Consumerism at its best

Bismillahi ir-rahman ir-rahim – In the name of Allah, most gracious, most merciful

I have recently noticed something.  Something I am somewhat ashamed to admit, but something I need to be honest about.  I love spending money.  I don’t know why I love spending money, but there’s something about it…the excitement of a bargain, the smell of new things, the ability to go into a shop and take away whatever goodies I desire…I really can’t pinpoint exactly what it is, there’s just something about it that I find quite exciting.  I never really noticed this before.  I always knew I enjoyed shopping, but it took a shopping drought for me to notice exactly how much.  I didn’t buy anything other than groceries for about a month, and then visited a local shopping center, and I’m embarrassed to admit I found it somewhat exhilarating.

I should probably point out here that I’m not a huge spender or anything.  I can imagine you’re probably all thinking I just go throwing wads of money away on nothing, on the contrary I am quite careful with my money, and even my husband says I’m “pretty good” with money.  I look for bargains, rarely buy myself clothes, buy the kids discounted clothes at the end of the season for next year, and talk myself out of numerous purchases that we don’t really need.  I do, however, sometimes indulge a little more than I should, and I know I can do better.  So its not that I find my love of shopping troublesome in any way, its just that on a personal and spiritual level I find it quite disturbing.

What I find equally, or perhaps even more disturbing is another discovery I made about myself, today actually.  I love throwing things out!!  There’s something empowering about getting rid of objects, objects that you no longer need, and more often than not, you never did.  Objects that just sit around taking up precious space, making it harder for you to clean and tidy based on the overwhelming amount of things that you have.  Knowing that with each thing you get rid of you have created more space for yourself and made your life that little bit more easy. Today alone I got rid of approximately 3 garbage bags full just from the linen closet, and I still haven’t touched 2 shelves!  All that stuff has been with me for years, it has move with us 2-3 times, most of it I have never used.  Some will go to my parents, other stuff isn’t even worth passing on, but all of it will be gone from my possession, I just don’t need it cluttering up my house anymore.  And I have to say the more I get rid of, the better it feels!  As I declutter more and get rid of more things I can feel a weight lift from my shoulders.

Upon reflection I realised that this is part of what we have become today – the consumer.  We love to buy and obtain more and more material possessions.  The next bargain, the next breakthrough in technology, the next fashion item, and the latest gadget to teach our children.  Then, over the years, we realise we have accumulated so much that it becomes suffocating.  Subsequently,  we go through the cleansing process of eliminating that which we do not need.  We throw out what is not worthy of keeping, ‘blessing’ others with what is no longer of any value to ourselves and that others may find useful.  Of course this then makes room for more possessions and the cycle begins all over again.

How do you break free of the cycle?  I am not entirely sure.  However, I do have some ideas which I hope helps to partially remove me from the cycle, or at least weaken its effect.  The first step is being aware of this phenomena and writing this piece is a part of that process.  I know its become a cliche, but I really do believe that “the first step to a solution is acknowledging the problem”.   Before making any purchases I will ask myself “do I REALLY need this or will it just end up in a garbage bag, as so many things have before?”  “Is purchasing this akin to throwing money down the drain?”.  Insha’allah (God willing) this will help me to avoid useless purchases and keep me on track.

The second thing I plan to implement is to focus on quality instead of quantity or price.  I remember when I first got married I needed so many things so I just tried to get them as cheaply as I could.  Not having experience with buying many of these things, I couldn’t tell the difference between a cheap item and something that appeared to be the same, served the same function, but which had a price tag which was a few times higher than the cheaper item.  So naturally I would purchase the cheaper item.  It didn’t take me too long to discover that those cheaper sheets were cheaper for a reason!  They would pill and were horribly uncomfortable to sleep on.  I have learnt my lesson and now I try to only purchase good quality things.  They cost more in the short term, but you save in the long run.  You save money when you don’t need to constantly replace things, you save the clutter of having extra things laying around that you no longer use, you save the time and energy you spend having to go back and look for things to purchase all over again, and you save on the resources you have depleted by using twice as much of the same thing.  Now I don’t mind paying the extra money for something I know will be good quality and will last.  It makes it so much easier in the long run, and limits my role in this vicious cycle.

I doubt the results will be instant, but I do hope that within a year or two I notice a difference. Hopefully I will be purchasing less and throwing out less.  I don’t expect that I will ever cease to be a consumer, but I do hope that my role as one will become increasingly limited and that I can learn to live more simply.

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One response to “Consumerism at its best

  1. Assallam Alaikum Sister,

    Consumerism is such an overconsumptive and capitalism driven ideal. Commercialism and our peers help create a “need” (e.g. I need a newer larger bag, I need a wafflemaker).
    It’s so frustrating how wasteful we can be. Everything from the grocery store comes sealed in a bag, in a cardboard box or other plastic container. The amount of waste we can save on simple things like reusable bags and buying products without too much packaging is amazing.
    When it comes to household items or clothes, I like secondhand items often. We currently live in a city full of amazing consignment shops, yard sales and “free” items curbside. Even when getting rid of that bookshelf you no longer need, others can use it too.
    I love moving because it makes me go through old stuff and get rid of things we no longer need/use. However, I can’t seem to quit buying new clothes… or keeping old ones. I make great use of clothing I have had which spans 10yrs. I wear almost all of it at some point. I figure the only way I could cut this back would be simple abayas…. but I just loooove a good wardrobe. Darn that consumer bug… it bites us all.

    Good and thought provoking post.

    Peace~Sallam,
    aisha

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