Overhead shot of neatly ordered clothes in wooden drawer

Decluttering: The Antithesis to Consumerism

We live in a society where we’re always encouraged to buy new things. Every year, new phones are being released. Every day, we are bombarded by advertisements no matter where we go. Today, you can shop from your phone and get better deals.

Consequently, consumerism has become a considerable part of society that it’s used to define who we are and even as a form of escapism. It is because of this culture that some people have developed an anti-thesis to having way too many material possessions.

Consumerism and identity

At one point, an object isn’t just an object anymore. It’s a sum of its symbols and signifiers. Take, for example, what it means to own the latest iPhone and a luxury car. Possessing these things means you’ve got the money and privilege, and some people would love to own these things to be viewed as such. Therefore, the iPhone and the car have become a symbol of wealth, creating an identity for a specific social class.

Retail therapy

The height of consumerism has brought about a rather expensive coping mechanism: retail therapy–or in simpler terms, shopping. A study defines retail therapy as “trying to cheer oneself up through the purchase of self‐treats.”

Retail therapy works. It’s proven to improve mood, fight stress, and a great way to exercise restraint and decision-making. This coping mechanism is shown to be fueled by impulse and lack of control. Often, shoppers find themselves purchasing things they don’t need.

The mental implications of having “too much stuff”

Being surrounded by too many things can cause physical and mental clutter. Things pile up, and storage runs out. Sometimes, with the lack of management of these possessions, you end up with a pile of clothes on what used to be chair. Shoes start lining up on the floor.

This clutter overstimulates the brain, much like an overloaded extension cord. Because things are signs and signifiers, having too many of these images challenges the“limited processing capacity of the visual system.” The brain needs to work harder to process these signs, resulting in a stressful mental clutter.

The philosophy of decluttering

Pantry wardrobe room, requiring cleaning

There’s no one way to start putting away house rubbish and living a whole new lifestyle in Surrey. However, it doesn’t need to be a drastic change. You can start with one category at a time. Maybe some clothes don’t fit you anymore, clothes you don’t feel like wearing anymore, or clothes you didn’t you had three pieces of.

On the other hand, you can also try the KonMari method of asking “Does it spark joy?” The technique aims to make people realise that owning less means a more manageable and organised environment where they can start anew.

Some people also subscribe to minimalism to achieve “freedom from the trappings of the consumer culture.” In minimalism, one only owns what they need. No excess. No ornaments. Only the ones that add value to your life. If you can live without a TV, then don’t own one. If the living room can survive without a couch, you don’t need a couch.

Ultimately, it all boils down to choice. From shopping to decluttering, you have to choose what to keep and what to let go. Make sure to make a decision that truly makes you at peace.

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