Taking a Step Back from the Materialistic Abyss



On November 30, 1984, Madonna bebopped and bubblegum popped to the world that she was a material girl living in a material world. Her song made a case for materialism that stands to this day. Try as we might to deny it, to some degree, we are all material girls. Gender designation notwithstanding, this is unquestionably a material world.

Ten million people just stayed up all night to place an order, and/or stood in line for hours to purchase Apple’s newly released iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. If history repeats itself, the record will show that most of them were people with perfectly serviceable iPhones in hand. Even discounting those people, most of the rest were not new smartphone owners. They were switching from another platform, again, with a perfectly serviceable smartphone in hand. That is materialism ten million strong.

If you, like me, have become somewhat nauseated with your own materialism, Then perhaps it is time to take a step back from the precipice. All it takes is a quick look in the closet to count the number of outfits that still have their retail tags. Another glance will show us how much space is taken up by shoes and handbags.

One more look around and there we see our daughter standing and wondering what it all means. Are there not more important messages we can pass down to the next generation, messages that do not involve crass consumerism? I think so. And here are a few ways to get our consumerist houses in order:


Sell It

Just because you bought it does not mean you are stuck with it. The Ferengi from the Star Trek universe have five stages of acquisition:

  • Infatuation
  • Justification
  • Appropriation
  • Obsession
  • Resale

It seems many of us have all the materialistic avarice of the futuristic traders without a fraction of their practicality. While their dental care may be lacking, they at least have the good sense to sell off the things they no longer use.

Many of our unloved treasures will sell just fine on services like eBay and Craigslist. But when it comes to something like that really expensive designer handbag in mint condition, we need a better alternative. You don’t sell designer handbags just anywhere. You have to sell into a marketplace that knows the value of what you are offering, and is able to offer knowledgeable representation of appropriate compensation. Clearing out excess consumption is the first step away from the edge.


Make it Last

One of the ways to cut down on mindless consumerism is to buy things that are built to last. Consumer electronics are designed to be obsolete within a few years of purchase. But there are plenty of things that will last for quite a while when properly cared for.

Good shoes can be resoled and good clothes can be resized. A good set of stainless steel pans can be passed down to the next generation. A winter coat should last several seasons. The usefulness of a good watch can be measured in centuries. Spending a little more up front can not only save you money down the road, but will get you an item that lasts for a while.


Stop Window Shopping

By putting a cutesy name on it, we obfuscate what it is we are really doing. Ostensibly, window shopping refers to the practice of browsing purchasables without the intent to buy. This is total balderdash! That would be like a diabetic going to the Krispy Kreme only planning to look at and smell the forbidden varieties of doughnuts. You only go to the doughnut shop when you are ready to take on 500 calories.

Window shopping is a way for us to tempt ourselves to buy things we have no good reason to purchase. Married people should not cruise singles bars. And recovering materialists should never, ever Window shop.

Stepping away from the materialist abyss is less a step, and more a process. Any one of these tips is a good starting point.


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