“Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate, so we can buy shit we don’t need.” — Tyler Durden, Fight Club
The purge has begun. When we move to Cairo later this summer we’ll only be able to bring our luggage with us – that’s 2 bags (+ a carry-on) each. Not a lot. This, combined with our limited storage situation in Edmonton, has really forced us to evaluate the importance of our possessions. What should we keep, sell, give away or just throw out?
I quickly realized into this process that we’ve got a lot of crap. To be honest, this surprised me a bit. I’ve never thought of myself as being someone who has a lot of stuff, yet these past couple of weekends spent organizing seem to demonstrate otherwise. And so much stuff we have no use for. Seriously, why did we buy a cheese board set? It’s literally been collecting dust on our shelf for years. It was probably in the off-chance we’d use it when hosting friends/family (which we rarely do), because having one would somehow enhance the experience of eating cheese & crackers? Anyways, it seemed to make sense at the time. Now, not so much.
And of course, it’s not just us. Everybody does it. The examples are endless.
I remember shortly after we moved to Edmonton as part of my Dietetic Internship I had to do a 4-week rotation in a small community outside the city. As my wife typically takes our car to work (also outside the city), she was forced to coordinate a carpool for a month. Several of her colleagues could not understand why we wouldn’t just buy a second vehicle.
This mindset is pervasive. If you want it, buy it. It doesn’t matter if the want/need is fleeting. You might as well buy it. And it often doesn’t even matter if you can afford it. Just buy it.
Perhaps, not surprisingly, Westernized countries (North America, Europe, Japan & Australia) are the worst offenders when it comes to this type of philosophy. We make up 20% of the world’s population, yet consume more than 80% of the world’s resources. Why do we purchase things we so obviously don’t need (or only need for an extremely short period of time)?
Obviously a big part of this is because we can. We tend to have relatively high amounts of disposable income. But its more than that. Look at the environment we live in today. The average American is said to be exposed to 3000 marketing messages everyday. All trying to convince you that their product is critical to your success/happiness. In 2011, there were 36 corporations that spent at least 1 billion USD on advertising. That is an insane amount of money! But they wouldn’t be doing it if it wasn’t producing a return.
I can say that I will be making a conscious effort to reduce our frivolous purchases while in Egypt (and beyond that). Before buying something, I’m going to truly evaluate its importance to our lives. Part of it is that I hate wasting money, but the other part of it is that I just hate wasting. And at the end of the day, its the experiences that matter, not the stuff.