, so I doubt I will be saving money in the end. I guess I will have to be thoughtful about necessary vs luxury experiences.

To Seth’s points:

1. I will try to find alternatives to replacing if I can. Maybe clearing a hard drive off instead of buying a bigger one. But I know my cell phone has a bad battery. It has to be replaced. Can I live without my cell phone? Hmmmm.

2. Gifts are tricky. For people near me physically, maybe I can do experiences with them, or offer my services. Bake them a cake. For far-flung friends, I don’t know…yet.

3. Money saving isn’t part of the goal, though I suppose I will save some. Adding any savings to a retirement fund is probably wise.

4. Trade-offs. I hadn’t considered that. I don’t think I would choose to replace something with an eco-friendly model if it didn’t need replacing, but if it did have to be replaced, then the planet-friendliest option available should win. I think. I imagine there are exceptions even to this.

5. Reading materials will have to be borrowed, traded or bought used. Ideally borrowed so that I have to return them. I have a stock of too many books already. Maybe it is time to re-read my favorites.

6. Health items. Some of them, like medication, are consumable so they are OK to buy. Treatments are also experience/consumable. Devices would have to be considered and guaranteed to work as advertised. I don’t think I’d buy the pillow, but I’d get crutches if I broke my leg.

mss: I will document my year: thoughts, feelings, and a wish list. I want to track what changes I encounter in myself and in my world as a result of doing this. The exceptions will be revealing. My plan is to journal on paper, but to post the interesting bits from time to time here.

Again, thanks for the comments and keep them coming.

Posted by: Kristen on December 29, 2008 09:08 AM

Anyway I’m cleaning now. Fortunatly it is not cold, so probably it is a good day for wihter cleaning and preparing for New year.

BUT today it was the last garbage day, so in the backyard, there are some? many? garbage bags, and magagines. (I reguraly take out newspapers, so most of magagies are my husband’s.)

Happy New Year!

Posted by: Mieko on December 30, 2008 04:19 PM
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