The Age Of Mass Consumption

Was it always like this? Did people always worry about money and debt and being able to pay their bills?

Or is this a relatively new phenomenon?

How did your grandparents live? Mow I am not suggesting that life was easy. My grandmother scoffs when she hears the phrase “the good old days”. It was hard. There were 9 kids, my grandfather was a fisherman. But I cannot help but wonder if things were not just better. More simple. This was rural Nova Scotia. They had chickens, pigs, a couple of cows and so on. Clothes were passed down. People helped each other more.

Or is this my romanticized view of the way things my have been. It was simplicity by necessity not so much voluntary simplicity. They lived this way because they knew they had to.

So where did we go wrong as a society in regards to spending more than we earn and not saving for a rainy day?

Why do want more stuff that we do not need?

I have said this so many times but I am shocked by how much money some people make at their jobs and yet they do not have enough money to pay their bills.

We are conditioned I guess to want stuff and to buy useless crap. We are led to believe that stuff will somehow make us happy. Not thing could be further from the truth.

Are we not enough? Just us as the people we are? I would argue that we are enough. Look around your place at all the items you may have purchased believing they would make you happy. These items that would fulfill some promise.

What will it take for us to realize that we have enough? When will we get it to just be thankful for all that we already have?

Right now I am sitting out the side yard at my girlfriend’s place as I type this. The sun is shining and it is a perfect day. I need nothing. I want for nothing.

There are some people who cannot wait to get to the store and spend money today. They live for it. It is the new national past time.

Where did it all go wrong?

Please share this post with others and I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Have an awesome day.

“Live Simply”


16 thoughts on “Where Did It All Go Wrong?

  1. I found out I could drop out of the constant spending urge by getting rid of my tv, and keeping the radio off – I swear there must be subliminal messages being pushed in to our brains by tv and the radio. It also helps for you to loose your job and be unemployed for 3 years as I have been. You learn in a hurry to only spend what you have to and be content with what you have. I also downsized from a 1600 sq ft house to a 550 sq ft mobile home. I didn’t need all the space or stuff I had in the larger house since I’m single with no kids. Love your posts! Have a wonderful week!

    1. So true. I mean how many of us are working just to barely pay for what we have. If we didn’t have all this useless crap, and cable bills and cell phone bills etc etc, we could get by on a lot less.

  2. There was a commercial on TV some years ago that would really get to me, not in a good way. It always came on during NFL games, and it was for Jaguar. While of course there was no outright mention of this, there was a subtle suggestion that if you did not own one of their cars, then you probably didn’t amount to much. It really got under my skin. Then, after some weeks of suffering this abuse(I was watching a lot of football), it dawned on me that Jaguar had been bought out by Ford. Of course this just put the lie to it, and it gave me something to laugh about. But the point is that the message about our worth as people, according to the market, really depends on aquisition. And that we don’t have the right to be happy unless we can have it all. I may have to check my facts, but I think that soon after the economic downturn in 2008, that Ford sold off their interest in Jaguar. It turns out that Jag was apparenly losing money for them. Then came the bailouts, Ford didn’t take the money, and they became the first auto company to return to profitability,

    This may have nothing to do with minimalism, but for me it illustrates how important it is to base our self worth on just the fact that we are literally born “good enough.”

    1. So very true. And yes ford did have controlling interest in jaguar and did sell it off. It is all about invoking an emotional response. According to the advertisers and marketers we are not worthy of happiness until we have the newest, most expensive new thing.

      What a crock.

      Great comment.

  3. Nice post, I earn a good salary, my husband earns a good salary, we never have enough money to pay our bills.. we dont smoke, we dont drink we rarely go out, we did have a holiday last year and another this year. I’m so fed up never having enough money to do what I want to do – always having to pay out for things I shouldnt have done (credit) but finally I’ve stopped feeling sorry for myself and angry with myself, I’m decluttering my home and my life and slowly, I’m taking control again. I want a simple life – my home will be warm and nourishing, but it wont be filled with “things” anymore. Life is for living and experiencing, not for watching tv because you cant afford to do anything else…I’m going back to basics in search of peace from the clutter.

  4. Living overseas in Brazil has really changed my perspectives on needs versus wants. I think USA culture trains us to consume, while other cultures see family as more important or necessities differently, which gave me a new lease on life. I like reading your blog because it reminds me of that when I start missing old habits like shopping. Thanks!

  5. Hi Mark….Great reminders that we DON’T need money to find or be happy. Unfortunately, like you say, we have all been conditioned to think that buying and consuming things is the key to a successful and happy life. Keep up the good work and for anyone who is interested in more I have an article titled, “A Case For Simple Living or Why Shiny Objects Don’t Equal Happiness…” that some of your readers might find interesting….you can find it at: thanks again for your blog post and keep on reminding us that the best things in life aren’t “things.”

  6. I too wonder what changed, I grew up with my grandparents. They were each very different. My grandfather believed in simplicity and making things last forever. My grandmother had the belief that life was so hard she wanted the best and newest. Somewhere along the way they came to meet somewhere in the middle. Rather than moving to the “better” neighborhood just because they could afford to, they painted a room to give it a fresh look. This was how they compromised.

    While they wanted to see their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren do better than they had, in my grandfather’s view, he didn’t mean a better home or more things, he believed doing better was having more resources (savings) to fall back on during hard times, more security than he had starting out.

    I’ve watched my boys go through the phases of wanting everything they felt they should have had growing up, but quickly found those “things” weren’t important. I’m thrilled to see them living a simpler life with little or no debt outside of their homes. It would be great if everyone stopped to assess what really makes them happy, life would be so much better

  7. Consumerism certainly is a very interesting topic. As I understand it, it began at the start of the industrial revolution when people realized that they could now produce lots of stuff using the newly discovered power of cheap fossil fuels and mass production methods. However, if no-one wanted to buy the goods that were produced, this amazing power would lie dormant.

    Thus, industry and government began actively encouraging mass consumption which actually had many positive effects and drove all of the wonderful innovations which led to the very high standard of living we enjoy today.

    However, we have now arrived at a stage where this model is simply not valid anymore. Fossil fuels are no longer cheap, our planet can no longer support our excessive resource consumption and waste excretion, and most people in developed nations have such a large amount of stuff that additional stuff actually subtracts from quality of life instead of adding to it.

    Unfortunately, our cultural mindset is still deeply entrenched in consumerism and, above all, we have built a global debt-based growth-dependent economy which is totally dependent on consumerism to survive.

    The world will have to wean itself from consumerism (and quickly as well), but this will certainly not be easy. Blogs like yours certainly help though đŸ™‚

    1. I am fearful that the vast majority of people have a sheep like mentality. Just follow the herd.

      And the fact that our own governments do not seem to understand debt, and spending, well I hope more people embrace minimalist living on their own terms and for their own good.

  8. Excellent blog! thanks for the weekly thought provoking musings. I agree with a lot of other posters sentiments and ask a lot of the same questions that you do. I’m from the UK and just turned 30 and its still very much evident that my peers stive for the best and for them that means always more…. a better car, bigger house, more holidays, more expensive clothes etc. I’ve got some brilliant friends who really support me and who i love but there’s some who think its ok to eat out at a weekend at restaurants that cost £150 a head for the meal. Is that reasonable? Is it any better? does it make them better? No!This is down to culture in the UK. My own family try to encourage it!

    I’m very lucky to live in an above average house for not very much money but I always feel its too much. It has “status” as my friends would put it but I rattle around it and I yearn for something smaller, more compact and just what I need. It also costs more money – heating, electricity, tax, maintenance and all for what?

    I wake up each mornign thinking that life is about the doing and not the having. I want to change and try to make small steps every day towards doing that. I know I can’t take any of it to the grave so whats the point in accumulating it in the first place!

  9. I think an overlooked point is the Billions spent each year on psychological and social engineering by corporations to find the most efficient way to get us to throw money at them. The marketing campaigns are designed to instill in us the need to spend to keep up with our friends. Fast food restaurants know that by giving a cheap toy to a child they are linking themselves to a lifelong consumer. The government tells us to spend to help the economy, in effect if you try to save money or downsize you are a traitor to your country’s well being. We are constantly bombarded with messages that tell us we MUST spend to show our self worth. It is all to fuel constant and unlimited growth to maintain an outdated economic model, one that is in no way sustainable.
    I recently started to read “the Economics of Happiness”, the author states that even though the economy is growing, our overall well being plateaued in the early 80’s and we are less happy with more money now.
    I think until we can be happy with ourselves and not try to compare with our neighbours, we will continue to buy our way into unhappiness.

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