Some Dissatisfied with Consumerism Think Less is More

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How many pairs of shoes do you have in the cabinet? When was the last time you rode a bike to school or work instead of driving a car? What is more important for you - a new, fashionable piece of clothing or tickets to one of your favorite artist's concert? Can you resist having another round of ice-cream when you are out in the mall? Could you imagine not going to a mall at all? There are the questions that a growing segment of the society is asking themselves in an effort to set priorities anew, after the financial crisis forced them to rethink their attitude to material possessions.

Incredibly, increasing numbers of people arrive at answers that compel them to discontinue their comfortable lifestyle, rich in things, better and bigger as time passes, and seek alternative solutions. The new philosophy is becoming so widespread that newspapers run regular articles detailing life choices and changes of new minimalists. There are television programs in which practitioners of this downsized approach to life advise on what can be cut down to size and how to live simply and creatively.

There is little doubt it was the banking crisis that brought about the latest outpouring of these transformations, even though there are some well-known proponents of what they call calculated consumption who started out before the recession. When banks ran into trouble and cheap credit dried up practically overnight, it became plain to see for millions of careless consumers that their ease of spending cost them dearly. Unpaid mortgages for oversized homes, exorbitant costs of driving two SUVs and a large sedan in one household, bills for going out to expensive restaurants and taking part in endless sales meant serious turbulence for a large swathe of the population.

What it did apart from making clear that living beyond one's means is unsustainable was shedding slight on how vain and futile material possessions are. Customers had a moment to pause and take a peek at masses of stuff they accumulated, which were no longer giving them any satisfaction of fulfillment. Instead, they contributed to their financial ills and took up space. The bottom line was very bad and, as any executive training author would suggest, there was a glaring case for reform. Those who acted on this realization rearranged their spending and living habits in ways many would call revolutionary.

First, they got rid of excessive stuff in their households, draining food reserves, throwing or giving away clothes they do not wear, in some cases sticking to a policy of relying on no more than 1000 items. Instead of buying books, they joined libraries, whenever they had a mouse, a mini mouse and three other pointing devices, they would do away with most of them. This brought about a sense of simplicity and clarity. They could control what they had and make more conscious use of it. Second, they reduced spending on new things radically, setting rigorous budgets. Third, they cut back on comfort, even if it meant greater effort, like with getting back on a bike.

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