Thursday, January 9, 2020

2020 and Mindful Consumerism

Every few years I repost this article that I wrote in 2012, when Lola's Secret Beauty Blog was only a year old, after contemplating the effects of my own excessive consumerism. I had received a very interesting email from a longtime reader who claimed that she was making a concerted effort to avoid the trap of purchasing from limited edition collections, or anything else that ultimately didn't suit her, and how she felt empowered by the restraint that she demonstrated by making well-reasoned, rather than impetuous, purchases. This inspired me to #repost this article since it contemplates this very issue, and it certainly makes me contemplate my own spending habits as a consumer. Given that we are bombarded by limited edition releases, between brand and blogger coverage, consumers often get caught up in the FOMO purchase of products that we simply don't need, and probably won't use. Therefore, I thought that it would be a good idea to start off the new decade by being more mindful about all of my purchases.

Barbara Kruger's appropriation of RenĂ© Descartes' maxim "I think, therefore I am"(Cogito, ergo sum) is searingly funny and poignant when "I shop therefore I am" becomes a commentary about the commodification of culture. Ironically, her artwork, which is the byproduct of her philosophical critique, is worth a tremendous amount of money itself.

I love Kruger's work because it makes you take a long hard look at the underpinnings of what drives culture, and what motivates us to do what we do, and think what we think.

This particular work Untitled (I shop therefore I am) always makes me think about my own buying patterns as a consumer, and it makes me think about the consumer goods that I fetishize, and how so much of that is culturally conditioned. Take for instance the makeup and skincare products that I have amassed over nearly a decade of blogging: there is no question that I could live without those things, and thankfully I don't have to. However, we are often unconsciously driven to crave things that we don't yet have, and nearly as quickly as we acquire them we lose interest in them and obsess about the "next thing." Seasonal collections support this fickle consumerism, and we buy into the construct. Madison Avenue banks on our willingness to stay on this expensive joy ride- which we willingly do!
Barbara Kruger Untitled (I shop therefore I am) (1987)
While I long ago realized that I don't define my worth by the acquisition of the latest Collection, I likewise realize that I all too easily succumb to wanting things that I don't yet have. There is a reason, after all, that I have so many lipsticks and blushes that are variations on the same shade of pink. Subtle distinctions are made: this one has a satin finish, this one has a touch of lavender, this one has pink pearl etc. Then there are infinite ways to justify the necessity of extravagant purchases:  this is from the Chanel Summer Collection (including the much dreaded letters- LE), these were from Sephora's Friends & Family Sale, these couldn't be resisted because of double or triple points on my Nordstrom card....  There is also the lure of the GWP- even if it isn't a particularly good gift- it can make an otherwise rational person buy unneeded things indiscriminately in order to make the minimum purchase price. I'm not talking about the glorious Space NK gift bags that are worth their weight in gold- I'm talking about the run-of-the-mill gifts that get stuffed in a drawer along with the things that you didn't need or want so that you could get the gift in the first place.

Don't get me wrong, I am hardly declaring a personal war, or even a moratorium on makeup and skincare consumption- I am just trying to be a little bit more discriminating and mindful of what I am purchasing. I have a sizable stash of makeup, and trust me there are plenty of things that I still haven't gotten around to using yet (and that's not including backups). However, this motivation to "collect" is simultaneously at odds with my pragmatic nature and the overarching desire to only have what I need and use. I don't expect this contradiction to resolve itself because truth be told I am a makeup magpie and I like bringing those pretty shiny baubles back to my nest to look at and play with. However, there is a tipping point: there is a balance that must be struck- a delicate equilibrium that must strictly be adhered to- otherwise chaos will ensue.  There is a point where you simply have too much- a point where just one more lip gloss or serum takes you from Collector to Hoarder. I am still in the category of the former, rather than the latter- but the line is much finer than it actually appears the closer you get to it. At a certain point it is a distinction without difference. So beauty blogger or not, I am making a concerted effort to buy consciously rather than impulsively. Weighing, for instance, whether this eyeshadow is different enough from what I already have to be a worthwhile purchase. I do not equate this with deprivation, but instead I see this as a way to make each purchase a more meaningful one. One in which I select things that I really love, rather than things that I feel I should just buy because they are limited edition and will likely sell out quickly. That simply is not a good enough reason to buy a lipstick shade that is unflattering on you-- even if it is the it color of the season.

I still want to be in makeup and skincare nirvana I just don't want the frenzy of acquisition to infect my enjoyment of these things, or to cause me to buy things that I ultimately won't use because they weren't well-reasoned purchases in the first place. I want to be as rational about my makeup purchases as I am in all of the other aspects of my life as a consumer. After all, makeup and skincare costs money and lots of makeup and skincare costs lots of money. So while I am not imposing a ban on makeup consumption- I am going to make a real effort to not only buy what I will covet, but what I will actually use.

This is not an indictment of my own spending habits, but instead it is intended as a wake-up call. This is a simple plea to have my rational self take the wheel before I toss down my credit card- because the makeup magpie in me is impetuous and impractical, and generally likes to take charge in the face of so many shiny pretty things. It is she who is solely responsible for the size of my stash!

What are your thoughts? Do you find yourself similarly inclined to buy things that you don't really need or want? Do you have lots of things that you don't use in your stash? What solutions have you come up with? Do tell!

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8 comments:

  1. This is such a thoughtful post! This holiday season, I did way too much shopping for myself including for things that turned out to be disappointing and completely unnecessary. I must reign it in, for sure.

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    1. Thank you, Allison! I really have ben thinking about it a lot lately, and post-holiday season is always such a great time to reflect upon spending habits. I completely understand disappointing and unnecessary purchase. With clothing/shoes, if I am compelled to make a purchase (particularly if it an impulse purchase), I try to sleep on it before making the purchase. Sale season is tougher though, and if I order online and am not 100% sure, I try the items on, leave on the tags and sleep on it. It I decide that I really like/want whatever it is then I remove the tags, wash it and start using it. If I am on the fence, then I return the item(s).

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  2. I'm pretty good at stopping myself from buying makeup. I tend to overbuy bodywashes! LOL i want different scents or different scrubs or lotions. Makeup and skincare I do have a surplus from -- but its PR samples, thankfully. And i purge boxes and boxes a good 3-4 times a year of things I dont need to hold on to. I would be in bad financial debt trying to keep up with buying the latest and greatest. I tend to buy what ive already sampled once and know neeeds to be a purchase next.

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    1. That is a great achievement, Claudia! That you are a beauty blogger, and that you are able to stop yourself from buying makeup that you don't need is a considerable achievement! I purge several times a year as well, and find that it helps to control the chaos, and the desire to over consume. It definitely is not worth going into financial debt buying "the latest and greatest makeup!"

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  3. This is such a good post. Thank you for sharing it. I've been thinking about my own rampant consumerism and doing a low buy.

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    1. Thank you, Courtney. That means a lot to me coming from you! My pleasure to share it, it is definitely something that I think about a lot. Rampant consumerism is something that I definitely have been trying to avoid. A low buy is an excellent idea, and since reading Brooke's post and your post, I am thinking about the possibility of joining you two!

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  4. I've become very much like this in the last 6 months. I cut way back on buying because it was raved about or oh so pretty. When I wasn't well in the late fall I had plenty of time to thing about this subject and made a vow to myself to cut back drastically. It means deleting loads of emails especially ones that promise discounts and gifts with purchase. How much can I own? I will always buy things but will think my purchases over more thoughtfully.

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    1. I have tried to become impervious to the temptation of purchasing raved about products, or things that I see that are beautiful. I have so much makeup, skincare and haircare in my stash, that something has to be truly outstanding, or a repurchase of a tried and true product to reasonably justify the purchase.I am doing the same thing that you are doing, and deleting promotional emails etc. Exactly, how much can I own, and how much will just collect dust and go bad before I get to it! I am trying very hard to be far more mindful in all of my purchases (even at the grocery store).

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I love reading all of your comments and interacting with you- so please do not hesitate to share your thoughts, and to ask questions. Remember that what you have to say is of interest to all of us! Always feel free to email me directly as well. SPAM and advertising links will not be published.

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