Well, first, don’t get intimidated by the title. This article is not about minimalism. No, we’re not even there…yet. we can start up by talking about slowing down what we over-consume, shall we?
But first, what is overconsumption?
Simply put, overconsumption occurs when the use of certain substances/resources exceeds its sustainability capacity. Overconsumption is pretty much linked to materialism.
But they are totally different concepts. One way to explain materialism is when physical possessions overweigh other values. When you consider being above everything, it paves the way for overconsumption.
Yes, I know what you might be thinking now. “But I’m not that person”. Unfortunately, we all are (unconsciously sometimes). So, why do we tend to over-consume? The reasons are endless but here are my personal thoughts about it.
Why We Over-Consume?
We tend to over-consume mainly because we subconsciously (and let’s be honest consciously too!) realize that there is “plenty” of what we have. Plenty of water, plenty of food, plenty of money, etc. But here’s the thing; Our planet isn’t plenty. Earth was created with renewable resources that if used wisely, will remain sustainable, but with us constantly over-consuming and over-exhausting these resources, not to mention interfering with how nature works, they won’t. Now, one may argue: ”Oh, but that’s not what I do!”. Well, to prove you that it’s exactly what you do, let’s take an example that happens to us all. Observe your behavior when there’s a water supply cut. You deal with water as if it’s liquid gold. You’re afraid to waste a drop when you’re washing your hands or cooking. And although you know that the water will be back in a few hours, you tend to be very careful with the water that you have. Now, observe your regular day-to-day water usage? Big difference, right?
But Who’s the Real Villain Here?
On the other hand, marketing companies and their strategies get the award for making people buy more than they’d actually use. To the extent that sometimes they buy more even if they know they won’t use all of it. With fast food chains, they convince you that when you buy the large combo, that includes a huge cup of coke (huge, more than any normal person can actually drink) and a large fries that come with a really big sandwich is better for you, because you get to save money. What? Yes, why get the small one, when you can pay a few extra pounds and get the LARGE one. The one you know that you won’t even consume half of, but yeah, let’s save!
Well, that was one example, not to mention the advertising strategies and techniques that make you feel that you “crucially need” some product when you’ve been living for years without it and you most definitely can survive without it.
On a side note though, they’re not the one to blame. “You” buy after all!
The Emotional Factor
My last theory regarding why we over-consume is that we often fill emotional holes inside us with material things. This happens because of the increasing value of material things (and money) and the lack of proper emotional nutrition, that’s needed for us all, no matter what one’s age is. And that way materialism and overconsumption penetrate. We promote for it every day, as a form of “love”; pamper yourself. So you buy that bag that you’ve been eyeing, reward your son when he gets good grades, buy him that toy, show appreciation to your partner, buy them that ridiculously expensive wallet. But what happened to reading a book or watching a movie? Spending quality time with your kid? Mindfully talking to your partner? Where have “thank you”, “I love you” and “I’m grateful for having you” been lost? I’m definitely not saying buying your loved ones gifts isn’t important, because it is. I’m only referring to the fact that we started to have this tendency to requite emotional fulfillment with material things. And that shouldn’t be normalized.
I’m not going to get into the effects of overconsumption on the environment, because that’s a whole other story. I’ll just have to mention that we are draining our environment and ourselves. And I also have to say that with our current pattern of consumption, we’ll never be able to bear the consequences of our actions, in the near future.
So, here’s the most important part: How do you Get Out of that Trap?
The key here is to become more conscious and gradually change your mindset, and that might be through:
- Understanding that there is a scarcity of resources and not think that they’re unlimited. Remember the water cut situation. Always.
- Being mindful. Think more before eating, using and most importantly buying.
- Starting to give more attention to other non-material things and finding their value; family, friends, bonds, honesty, happiness, and all the other meaningful things out there that are priceless.
- Knowing that marketers study psychology to know how to get you to buy unnecessary items and have you believe it’s a life necessity. They want you to buy more. The more they make you buy, the richer their companies, and the more they earn. You should be smart enough not to fall for that.
- Being a little old-fashioned. Your great-grandparents survived without ¼ what you have and they were definitely happier than you are now.
- Getting to know yourself better. By this point, you’ll learn what you really need and what’s your normal consumption capacity.
And… be gentle (that one goes without saying).