Mindful Consuming

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I love things. I really, really do. I always feel euphoric when I rip into the packaging of a long-coveted purchase. It is a rush of blood to the head and it feels really, really good. I am a consumer, and you are a consumer, and Isla Fischer is a consumer (at least in her movie ‘Confessions of a Shopaholic’). And we do it because it feels good. Sadly,  being a consumer is quite costly, it hurts our purse-strings, it hurts our environment, and at the end of the day, it hurts us.

I’ve always been a consumer. I toddled through my younger years affected by advertising, and always wanting the latest Barbie. Then, as I got a little older, I started lusting after clothes. As I waltzed into my teens I started amassing shoes. Then make up. As I head through my twenties, I look around at all the stuff I have collected. There is no way that I can continue to buy so much! Especially as I’m starting to think about saving up for things like holidays, and houses, and even retirement funds (yikes!).

I’ve been thinking more and more about minimising how much I purchase. At the end of the day, I never use as much as I buy, and inevitably things get thrown away. I’ve been thinking about some strategies I can use to reduce my impact a little more.

1. Buying Less

It sounds a little trite, but buying less is probably the first step to reducing your impact. There are a couple of things that you could try to reduce your purchasing. Firstly, I think setting a budget might help. This budget could be in the form of  a realistic monetary budget, for example, $50 a week. Or, perhaps, the budget could be in the form of a product budget, for example, 2 new products a month. Because of this budgeting, impulse purchases are less likely, and more consideration goes into purchasing. Maybe it forces you to only try one shade of that fab new lipstick collection at a time!

I know that it’s hard to resist the allure of a new product that claims to do everything but clean your dishes, but try to wait until the hype dies down. More often than not, these new ‘holy grail’ products fade into obscurity, and you will still have that crisp $20 in your pocket, and space in your vanity for something more worthy.

2. Try Before You Buy

How many times have you bought a product that everyone else raves about, but just doesn’t seem to work for you? This happens to me more often than I would like to admit. Most beauty counters offer small samples, or at the very least, allow you to try some product in the store. Do you have a friend whose lippy you love, but aren’t sure if the shade will suit you? Ask if you can swatch it your skin or try it on! Most people love being complemented on their taste and will be more than happy for you to give it a try.

3. Using What We Have

It can be hard when something new and shiny comes onto the market. Everyone seems to have it and rave about it. But do you really need another mascara when you have 10 perfectly good ones (and about 10 not-so-good ones) lurking in your vanity? One technique that might help, is to limit yourself to 4-5 mascaras (let’s be honest, who needs more than 5?!), and only buy a new one when you run out of something else.

4. Get Rid of It!

Before you dump your stuff in the bin, think about who else might want it! Obviously, old and worn-out products should go in the bin. But that lippy that you bought, used once, and realised made you look a little like a clown might look good on a friend with a different skin tone. Perhaps you could even organise an exchange evening with friends every couple of months where you can swap products and clothes over a bottle of wine and a catch-up. Old or unused clothes that are still in good condition (like that shirt that doesn’t really go with anything else in your wardrobe) can also go to thrift shops, or even towards homeless shelters.

There are a couple of methods for deciding what to throw out. One method is to turn your coat hangers backwards. When you wear an item, put it back in the right way around. After a year, consider giving it away. A similar technique can also be used for makeup and skincare products. Pop everything into boxes according to their use (one for mascara, one for lipsticks, one for foundation, etc.). When you use a product, put it back where you usually store your makeup. After a while, you will start to get a feel for what you actually use. Alternatively, try the Konmari method. This has received a fair amount of press recently, and you can read more about it with a quick google. It involves picking up an object, and deciding whether it brings you joy. If it does (yay!), then it gets to stay. If it doesn’t, then you should consider giving, or throwing it away. Obviously, a little common sense has to apply to this method. Not everything needs to bring you joy. I don’t know about you, but cleaning supplies don’t tend to fill me with joy!

I hope that this post has helped you to consider the impact of our consumerism culture. It can be hard to juggle interests and passions (like make up and fashion) with being a conscious and mindful consumer. Small changes in the way you think about buying can really have an impact, both on your bank account, and on the environment. Do you have any suggestions for ways that we can become more mindful consumers?

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