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How can we avoid overconsumption in our everyday lives?

Less stuff = more life

Walking to work every morning through a major shopping centre is my daily reminder that consumption is getting out of hand.

With SALE signs in every shop window, people handing out flyers for end-of-season sales and loud music pumping from department stores, you'd think that humans were somehow hardwired to consume. But is that really true?

Humans have base needs: food, shelter, safety, health etc. These are the things that, when taken away from us, pose a risk to our survival:

But what about all this other "stuff"? Bottled soft drinks, designer shoes, disposable cutlery, magazines, takeaway coffee…. Do we really need all of this? Where do we draw the line between consumption and overconsumption?

For me, the experience of travelling overseas really put into perspective what it was that I really needed, as opposed to what I simply wanted. When I arrived home, I was shocked how cluttered my life seemed compared to the stripped-back way of life on the road.

From projects such as Plastic Free July to Buy Nothing New Month, it seems that folks all around the world are starting to realise that we simply can't keep consuming at our current rate. It's having a massive impact on our environment, health and wellbeing.

How much do you consume?

The first step towards living a more planet-conscious life is working out what you already consume. What are your daily habits? Do you buy a takeaway coffee every morning in a disposable cup? Do you accumulate single-use plastic bags when you go to the supermarket? How much is your quarterly electricity bill?

Write it all down. Putting it on paper can be pretty eye-opening:

Next, think about how much of that stuff is essential for your survival, how much is important to your happiness and comfort, and how much is just excess or luxuries:

Learning to be happy with less

What would you be happy to go without, or at least consume less often?

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Instead of buying your takeaway coffee in a disposable cup, invest in a reusable cup in order to cut down on the amount of rubbish that you're producing.
  • Rather than buying new clothes every season, think about how you can restyle and repurpose clothes from season to season.
  • Think about whether you need to buy brand-new every time. Could you buy second hand? Swap with a friend?

It's also worthwhile considering the expense involved with overconsumption. Need a refresher? Revisit our top tips for being a frugal lifestyle champion.

Spring-clean your life

Earlier this year we asked ourselves, if we each had only 1 bag of possessions, what would be in it?

We even asked the 1 Million Women community what they would carry in their bags. As one community member commented after making her list, "this just got me to thinking about what kind of life I'd be leading if I only had one small suitcase worth of stuff… What could I really not do without?"

As well as considering what would be in your own 1-bag life, you can also consider keeping only what is joyful in your life, a Japanese technique called Kon-mari. This is a more mindful approach to sorting out the clutter, as it forces us to ask ourselves, what sparks joy (tokimeku) for us? Is it the things that you are filling your life with?

Finding inspiration

It's also worthwhile looking to others for motivation. After all, nobody is born perfect!

Check out our interview with Joshua Fields Millburn of 'The Minimalists' for some awesome ideas for living a fuller life with less stuff.

In the video below, he talks about minimalism, that is, living intentionally with only what you need.

Inspiring others

When you find that you're making progress with cutting down in your own life, share the love! By aiming to inspire each other in our own lives, we can all start to create a positive movement towards more mindful consumption. The potential benefits for our health, happiness, wallets and planet are infinite!

Check out these amazing top tips from the 1 Million Women community.

Start your journey towards conscious consumption by joining 1 Million Women and letting us know in the comments below your top tips for living a more mindful life.

READ THIS NEXT: Plastic Free Forever: How to break up with plastic once and for all

Images: Shutterstock

1 Million Women is more than our name, it's our goal! We're building a movement of strong, inspirational women acting on climate change by leading low-carbon lives. To make sure that our message has an impact, we need more women adding their voice. We need to be louder. Joining us online means your voice and actions can be counted. We need you.


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