Do I really need this? How to be happy with less

Chances are that some time today you'll see an advertisement telling you to buy something.

In fact, you're likely to see dozens of shop windows, TV commercials, pop-up ads, billboards and catalogues over the course of your day, each one trying to convince you that your life won't be complete without a new pair of shoes/perfume/car/lawnmower.

For many of us, being subjected to this constant stream of messages is part of our everyday life. The question becomes, therefore, do we really need all of the stuff that we're told to desire?

The simple answer is no. Advertising works by creating desire for products and services, which is why you might find yourself at the supermarket checkout with impulse buys and deals that seemed just too good to miss.

The thing that advertisers don't want us to do is to think too much. They don't want us to prolong our decision to buy, which is why so many offers are "limited time only!" or "daily specials!"

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So what's so wrong about having a habit for consumption?

While it's no great sin to treat yourself to a magazine or new outfit, we need to be mindful of the fact that everything we consume requires resources to produce, and will create waste once it reaches the end of its useful life cycle.

Being a shopaholic becomes an issue when we are consuming more than can ever make us happy, and far more than is sustainable for the planet.

Over-consumption and waste in our throwaway society are placing an intolerable strain on the planet's natural resources and environment, with climate change a major symptom of the problem.

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How can we change our habits?

You can reduce your overall consumption by questioning all significant purchases and resisting impulse buying. For example, when considering buying a new piece of furniture, it's worthwhile giving yourself a few days to "cool off" and think about whether this is the purchase that you really want to make.

When you are making buying decisions challenge yourself with questions like:

- Am I being excessively influenced by advertising, or peer pressure, or demanding children?

- Is this the best choice for what I need?

- If I buy it, where will it go, and do I have to get rid of something else?

- Could I rebirth something that I already own? (such as re-covering a sofa or restoring timber furniture)

The most important question is this: Do I really need it?

Since switching to a more planet-friendly way of living, hundreds of members of our community have reassessed what it is that makes them happy, and more often than not finding that the best things in life are not "things" at all.

Living with less certainly takes some adjusting to, especially when we've all been encouraged to be consumers from a young age. It can be startling to discover that we have the ability to be more than just supermarket-trolley-pushers and statistics on a company's sales report.

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Better for you, better for the planet

Not only does reducing your consumption benefit your wallet, but it also reduces your overall impact on the planet. While measuring carbon emissions savings across our daily consumption habits with all of the products and services in our lives is notoriously difficult, it's easy to see how reducing your spending habits translates to fewer products (and less product packaging!) cluttering up your life.

We've assigned a "campaign carbon value" of 200kg a year for one person consciously reducing their consumption. This is based on a conservative interpretation of our research into the carbon savings that consumers can make simply by moderating their buying. If you take responsibility for leading this activity for more people in your household, you could potentially reduce a further 100kg of carbon per year for each extra person.

Imagine: if one million people all did this, the emissions saved would be equivalent to taking over 45,000 cars off the road for a year, or growing a new forest of 1,000,000 trees.

Some final words of advice

  • -Consider buying second hand, swapping with a friend or making it yourself before buying new
  • -When buying new, do your research first about how sustainable the materials and company you're buying from are
  • -Refuse excess packaging such as plastic bags
  • -Share your experiences with friends and family in order to influence change in your own world!

What's your advice for living life with less? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below in order to spread the good vibes of less-is-more living throughout our community.

Images: Shutterstock

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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.

Steph Newman Former Social Media Assistant Suggest an article Send us an email

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