31 Days of Organizing for a Better 2010: Resist Consumerism

Be sure you don't miss a thing! Subscribe to receive updates by email. Or if you use a feed reader, subscribe to my RSS feed! Thanks for visiting!

31 Days of Organizing for a Better 2010: Resist Consumerism

Join us all month for 31 Days of Organizing for a Better 2010!

Before we can talk about ways to resist consumerism, we have to first define it. Without looking it up, I would define consumerism as an overwhelming focus or value placed on stuff. Today at Simple Kids, Megan is sharing her thoughts on consumerism, including an official definition of the term.

Resisting consumerism in a culture focused on consumption is not easy. And I’ll be the first to admit that there is plenty of stuff I like and would love to have. I don’t think that resisting consumerism and having nice things are incompatible, but it does mean that you put thought into the things you buy rather than just browsing a store and filling your cart with impulse purchases.

What this looks like for each family will be different depending on your personal choices and values, but regardless of where you fall on the spectrum, here are some tips to help you resist consumerism and become more intentional about what you purchase:

1. Define your family’s philosophy.

To get started, you have to define what resisting consumerism will look like for your family. Do you want to pursue a true minimalist lifestyle or simply avoid purchasing things that end up being discarded or given away six months later?

Start defining your philosophy by looking at the purchases you’ve made in the past that you now regret. What is it you regret about the purchase? How could you have avoided that mistake? What caused you to buy it in the first place?

2. Create a wait time on purchases.

Avoid impulse purchases that you end up regretting by waiting before making a purchase. Some people set limits on purchases over a certain dollar amount, but I’ve found that waiting is just as valuable for less expensive items.

For example, because we live in the boonies, we don’t run errands nearly as often as we used to. We do pick up basic groceries and necessities every week, but the other things on my “to buy” list don’t always make it on the grocery list. Sometimes I end up crossing things off altogether after a few weeks because I’ve realized we don’t really need them.

On the other hand, I’ve mentioned my new Kindle a time or two, and it continues to be one of my favorite gadgets. I’ve had it for about four weeks, and I’ve probably read more in the past month than I did last year. I’ve wanted a Kindle since Amazon first released it, but I waited and debated and researched to be sure that it was something I would really use and not just something to take up space on the shelf (it hasn’t yet even made it to the shelf because I’ve used it every day).  Even though I love it and can’t imagine going back, I don’t regret waiting on the purchase, and there are plenty of purchases I regret not waiting on.

3. Avoid TV commercials, catalogs and other ads.

As Megan mentions, it is so easy to feel discontented with what we have when we are bombarded with ads for things we need. Avoid commercials, shows that leave you discontent (such as those on HGTV) and catalogs to stop those feelings before they start. We also try to teach our kids how to handle the feelings when they do show up. A typical conversation in our home goes like this:

Daughter: “Ooh, Mom, look at that XYZ!! Can I have that? I really want that!”

Me: “Oh, wow, look at that. Sure, you can save your money to buy it or ask for it for your birthday!”

Very few of the “I want” items stay on their radar for very long. We don’t want to be the bad guys, always telling our kids they can’t have this or that, but we do want to teach them the danger of impulse purchases and the value of waiting before spending your hard-earned money.

4. Stay home or do outdoor activities.

Avoiding commercials and ads isn’t enough, though. One trip to the mall or Walmart, and you’re suddenly aware of all of the things you don’t have. Another side benefit of living outside of the city is we don’t run to the store multiple times a week. Sometimes our only shopping in a month is for the basics, and it’s so much easier to avoid impulse purchases when we avoid the stores altogether.

It’s always amazing to me how crowded the stores are on beautiful days. People get the itch to get out of the house when the sun is shining, but they just end up inside a store spending money. Instead of going shopping, go on a picnic or hike or head to the zoo or a museum!

5. Avoid licensed products and collections.

I guest posted at Unclutterer last month, sharing four tips to help children fight clutter. When I opened up the conversation for additional tips, Tanna from Complete Organizing Solutions mentioned that one way her family fights clutter is to avoid licensed character products.

I’ll admit we went a bit overboard on Disney characters after our magical vacation, but Tanna is right — licensed products contribute to consumerism and clutter, as do collector’s items and other sets. It’s one thing to a build a collection of things you love, but buying Happy Meals every week just to collect the whole set of cheap, plastic toys is a marketing ploy that just results in more stuff.

6. Buy off-brand or second-hand.

There is some benefit to buying more expensive items. Gap clothing tends to be better quality and last longer than the clothing from Old Navy, for example. However, not only can you find off-brand items at department stores and places such as T.J. Maxx and Marshalls, but you can also purchase name-brand clothing from thrift stores and consignment shops without paying for the brand name.

Because thrift shopping requires you to invest time and effort to find things that you really want and like, you’re less likely to walk out with an armload of clothing that you feel like you have to have because of the clever marketing of stores.

What are some other ways you resist consumerism? What do you want to do differently in 2010?

The 31 Days of Organizing for a Better 2010 series is sponsored by Get Organized Wizard. Restore order and harmony in your home with The Ultimate To-Do List Pack, Home & Family Edition.

About the Author

Mandi Ehman

Hi. My name is Mandi and I’m an organizing junkie. I’m also a wife, and Momma to four little girls (5, 3.5, 2 and a new baby!). I've worked at home since our oldest was a baby, and like a lot of other moms, my life is a constant balancing act of caring for my family and my home, meeting my obligations and finding time for hobbies in there somewhere. Oh, yeah, in the interest of full disclosure, I’m somewhat of a kitchen dunce and I only like to pretend that I’m crafty. Read more here!

11 Responses to “ 31 Days of Organizing for a Better 2010: Resist Consumerism ”

  1. I try to remind myself of Suze Orman’s famous quote: People first, then money, then things. I’m grateful that my parents were firm believers in that, and consequently I’m content with what I have (for the most part, I’ll admit I get caught up in the ads and wanting something new now and then). Lately I tell myself it’s good for the environment to not have so many things :-)


  2. I thought I’d share my blog post on our family’s “Nothing New Challenge.” That’s how were combating consumerism AND thinking about our environmental footprint for the first three months of this year.



  3. This post made me think of our trip to Walmart a couple years ago. My daughter was 4, maybe 5, and she was invited to a birthday party. Usually, I just picked up a present on my own and had my daughter help wrap, but this time she wanted to pick something out herself. I took her to the Walmart toy section and her eyes got huge! With a really loud voice full of wonder and amazement, she asked “When did Walmart get a toy section?!?” The lady standing next to us in the aisle about lost her head from spinning around so fast. My kids never knew about toy sections and toy stores. They don’t watch TV with commercials. If they don’t know about it, they don’t want it!
    [email protected]´s last blog ..Organizing Your Taxes My ComLuv Profile


  4. This topic is HUGE for me this year….I am hoping to prayerfully consider each and every purchase we make. Not only do I want to combat clutter coming into the home, I want to be mindful that we aren’t in need like so many others. I really want to learn that I have enough.
    Jill Foley´s last blog ..#130 – Hillsong My ComLuv Profile


  5. I just ordered a Kindle, too. And like you, I waited and waited, thought and thought… until I finally felt it was necessary! I’m so excited to receive it (in about two weeks). Great article. My philophy.


  6. I really like your article because it shows me that I am going into the right direction and that I am not alone in it. We live abroad and every time we get to go back home we (or I) just buy huge stacks of books for our toddler and for ourselves. He loves books and so do we. On our return from our Christmas holiday I decided, however, not to buy anything for my son this month. He is well equipped with toys and books now. Even though I really want to buy him a puzzle I decided that it can wait till next month. And I want to make sure that I at least read some of the books I have for myself before getting new ones (that is the hardest part!)

    We do go to the mall once a week, however. At least when the weather is not really that nice. It just gives me a wonderful feeling to see all the stuff I don’t need (and don’t buy) and my son can play with all the plastic toys at the toy store. Better there than here at home – where we don’t want them.
    Plus we get to eat a wonderful piece of cake at our favorite bakery!


  7. One way that we resist consumerism is to buy hand made or to make things ourselves as often as possible. As a WAHM, that means I support other WAHMs as often as possible. =)

    Just today, I got up, put on a bracelet (made by a WAHM), dressed my baby in a onesie (hand printed by a WAHM) her booties (Hand knit by a WAHM), and later enjoyed watching my kids play–for a long time!–with no-name-brand handmade puppets (made also by a WAHM).
    When we give a gift, it is usually something made by someone in our family… I think it’s more personal that way.

    I’ve also found that in addition to leaving the television off, avoiding the mall and shopping in general causes me to feel more content with what I’ve got. I won’t want it if I don’t know it’s out there!
    Missi´s last blog ..Evelyn Rose is 3 Months Old! My ComLuv Profile


  8. I am so glad to see this post! I recently made a deal with myself that for the month of January I would only buy what our family needs (i.e. groceries, toiletries, gasoline, etc.) in order to catch up on all our bills and replenish our savings. I had no idea how hard this would be! I’ve already slipped up a couple of times, but must confess it makes me stop and think “do I NEED this? Is it the best deal now, or can I get it a different time?” My resolution this year is to actively choose contentment, regardless of how beautiful my home is or how fashionable my clothes are. Although I know those extra things will come up (clothing needs, household needs, etc.), I’m hoping to be able to save first and then have that budget handy when those needs do arise.
    For me, contentment also means being careful at the thrift – I love secondhand items, but I sometimes find myself settling for something that’s not necessary just because it’s $3 or less. Usually it ends up back at the thrift a couple months later :) Having my first baby who needs a disciplined schedule/routine has also made it tougher to spend all day shopping around and running to 10+ different stores. Now I have to have a gameplan before I go out, which often helps minimize my trips & purchases.


  9. i was involved in a discussion about frugality on a forum last year and as a result, i decided to make november 09 a no-spend month.
    apart from food, there was no buying of anything for a whole month.
    it was easier than i thought.
    most of us really do have everything we need, right now.
    the rest is merely “want”.


  10. If we don’t go to the store we don’t miss it is so true.
    Barbara´s last blog ..January My ComLuv Profile


  11. I love my tidier house and bigger bank balance since I decided to curb my spending!

    Interestingly enough, though, my son has a Thomas the Tank Engine train set because it was something that was easy to tell relatives who don’t have children to buy for birthday and Christmas. The other one is Duplo. Having those two sets – which is what he plays with 80% of the time despite having other toys – means keeping clutter to a minimum because we don’t have a zillion ‘collections’ to build, and have less junk to tidy up or get lost in a jumble of toys.


Leave a Reply

CommentLuv Enabled

You can use these XHTML tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <strong>