If You Consume It, Use It!

Harry Cunningham on Unsplash

This whole business of consuming, then putting off using what we’ve consumed is weighing on me. We get hot for some new thing, that we need-want, and then we don’t even use it right away.

The first weekend of February, I was in Springfield, Missouri with an afternoon to myself. A sunny day. A new downtown to explore. I considered whether I wanted to roam around looking in shops. Then I realized, oh, it’s February 1st and I’m taking no-shopping pauses in the even months. My realization was followed closely by relief. I wasn’t going to visit the shops, because I wasn’t going to shop. Instead, I did what I really wanted to do. All afternoon, I read my novel and followed the sun’s rays around the hotel room bed. Which felt so much more decadent than buying a new sweater.

Had I bought a sweater, it might have become my new favourite, but there’s a statistically greater chance that I would have worn it a few times and then wondered why I felt compelled to buy it, then remember that it was because I was wandering around a new town and felt like I ought buy a memento to show for my exploring, then felt guilty that I’d consumed an excess I didn’t need or (worse) want to use.

I bought a new pair of running shoes in December, anticipating the expiry of my then-pair. Those fresh shoes are sitting on my shelf, pristine, laces still loosely knotted together in the jaunty way they came out of the box. At first, I didn’t wear them because my old shoes weren’t quite worn out enough. Then I didn’t wear them because my runs were sloggy. I wanted to save the shoes for a sprightly day.  Now, I’ve put so much pressure on the shoes that I don’t know when I’ll wear them. Meanwhile, my old pair persist.

A month ago, a friend bought a much-coveted pair of indigo-colored suede boots on sale. She agonized for a time before buying, mindful of her consumption habits and trying to discern how much she wanted the boots. I can attest, they are beautiful. I was tempted. As of this writing, she has still not worn them. She is waiting for the right occasion or the perfect outfit.

The other night another friend showed me a pair of hip white sneakers her mother had bought her. I asked why she wasn’t wearing them right then (since she was wearing a similar pair, though less fancy, in black). She said she was waiting until the next week, when she boarded the plane to go shoot the first movie she’s producing.

I get it.

Yet, this business of saving our purchases for a hotly anticipated improved future feels wrong. Consumerism is a burden on the environment and, in some cases, a purgatory for the workers paid unconscionable wages, working in unconscionable conditions. No matter how ecological the company we buy from claims to be, we are still contributing to the more-more-more, especially when we consume and don’t use. What was the more-more even for? Never mind the pervasive psychological pressure to consume so we can be happier, cooler, fresher, better looking, have more friends, more status and … well … more.

I want to escape the vicious cycle of shopping. So, I set guard rails around my consumption. But I undermine my efforts when I consume and then don’t use the item I bought. When I wait for the right occasion or the perfect outfit, I fall deeper into the consumerist trap, where I don’t have enough, never have enough. No occasion is special enough. No outfit is perfect enough. If I just owned … Tomorrow is going to be better than today. The day after tomorrow I’ll be more worthy.

No. If we are going to consume, let’s at least revel in the pleasure of what we’ve bought. Remember when you were a child and you’d wear your new shoes to bed because you were so excited?   Let’s pay our ailing planet the tribute of being thrilled with our purchases. Let’s wear our new shoes with exuberant abandon. Make this moment now a special occasion and this Saturday-afternoon-on-the-couch outfit, the perfect one.

These boots were made for walking. These shoes were made for running!


This piece was originally published on Medium




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