The thrill of not buying stuff

July 25, 2006

(Jalouse juin 2006)

I thought that my shoe collection was somewhat vast until I saw this photo from the June issue of Jalouse. While I wonder how many pairs of boots it will take to satiate my desire for footwear, the guilt of consumption occasionally hits, accompanied by the regular soul searching: Why do I buy? What purpose or basic need does it fulfill? Although I am aware of my habits, I am comforted a little by the fact that of course, I am not alone in this (this girl has at least five pairs of Pierre Hardys, and closer inspection will reveal more high end shoe labels I’m sure).

What would happen if I just stopped buying stuff? How would life change? Reading Melena Ryzik’s review of Not Buying It and her attempts at living a no-buy lifestyle for a short 2 weeks made me pause again to wonder why. Judith Levine, the author of Not Buying It, decided to cease all purchasing activities (save a few bare necessities) for a year to assess how pervasive consumerism is in our society. Turns out that buying stuff is not simply about shopping for newer and cuter clothes/shoes, but about participating in a lifestyle, in society, and in the economy at large.

While there are undoubtedly conflicting opinions on what level we should engage in consumerism, this excerpt from Ryzik’s article sums it up quite nicely:

‘Feeling smug, I call Kalle Lasn, founder of the Vancouver, B.C., culture-jamming organization Adbusters and creator of Buy Nothing Day. He defines the ways that he believes consumption hurts us: environmentally, psychologically, politically and morally. Surprisingly, though, he’s not an extremist. “Being anti-consumption is fundamentally wrong,” he says. “We have to be pro-something else. The real problem that I think each one of us faces is to find some sort of a balance.”

So I tell him about the balance I’ve struck. Although I am a shopper, I try to be a conscientious one: I repair rather than toss, get a lot of stuff secondhand, and don’t buy things made in places whose labor practices I don’t agree with. He’s enthusiastic. Feeling bold, I tell him about the 200 pairs of shoes.

There is a momentary silence. “Wow,” Lasn says finally. “I didn’t expect that much.”‘

We all have our thing – whether it be amassing a small empire of shoes, collecting vinyl or comic books, going to shows, etc. – but the real thing is there has to be more to our lives than that.


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