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The Seven Habits of Highly Batshite People

01/19/2011

Yesterday I delineated the dangers posed by our consumer-based society with the help of Annie Leonard. Yea, verily did I delineate! I delineated all over the place. I delineated in the form of a list. I liked the list. The list felt good.

Have you watched Leonard’s “The Story of Stuff” yet? If not: waz wrong wit choo? I know it’s twenty minutes long! Listen. Think of it like a Michael Bay movie, except it’s 136 minutes shorter and the apocalypse depicted isn’t fictional.

I also mentioned how batshite crazy you’d have to be to reject consumerism on any level. Shopping has become embedded in our society to the point of ritual. We’re expected to do it. And it’s our answer to feelings of depression. When we’re feeling down, we’re conditioned to ‘treat’ ourselves to something.

Like anything you enjoy, shopping activates the brain’s reward center and stimulates the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure. It’s possible to get addicted to this process. In effect, shopping can become a chemical addiction.

But any addiction can be beaten. In fact, some people have really kicked this particular addiction’s ass. Extreme minimalism is a growing movement in which people work to eliminate all their unnecessary possessions. Of course, ‘necessary’ can be a problematic term, and its meaning varies from person to person. Bruce Sterling suggests keeping everything that is beautiful, emotionally significant and/or useful, and ridding yourself of the rest. If you’re anything like Kelly Sutton, founder of The Cult of Less, that means pretty much everything that’s not digital technology.

Extreme minimalists are completely batshite, and for that I commend them.

But you don’t need to become one in order to fight the abuses for which rampant consumerism is responsible. That’s why I came up with a list! Clearly lists are awesome. Call this one The Seven Habits of Highly Batshite People.

1. Be honest. Get into the habit of examining the reasons behind every purchase you make. Ask, “Am I buying this because it will actually serve a worthwhile purpose, or is it only the act of buying it that I’ll enjoy?” If you’re buying something for another person, consider whether they’ll get long-term use from it. If you don’t think they will, chances are it will end up at the dump sooner than later.

2. Learn. Find out what the companies making the products you do buy are doing to reduce waste and pollution.

3. Buy second-hand. Whenever possible, shop at flea markets, yard sales and thrift stores. This encourages the recycling and reusing of materials and discourages needlessly extracting new ones.

4. Consider digital alternatives. This is one I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I’m guilty of buying music and literature in the physical form of CDs and books when I could be buying MP3s/ebooks/audiobooks.

5. Give, don’t trash. Instead of adding to our mountains of garbage, give unwanted possessions to friends, relatives or thrift stores. Post them on craigslist or kijiji.

6. Resist fashion. Don’t get rid of an appliance just because it looks like it’s from the eighties! If it works, keep it and use it till it no longer does. Likewise, wear clothes because you feel comfortable in them. Don’t throw them out just because they aren’t currently trendy.

7. Talk. Talk to your friends and family about the issues we face as a society and the abuses that result from consumerism. Post about them on your social networking website of choice. Share “The Story of Stuff”. Hell, you could even link to this blog post! I won’t mind. Promise.

Do you have any items to add to the list? Share ’em in the comments!

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