After a couple weeks of seriousness, I’m ready for a light-hearted topic. In the second installment of my new Sustainability series, I’ll share some wasteful habits I had before my awareness was heightened on topics like caring for the environment and minimalism.
These things seem silly and ridiculous in retrospect, and you might wonder–why?! I think there’s an attitude of “frivolous materialism” which undergirds Western society and all the habits I describe below. Wasting money and accumulating stuff is so normalized in our society that we sometimes don’t question our illogical and/or impulsive shopping habits.
Buying random things because they’re cheap
In the past, it was common for me to leave a store with many items I had not intended to buy initially. It could be anything–nail polish, a shower cap, a pen, chapstick, a knick-knack (like the unicorn pictured), a keychain, you name it. If it was mildly useful and relatively inexpensive, I almost reflexively added it to my cart as I shuffled down the aisles.
[Now, I’m deliberate with my purchases, always assessing, “Do I really need this?” or, if I really want to guilt trip myself, “Do I need this enough to justify its winding up in a landfill somewhere down the road?”]
Buying unnecessary bathroom products for a sale
If I enter a drugstore to buy a new bottle of my face wash, moisturizer, etc. I often encounter sales that apply if I buy multiple products from the same brand. Ex: “Buy two Neutrogena products, get the third one free!” In the past, I thought nothing of buying hair/skin/etc. products I didn’t need (and would inevitably throw away years later in a “bathroom clean-out” session) to be eligible for the deal. Isn’t it ironic how we end up wasting money in our hasty attempts to save it?
[Now, I buy multiples of the product I know I’ll use so I can get the deal without purchasing unneeded items…or, if I go on a limb to try something new, I really contemplate it and commit to using it.]
Buying “meh” clothes because they’re cheap or on sale
Here’s a good rule of thumb in a store dressing room: if you don’t LOVE the item when you try it on, don’t buy it. As you might guess, I didn’t always follow this guideline. In the past, especially my early college days (when I was broke most of the time), I bought clothes that were just “okay” because the price seemingly justified the purchase. Well, the fit isn’t perfect, and the fabric is sorta scratchy, but it’s marked down to $4! I’m sure I can get $4 worth of use out of it! This led to a cycle of constantly buying clothes and getting rid of them; once I took these garments home, I rarely wore them because I didn’t feel confident in them…resulting in the “I have a full closet but nothing to wear” predicament, which necessitated more shopping. Meanwhile, clothes were leaving my closet in “give away” piles every few months.
[Now, I actually follow the dressing room rule of thumb. I also like to shop online from brands where I know what size fits me well and can expect to feel both comfortable and attractive in their clothes.]
Buying fast fashion, fast furniture, etc.
In the past, I only bought clothes from fast fashion brands like Rue 21, Forever 21, H&M, Walmart, Hollister, etc. But I don’t support them now due to their exploitation of the earth and workers in overseas factories. I wish I had known about these concepts before buying my bookshelves from Walmart last year; upon trying to move them during some pandemic-sponsored spring cleaning, they completely fell apart. Yes, all the books had been taken off, and the guys tried to be careful…but alas, you get what you pay for. Stick to quality items when you can! They last longer, and the companies who make them are usually less harmful to people and the environment.
[Now, I support sustainable brands (like United By Blue & Synergy Organic Clothing) and thrift stores (no carbon footprint)! Since sustainable brands cut less corners, their clothes are pricier, so I wait for them to have sales. FYI, online thrift stores like Poshmark and thredUP enable you to search for secondhand fast fashion clothes from specific brands without supporting the companies financially. Whenever I buy more shelves, I’ll try to thrift them or look for locally-made, high-quality furniture.]
Buying makeup products excessively
I go without makeup at least 80% of the time (yay for good skincare and daily sunscreen). But, around age 21, I went through a phase of being obsessed with it. In the past, I accumulated so many makeup products because I couldn’t just pick one and be satisfied. If I went out to buy a red lipstick, I “might as well” get fire engine red, burgundy red, pinkish red, and brownish red; if I was getting a blush, why not buy three more shades that are barely distinguishable from the first one and each other? 😉 There’s really no justification for it; I was just overly indulging myself.
[Now, I hardly ever buy makeup, but when I do, I only get what I truly need. I don’t buy a new tube of lipstick while knowing I have 20 unfinished ones at home.]
Sadly, this is just the tip of the iceberg, and I’ll likely post a “sequel” to this sometime in the future. We can’t change the past, but every day provides opportunities to reflect, gain insight, and decide to shift old ways. I, for one, have realized how dang privileged I am; many people can’t afford to waste money. I hope you are inspired by this post to assess the ways you may also be feeding into “frivolous materialism.”
Friday morning update: My fiancee and I went to the mall yesterday, but the store he wanted to shop in was closed, so he offered to accompany me to another store in the mall or drive to Marshall’s (an outlet store). After pondering the fact that every clothing store there carries fast fashion, and realizing I didn’t need anything either, I suggested we go back home. The old Lily might’ve opted to go to Marshall’s, roll around the store for an hour, and check out with $40 worth of stuff I certainly could live without…but the new Lily is different. The new Lily is intentional with the money she spends, the companies she supports, and keeping her space uncluttered. Yay for evolving!
Thanks for reading! What do your shopping habits look like? Are you/have you been guilty of any of these? Let me know in the comments.