More and more people are avoiding what has been called “the circle of buying hell” and become more conscious about the way they gift. – I have been practicing the buy nothing new for years now, not only in October, and in my family we are all more conscious about the marketing strategies that tend to push people towards buying something they don’t really need or want…
The more choice we have, the more miserable we become. What Nobel economics laureate Herbert Simon defined with satisficing (a combination of satisfying and suffice) is the decision making strategy or cognitive heuristic that entails searching through the available alternatives until an acceptability threshold is met (Colman, Andrew (2006). A Dictionary of Psychology. New York: Oxford University Press, p. 670).
What about all the things that “come for free”? What is offered for free or to a reduced price? Especially on days like Black Friday, people think they need to take advantage of the many bargains… only to find themselves with stuff they didn’t really need or want.
Ending is not better than mending. What Aldous Huxley already imagined in his 1932’s Brave New World has been realized. Repairing has become more expensive than replacing, and we “buy new stuff to conceal from ourselves our disappointment about the failings of the old stuff” (The 10 lies about Black Friday’s consumerist circle of hell). – Keeping things as long as we can, updating them or consciously choosing not to upgrade our phone, and repairing them as long as we can is the new black. – Find a repair café in your area (here is a site for repair cafés in the Netherlands)
Sustainable consumerism means to ask ourselves what we really need.
Like Marcel Proust said: le désir fleurit, la possession flétrit toutes choses, i.e. desire makes everything blossom, possession makes everything wither and fade.
People tend to buy because they think (or hope!) that the item or the act of buying itself will make them happy – even if only for a short time.
“Strong materialist values are associated with a pervasive undermining of people’s wellbeing, from low life satisfaction and happiness to depression and anxiety, to physical problems such as anxiety, and to personality disorders, narcissism, and antisocial behaviour,” wrote psychologist Tim Kasser in The High Price of Materialism.
I don’t mean that one should avoid any kind of possession. That isn’t possible, even if we reduce our wardrobe into a capsule wardrobe, declutter our home because we actually only need 20% of all we have, and move into tiny houses. But we can all be more conscious about the way we gift, which will not only make us more content, but will also contribute to being more considerate towards our planet, our society, community, our family and friends, and ourselves.
The conscious way of gifting
My hierarchy of conscious gifting is inspired by Abraham Maslows’ Hierarchy of needs.
A more conscious way of gifting can be to give memories and time, instead of items. Time has become very precious and the attention and connection that comes with it is what many of us long for, what we all need even more in an era of constant distractions… The idea is to offer our time and attention to others, to listen and connect with them. By doing so, we also build memories as the other person will remember the time spent together. It may cost something, for example if we gift someone a visit at the spa, a riding lesson, an abonnement at the gym etc..
We can also upcylce items by giving them another purpose, transforming them in a way that they can be useful for us or others.
We can make something from scratch that makes the other person happy, or buy second hand.
Finally, whenever we buy something new, we can be more conscious of what and where we buy it:
- Is it supporting the right businesses?
- Is it produced in a sustainable way?
- Are those who produced it been fairly treated?
- What is its ecological footprint?