Why We Should Be More Conscientious When We Shop

This is the cycle of hyperconsumerism: shop excessively, stockpile clutter, repeat. America is built on this wasteful but effective concept, which causes us to ravage people and the environment yet keeps our economy afloat. How do (and how should) we think about this issue?

For most of my life, I didn’t think twice about my typically-American lifestyle choices. Some of those include:

  • Leaving a store with several items I didn’t intend to buy initially
  • Buying new things often
  • Having piles of clutter throughout my living space

I never questioned these actions because frequent, frivolous shopping is so normalized in our culture. Entire stores exist with the seeming purpose of encouraging us to buy things we don’t need (shooting you a side-eye, Target). Almost every household in a first-world country contains some amount of excess.

Towards the end of 2019, I stumbled across two books which changed my perspective and ripped the blinders from my eyes. Shopping by Michelle Gonzalez is about 100 pages and provides illuminating information on American consumption levels. Gonzalez, a Catholic, spends a portion of the book delving into the spiritual implications of this issue. I also read We Are All Fast Food Workers Now by Annelise Orleck, which pries the shiny veneer off our first-world lives of luxury to reveal a dark underbelly. Our materialistic lifestyles are held up by foreign and domestic workers who are impoverished, mistreated, and miserable.

Now, my lifestyle looks drastically different. I don’t buy things without a lot of critical thought on whether I will REALLY use/need/love it and where I will store it in my home. I almost never leave a store with more than I went to buy. And I consider the conditions around which things are made–what resources did it require? Was it made in a sustainable way? Are the workers who made it getting fair wages?

During the Coronavirus quarantine, I’ve been decluttering, organizing, and cleaning (among other things). I’ve read of and spoken with others who are doing the same. For those going through that process, we are being reminded how much junk we own. And for all of us, whether we are or aren’t in the midst of spring cleaning, we are being deprived of many “impulse shopping” outlets. No T.J. Maxx, no Hobby Lobby, no Forever 21, no Marshall’s, no Zara’s (in-person stores, at least). I feel slightly diabolical for saying this, but I’m GLAD people can’t access as many stores right now. Temporarily, we’ll have to be less mindlessly compulsive than usual.

I don’t want to cram “everything under the kitchen sink” in this post, so I’ve got some ideas for future posts:

  • Shocking Statistics on American Consumption
  • Ways to Shop Sustainably
  • Ways to Save Money & the Environment
  • Reviewing Sustainable Purchases I’ve Made
  • Etc.

So, now, there will be a new category on Retrospective Lily–“Sustainability.” 🙂 [Updated website graphics coming soon!]

I’ll wrap up this post by saying that hyperconsumption is not good for our wallets, our already-overflowing living spaces, or the planet (not to mention, our mentality/spirituality). However, the American economy depends on our materialism: millions upon millions of people work in a retail industry…hence my feeling “diabolical” for my earlier comments. Speaking of monkey wrenches, we must also consider how those in poverty can participate in sustainable practices; as with the fast food vs. fresh veggies predicament, it’s generally cheaper to live UNsustainably. I plan to explore the nuances of this topic in future posts.

Exploiting the environment, people, and even our own spirits is not sustainable long-term. We need to change. We can, and I believe we will, do better in the future. Surely, we can find ways to sustain our economy without destroying God’s creation.

Thanks for reading! How are your shopping habits? Do you have excess in your home? Let me know in the comments.

Another blogger pointed out recently that our seemingly-unanswered prayers could actually come to fruition after we’ve passed on from this life. That is an encouraging thought for me. I pray that, throughout my lifetime and even after I’ve passed on, ideas of waste reduction and caring for the environment will continue to grow in popularity to a point where they are eventually normalized. I hope Americans will look back on us in a few generations and scoff at how we did things.

22 comments

  1. Lily, I’m really excited that you will be sharing about sustainable living. I’m very excited to learn from you. I’ve embraced a similar mindset in recent years, which has led to me embracing minimalism and getting rid of a lot of clutter. I apply the same approach to my digital life too (perhaps there’s a future post you could do?).

    I don’t know if you already follow her but if not check out ‘simply by christine’ on YouTube. She’s a Christian and her channel on sustainable living is amazing.

    As is so often the case, your post brought a little joy to my Friday evening. Thank you, Lily, and have a great weekend.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I like the idea of applying it to my digital life. Ugh, I really need to clean out photos and contacts connected to my Google account. That would be a good post idea! I hadn’t heard of her, but I will check her out. I love minimalism and sustainability channels. Thanks for always being supportive, Steven. Peace and blessings to you. ♥♥

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Recently, I’ve been wondering about the conditions of workers who make cheap things in countries like China. I’d be interested to find out more, and I’d like to look into buying from companies that treat workers well.
    This was an interesting post! Thanks, Lily.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. That’s awesome, Shae. I know you are very mature anyways, but I’m glad you are already being more mindful and not totally selfish at a young age, hehe. I was all about boys and trying to be cool as a teenager. Glad you dropped by! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Relatable! I can’t remember the exact statistic, but I know waste really increases around the holidays. I’m the crazy person at the family gathering who wants to save everyone’s tissue paper and gift bags/boxes.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. My son and I have been watching Little House on the Prairie during this stay-at-home time. I’ve been impacted by their simplicity of life and yet their great happiness. Joy certainly doesn’t come from “things.” Good, thought-provoking post!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I need to watch the show! In the same vein, I just finished “The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck, which is set during the Great Depression. It has been such a timely reminder of how blessed I really am. Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment, Patty!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Guilty! ✋🏽
    My splurging is usually in the grocery store. I think “oh, my son will need this, or my gram will love that or my parents would appreciate such and such, or maybe I will need this in a recipe.” Pshaw! I definitely need to simply get what I need, unless the Lord tells me otherwise. He is after all our daily provider so why can’t He provide when I’m out?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Being conscientious with food shopping is so much harder than clothes and other stuff, since we need to eat so often, haha! Good point that we need to trust God more to provide and quit buying so much–doing so is often rooted in fear, but we don’t need to be afraid.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I hope through this time of “sheltering at home” people have discovered they can live on less and make do with what they have. I am not a shopper so during this time, because of my of my normal shopping habits (I buy out of need) I have left the store empty handed! I have been trying to “think ahead” which hasn’t been easy for me to do, but I am trying. 😂

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Great information! I try my hardest to always stick to a list and only buy the things I need. I find that I do a much better job of this if I shop online. When I’m in the store some things catch my eye and end up in my cart. Then I get home and wonder what in the world I bought it for! 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Nice thoughts can’t wait to see what else you dish out in future posts…we’ve definitely been spring cleaning at our house lately, I’m not an overindulger when it comes to shopping but I do feel like I’m always conscientious of what I can throw out or donate and nowadays it’s been even more so
    Take care Lily!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much, Alicia! So glad you are being mindful of what you can donate as you clean. I hate when people just throw EVERYTHING in a big dumpster, as I’ve seen on “Hoarders.” In extreme scenarios, I can see why people would lack the patience to sort it all out, but it still upsets me knowing useful things are going to the landfill. Hope you all are staying sane–especially mom! 😉 ♥

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We are really doing good! Enjoying this downtime ❤️🙏

        I really enjoy donating things to the second store because the things I’m getting rid of are still good quality and good condition, it’s just that maybe I have double of the item, no use, or loss of interest..it does my heart good to donate those items to bless someone else.

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  8. Minimalism has been a growing thought process within my family. We haven’t missed anything we cut out or got rid of. Consumerism has gone unchecked for a really long time and I think this minimalist mindset will continue to grow. Thanks for sharing Lily!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s great, Sullivan! I have worried that it’d be more difficult with children in the mix, since they are always wanting/being given little toys and knick-knacks. I also hope and believe the minimalism trend will keep growing. Time for the pendulum to swing the other way!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. After trimming junk away and having kids, I’d say the kids are more flexible than us grown ups. I think adults use kids as an excuse to stay the same, when kids really don’t care and will do whatever you say. When my wife and I enthusiastically lead the way, the kids are on board with getting rid of toys/clothes/diet changes. It can be done.

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