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Consumerism and its significant impact

Are we consumerists?

Consumerism is defined by the oxford dictionary as:

  1. the protection or promotion of the interests of consumers.

  2. the preoccupation of society with the acquisition of consumer goods.

Consumerism was formed in the late 1600s in Europe and grew due to the influence of capitalism in the Western world. The Industrial Revolution and the Age of imperialism, gave rise to consumerism. When the Europeans explored the world and colonised countries, they used slaves in plantations to create and then sell their products to a wider audience in the new world. Industrialisation allowed for the mass production of goods and in turn created consumerism as people could buy different items and goods, and as people’s wealth increased, so did consumerism.

It is the idea that the more we buy, the happier we as consumers feel. (To the point of spending money that is not there, especially with the rise of “buy now pay later” services i.e Klarna.) We, as consumers, feel the need to keep up with appearances and follow trends that eventually die out. Known as “competitive consumption” which in turn is connected to social esteem, as you constantly want to impress others. Leaving us with too many items and nowhere to put them, they collect dust as you prepare to buy the next set of items.

As social media is more important than ever, there is constant pressure to look and dress a certain way and if you fail to dress like the 'norm' you may be seen as less than or inferior to others. Celebrities and influencers are looked up to and many people follow and buy things they recommend to emulate them. However, it is difficult to attempt to look like celebrities as we do not have the means to look the way they do, it is not attainable for the normal person, therefore, people go broke trying to be them.

Consumerism then leads to “Stuffocation.”

The paradox of ‘Stuffocation’

The definition of stuffocation according to the Macmillan dictionary “is the feeling of being overwhelmed and weighed down by material things.” Stuffocation by James Wallman describes suffocation as “becoming suffocated by our stuff. The materialism that promised us status, identity and meaning isn’t making us happier when we achieve it. Instead, it’s making us more anxious and may even be killing us.” Research conducted by the Center on Everyday Lives of Families (CELF) studied the stress levels associated with clutter, with a higher occurrence in women. Wallan also draws a link between the higher rates of depression with materialism as countries have become more materialistic. "Stuffocation" is a consequence of materialism, materialism is harming our mental health and wellbeing.

Maybe the saying more money more problems is true.

Having ‘Nothing to Wear’

As a young person myself, I too have fallen victim to the "nothing to wear" mantra equipped with the constant need to buy an outfit every time I go somewhere. I simply cannot trust myself to create an outfit from the clothes I already have, so I instead resort to spending money.

Having nothing to wear is a follow up from consumerism and suffocation. As we buy things to make ourselves happy, it starts to begin to take a toll mentally, aa despite the number of clothes we have, we still have “nothing to wear.”

Why is that?

Having “nothing to wear,” may not necessarily mean that you have “nothing to wear” but instead your wardrobe is full of clothes that are trendy at the time that you no longer like, and do not wear.

One might say, why don’t you throw away the things you don’t wear. However, I believe in regards to our wardrobes, that most people are plagued with the mentality that “we’ll sort that out later,” or “we’ll fix that,” or even that that you may wear that another time. This leads to stuffocation as you may feel overwhelmed with the number of clothes you have, you then cannot then form new outfits, so you resort to wearing the same clothes over and over.

Expenditure increase

As we grow as a society, we adapt and change. As a result, there has been an increase and decrease in consumer spending. Consumer spending in 2020 decreased by 7.1% from 2019 and increased by 20.7% in 2021. This was a result of the lockdown in 2020, as people were still buying things but not in the usual quantity as no one had anywhere to go, so people were not spending as much.


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