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Consumerism: A Love Story

I like to buy stuff—a lot of stuff. Anyone who has ever stepped foot in my apartment will know instantly that I am no subscriber to minimalism. In fact, just thinking about parting with my possessions sends me into a severe panic attack.

Growing up with nine siblings, everything was shared, toys, clothes, even attention. When I got my first full-time job after high school, there was newfound freedom in realizing that my entire paycheck belonged to me and only me—well, after the government took its “generous” cut.

I recently noticed that many of my fellow Millennials have fallen in love with the idea of living a minimalist lifestyle. While I fully subscribe to the proverb “to each their own,” this is one trend I simply cannot get behind.

Don’t Shame Me

There is societal shame associated with consumer culture, as if spending one’s own money as one sees fit is somehow viewed as unintelligent, immoral, or weak. For me, it is a manifestation of human action and a celebration of personal choice.

While I wouldn’t call myself a hoarder—at least not yet— I won’t deny my love of things.

For anyone doubting my commitment to consumerism, I recently made the decision to move into a bigger apartment so that my “stuff” could have its own room.

I am sure some will view my love of possessions as materialistic or perhaps a symptom of a compulsive spending habit, which may not be entirely untrue. However, my bills are always paid, money is always saved, and the rest is designated to be spent on whatever I please. At the end of the day, the decision to buy things is ultimately, a personal choice.

No One Forces You to Buy

At the very core of the argument against consumerism is this belief that we shouldn’t be supporting businesses that are only out to make a profit. To that I always wonder, why not?

Consumerism is not a one-way street. Every time a consumer makes a purchase, they are casting their vote in the most democratic way possible.

Consumerism is not this inevitable construct where the people always lose. In fact, there is nothing more mutually beneficial than a business transaction.

This idea that businesses and corporations have a great conspiracy to force products on unknowing consumers neglects to account for the role each individual plays when it comes to deciding whether or not to buy a product.

When I like an item, and make the decision to purchase it, as a consumer I am saying I value that item more than I value the money it costs.

After the transaction is made, the business is compensated, and I, the consumer am now in possession of something I wanted. How does anyone lose in this scenario?

If I think an item is overpriced, and I value my own money more than the money being asked for, then I simply choose not to buy it. Again, as the consumer I am still coming out on top.

Want Leads to Innovation

The site Becoming Minimalist describes common concerns with consumerism by saying, “Excessive consumption leads to bigger houses, faster cars, trendier clothes, fancier technology, and overfilled drawers. It promises happiness, but never delivers.”

Upon reading this statement I had to ask myself how any of the points listed could possibly be construed as negative. If the want of faster cars results in the invention of faster cars, this is market progress and should be celebrated. If wanting better technology helps create new “fancy” technology, then again, this is excellent news!

Still, some people go for the minimalist thing, and I get it. You buy things as individual products and love them. But as the years go on, the accumulation of stuff grows and grows to the point that the aggregate feels overwhelming. The impulse to purge grows. You sell it all or throw it away. A new ethic of minimalism follows once you swear never to repeat your mistake.

So, yes, I understand but, for me, it’s the opposite: I feel joy when I look around at all my things.

Packages Fill Me With Joy

As for the claim that material wealth cannot bring happiness, I think it is important to highlight that “happiness” is subjective to each person.

Many describe consumerism, as the act of buying more than each person truly needs. Unfortunately, there is a grave error in this sentiment, since only the individual is capable of understanding and identifying what they need.

Every time I open a new package freshly delivered by my Amazon delivery man, I am filled with joy. Others may not be able to relate, but that is the beauty of subjective value, my happiness is unique to my individual wants and needs.

There is also the claim that we would all be happier with less stuff. This conclusion asserts that there is only one path to happiness, completely rejecting the subjectivity so inherent to our human desires. We each seek different things in life, and that is what makes us all so uniquely interesting.

Each person should live their life as they see fit, so long as their lifestyle does not hurt anyone else in the process. If owning only a few material possessions makes you happy, great! You should absolutely be entitled to live a minimalist lifestyle. As for me, I will stick to my closet full of dresses, shelves full of shoes, and daily visits from the Amazon Prime delivery man.

This article was originally published on FEE.org.

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