Minimalism and Eight Ideas for Escaping The Materialism Brain-Drain

I started feeling it almost immediately after moving to the US last year. It started in the yogurt aisle.

Written by breakfastinmoscow on December 17, 2015

I started feeling it almost immediately after moving to the US last year. It started in the yogurt aisle. [There are so many types of yogurt! Which one should I choose? Whole milk? Skim? Organic? Goat milk? Soy? Vanilla? Pumpkin? Pineapple? Greek? Active culture? Fair trade? Should I just leave and buy yogurt at another store? Is it better to buy in bulk? Is it better to buy online?]

It crept up on me in conversations [where did you buy those shoes? A discount store? Really? Where is it? Do you want to go next week? Can you just buy online?]. And it found me on my phone, my computer, my mailbox [This Pinterest outfit is amazing! And look, that exact same shirt is now on sale. 40 percent off! Free delivery!]

It’s insidious, my friends. Materialism is a complete mind-suck. I pined for things in Moscow. I admired them and wished for Target stores, and Amazon delivery, and Uniqlo shopping sprees. But because I didn’t have access to those sources, they just didn’t dominate my thinking as much.

Now, here in the US, however, the all-encompassing reach of materialism has pushed its sticky fingers into just about every corner of my brain. You know the all-too familiar voice. It’s pushy. It’s in a hurry. And it’s exhausting. “More! More! More! Consume! Eat! Buy! Hurry!”

Do any of you struggle with consumerism? The symptoms, I’ve noticed, include a messy house, big credit card bills, feeling distracted, overwhelmed, mindless, hungry, bullied.

Let’s be clear: I don’t think there’s anything wrong with buying things. I love Pinterest, and I love all the gorgeous gift guides that come out this time of year. And I have bought a LOT of things since moving to the US — new furniture, clothes, shoes, electronics, even cars — all things we needed to replace what we left behind in Russia. I love a lot of the things we’ve bought, and I don’t regret purchasing them. What I DO regret is the zombie-like trance I seem to get into when overwhelmed by this weird American disease known as consumerism.

I’ve been thinking about consumerism a lot lately. I know what it feels like to be in the “more-more-more” trance, and I know what it feels like to be mindful. Here are a few things that help me break the buy-eat-get-more cycle:

1. Clean. Tidying up and organizing helps tremendously when you’re feeling dissatisfied with your situation. I’m so much more inclined to work and rest when my home is cleaned. I’m also much less likely to feel the urge to buy things.

3. Turn off: Do you have a lot of shopping apps on your phone? Do you get a lot of notifications from Facebook, Twitter, etc? Try turning these notifications off, and deleting the shopping apps for awhile. It might help

4. Prayer and Ritual. I find this to be the number one most helpful thing in fighting all kinds of mood swings, distractions, and consumerism fevers. I’ve been trying lately to have brief moments of prayer three times a day. First, in the morning when I wake up. Second, after lunch right when Anna goes down for her nap. Third, in the evening right after supper or right before going to bed. Praying and reading a Bible verse (John 4:14 for example) or devotion helps me focus on what’s important, ask for help, and get me in the best mindset for tackling whatever the next few hours might bring. If you’re of the Christian faith, you might find this helpful. If you’re not, perhaps a little journaling or reading ritual might help…

5. Purge. Trying to keep my possessions to only the most beautiful, useful and joy-giving items really helps. I try to regularly go through different sections of our home (kitchen, bathroom, closets, toy bins, etc.) and take out anything ugly or unnecessary, and dump it into a box for Goodwill. (another thing that didn’t exist in Russia!)

6. Give. Giving time or money to a favorite charity also helps me shift my focus from consuming to something more life-giving.

7. Exercise. Instead of going to the store or browsing the internet, go for a run (or better yet, a walk!) Stretch in your living room. Put in a ballet barre video and follow along. You’ll feel amazing afterward, I promise

8. Curate. Instead of consuming more possessions and food, curate quality time with people, new knowledge from reading books/articles, beautiful impressions from songs and paintings. This is just another way of saying be mindful, and savor all the gorgeousness already around you.

What about you, friends? Do you ever find yourself in the consumerism mind-suck? What helps you fight it? What wakes you up? Any strategies to share with the rest of us?

P.S. Do you follow any minimalism bloggers or sites? Have you read any good minimalism books or articles? I would love to hear your recommendations! I’ve been loving this blog lately, and her series Simple Matters.