To understand the scope of this subject, we need to travel back in time 200 years. The pioneer woman, living with her husband and children on the western frontier, lived a very different life than that of ours today. Making breakfast included building the fire, preparing the food and then heating water to wash the dishes. Sewing the entire household’s clothing, plus preserving food for the upcoming winter left her with little free time. A fun day may have included butchering chickens and talking about the latest Sears-Roebuck catalog with the neighbor ladies. Her life was built around survival.
She would have purchased the necessary household items from the local dry goods store along with all the other ladies from her town. When the peddler came through, she and the other ladies would all gather to exclaim over the new fabrics from New York. If the bean crop was good, she might be able to afford glass windows for her house. If the crop failed, she would have to wait another year. The lines between needs and wants were as obvious as the patchwork design on her handmade quilt.
But times changed. The Industrial Revolution came, improving not only the lives of the men, but also the women. More goods were produced with less effort which translated into more money. In 1913, keeping up with the Jones’ became a thing and their never-dying family tree was established.
And here we are today. Throw some waffles into the toaster and we have breakfast. Throw the dishes into the dishwasher and we’ve cleaned up breakfast. A fun girls’ day out might include a shopping day at three clothing stores, a couple thrift stores and Panera for lunch. Conversations could include which white on the paint chip card would look best with Sue’s living room furniture, and should she get her curtains off of Amazon or Overstock.
The consumer landscape has changed and the lines between needs and wants have blurred. The price of goods has come down because the demand has gone up. We can afford to change our decor every couple years, thanks to second-hand stores and Craigslist. Women have less to do than ever before, but somehow we stay just as busy.
According to this post, women are the world’s most powerful consumers, driving 70-80% of all consumer purchasing through a combination of buying power and influence. While this number is staggering, the reality is that in nearly every culture, women are the primary caregivers of children and the elderly, and so they will buy for their needs.
So, if you are a traditional mother and assume responsibility for your household, you likely will be the one to purchase the groceries and products for the home. Which in turn means you will probably spend most of the consumable household income.
Do you see how the elements are coming together to create a potential problem? Less to do, more money, cheaper goods and conveniences like one-click ordering. Throw in social media yet and Hurricane Consumerism has become a real thing.
In my journey away from consumerism and towards contentment, shopping is something I cut out almost completely. Through the process, I realized the emotional part of the craving to shop. When I had a day off with nothing to do, I’d want to shop. When I was feeling depressed or overwhelmed, I wanted to shop. Shopping was a time-filler, a mood booster, and obviously a money drainer.
I’m that weird person who likes to watch Hoarders. This likely points to a psychological deficiency but there is something so satisfying about watching a life-times worth of filth and clutter get cleaned up in mere minutes. The common denominator in nearly every episode centers around compulsive shopping to satisfy an emotional need.
Hoarding isn’t something with which most of us struggle, but I think many of us can identify with unhealthy appetites for shopping and the burden of accumulation. I think we would be wise to look inward, and see if there are unhealthy habits that contribute to this desire.
Separating this subject into parts cramps it a bit. The post on Contentment will deal more extensively with aspects of shopping. But I must say here, that if we struggle with contentment, the choice to spend a day shopping when we don’t really need anything is a setup to walk right into the temptation of coveting. Target and Goodwill become unnecessary battlegrounds and we aren’t prepared to do battle.
The answer is easy- stay away. Stay away from anything that tempts you to buy unnecessarily. We are all have different triggers. For me it meant unfollowing certain buying/selling groups on Facebook. It meant staying off of Pinterest unless I had a good reason for being there. It meant not going into a store unless I needed something, and it meant learning to stick with a list if I did indeed need things. And I have found that the longer I’m away from the frenzy, the weaker the desire becomes. I took myself shopping yesterday and was happy to discover that the passion is just not there anymore. Saying no has become easier. It is taking more for me to commit to a product.
Merchants and product lines have picked up on our unhealthy habits. They send us tempting coupons, colorful and beautiful ads and beautifully curated catalogs, all with one goal: to get us to buy. As trends become more powerful and persuasive, the line of goods remains fluid-constantly changing to keep up with the styles. The social media wheels grind on, and we get sucked into the trends, and continue to buy, and the cycle continues.
Overcoming bad shopping habits is possible, but we have to recondition our minds. In the post on Why It Matters, I will explain the implications of consumerism for a Christian, and the price we have paid for these misdirected appetites.
Because shopping is easy and is considered a social activity, it is often the activity of choice for women who want to spend time together. Ladies, we can do better than that. I’m not against shopping but to use it as a constant filler is to stifle creativity and space for deeper relationships to happen. Here are a few ideas to consider instead of shopping:
- Have each lady prepare a dish that she’s never made before and enjoy a meal of new foods together.
- Find a social issue that is relevant to your community and organize an evening of discussion and prayer.
- Host a show and tell. Each lady brings an object that depicts her life and is ready to explain the reason.
Any of these evenings will leave you much richer than an evening on the town. I’m not talking only of money but of a richer degree of relationship and friendship.
The first step to overcoming a problem is owning it. To own it we have to be gut-wrenchingly honest. We have to face up to the ugly parts of our lives, the parts nobody else sees. We have to call the problem for what it is. If we are a Christian, it means begging God to help us desire better things. To replace these misdirected loves with honorable and glorifying loves. The second step in overcoming a problem is action. Develop a goal with an achievable plan. Find somebody to become accountable to. Commit yourself to improvement and don’t give up.
And you now you have freed up two resources- time and money. Use them for honorable things. Things important to God and His Kingdom. Invest in relationships. Seek out opportunities in your community in which you can plug in and help. Pregnancy Centers and soup kitchens are constantly needing volunteers and are beautiful ways to get to know other ladies in your community. Awareness of needs then becomes another set of brakes to frivolous spending.
My goal was to leave us all with hope as we thing of beating the Consumer Monster. That in saying no to one thing, we are saying yes to a better thing, and the trade-off is freeing and life changing.