The Psychology of Consumerism


We have all felt the lure of that shiny new thing and most of us will have enjoyed a shopping spree in our time. In our western culture of mass consumption, we are constantly surrounded by advertising, in mass and social media; TV, films, billboards and magazines portraying aspirational lifestyles. All these seductively persuade us into thinking we need to buy more stuff. But does this really make us happy? And are we now beginning to confuse our wants over our needs?

As social beings we are heavily influenced by our families, friends and environment often leading us to feel we need to ‘keep up with the Jones’s’ with a fear that if we don’t we are in some way not good enough. This constant push to have more, bigger and better drives consumer debt and means we work ever harder and longer to…

“Buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.”[I]

Many people within this economic model are often so time poor due to long working hours that they spoil their kids with stuff out of guilt over not spending time with them. I know I have and I worry about what affect this will have in the long run because we know innately that kids want our love not our money.

In these grave times of climate emergency and ecological breakdown we really need to start challenging this idea of consumerism. The capitalist model of endless growth which is fed by our consumption is literally killing the planet and ourselves, yet we seem powerless to stop ourselves like moths to a flame.  Our wardrobes get more crammed, our landfill sites get ever fuller and our purses ever more depleted.

However, more and more research shows that less is definitely better and proves, what we all know deep down, that material wealth does not make you happier…

“The bulk of the evidence seems to contradict the consumption-happiness relationship”[ii]

And in fact…

 “Being dissatisfied with what you have, and making a point of acquiring more, is the quickest way to dissatisfaction in life”[iii]

The Happy Planet Index goes some way to prove this. It found that Costa Rica has the highest level of happiness while having just one quarter of the GDP per capita than the richest countries. So what is it that is making them happier than others?

Although there is evidence that some level of wealth and material goods do add to our happiness in terms of being able to cover our basic needs we derive most of our happiness from other sources.[iv]

“People who live a life of intrinsic motivation are much happier than those who live a life dominated by extrinsic motivation”[v]

Intrinsic motivation means finding happiness within yourself, through self-acceptance, affiliation and community, whereas extrinsically motivated people seek happiness through appearance, social popularity and financial gain.

The minimalist movement is a good example of people choosing to live their lives with less and have found happiness and satisfaction from it.

“Minimalism is a tool that can assist you in finding freedom. Freedom from fear. Freedom from worry. Freedom from overwhelm. Freedom from guilt. Freedom from depression. Freedom from the trappings of the consumer culture we’ve built our lives around. Real freedom.”[vi]

I suspect too, that the current interest in decluttering experts such as Marie Kondo shows that actually we do want to be free of our excessive consumptions and actually crave a more frugal existence. So maybe there is hope for us if we can chnage our mindsets in that way?

If we start first with our fashion consumption then hopefully the rest will follow. So why not join in #secondhandseptember by buying everything second-hand this month?

#lessismore #slowfashion #ownlessdomore

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Slowly Does It
The 4 R’s of Eco Fashion
Donating or Dumping?
My Wardrobe Audit


Less is more!


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