Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Material Girl

I've been a material girl ever since I was little (cue Madonna song). As a child I used to beg my parents for every accessory every made to add to my collection of American Girl dolls. I always wanted more Barbies, more clothes, more sparkly items from the Disney store. From a young age I perceived a large value in owning things. Whether I owned the same toys as my friends, clothes with the popular tags on them, or something better than anyone else, I was always wanted more.

Material things will never satisfy you. Our society has ingrained us to be competitive consumers. People want to maintain a certain status by owning "the best" labels, myself included. A few years ago my computer broke and I finally bought a Macbook. Do I think Apple products are overpriced? Yes, you pay more for the label (like I said it's all about status), but I also think their products are higher quality. Don't get me wrong, my Macbook ownership hasn't been smooth sailing. I've had problems with my charger and my battery, but I'm convinced it's just some unlucky technological curse. No one else I've talked to has ever had those types of problems. Plus despite all of these mishaps, this laptop has still served me better than my old Gateway by far.

Due to the way we've built society, products aren't made the same way they used to be. Companies are now making products that intentionally break down or eventually become "unfashionable" so consumers are forced to buy a new one, this is called planned obsolescence. Think DVD's vs. VHS tapes, or the iPhone 4 vs. the iPhone 5. People always want the next best thing, or eventually they're forced into getting it.

All the generations of iPhones. They look much more similar than I was expecting.

I'm not going to argue that we need to change the way product manufacturing and consumer consumption take place. Those are big broad topics and there's no simple solution to changing the way the world works. I do however want to change the way I act as a consumer. Recently I've been struggling with my desire for material things, my need to save money for loan payments and traveling, and my lack of income. I was browsing the interwebs for Fall clothes the other day and saw a sale at American Eagle. Immediately I thought, "Oh I can buy some new jeans, possibly a dress." Then right afterwards I looked in my closet to realize I already had five perfectly respectable pairs of jeans. There's no way I actually need five pairs of jeans, let alone to purchase another pair with my limited savings.

I'm sick of spending money on clothes or products and feeling guilty about it later on. If clothes are what you take pleasure in most, by all means spend your money accordingly. I'm not writing this in order to shun fashionable people or regular consumers, these are just habits I would like to change in my life. From now on I want to limit my spending to things I will get the most use out of. I also want to be a smart shopper when it comes to quality over quantity. Too many of my jeans have gotten holes in the crotch or the threads have come loose on the edges of my shirts. Why pay $100 for two pairs of jeans that are going to last me a little over a year (maybe), when I could buy one pair of jeans for the same price that will last much longer. This will lead to less clutter as well.

Another habit I want to work on is how much I value owning things. The truth seems to be that no person ever felt fulfilled by owning the most, or the best, that life could offer. In other words, human value does not come from material things. Experience, conversation, friendship, love, that's what gives life value. From now on I will try to share my belongings. I will let my mom use my coffee mugs without complaint. I will try not to get upset over stains, tears, or dents. I will try my best to understand that it's all just stuff that can be replaced. I don't expect to never buy another cheap shirt or spend money when I probably shouldn't, but I'll try my best to remember this post and think twice before buying something I think I "need."

What are your thoughts on consumerism and the value we perceive in material things? Are you a material person? Are their any habits you'd like to change when it comes to the topic?


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