“Civilization is a limitless multiplication of unnecessary necessities.” – Mark Twain
The task of living a simple, minimalist life is enormously complicated these days by modern propaganda. Commercials and advertisements work tirelessly to convince us that products manufactured on assembly lines will make us insanely happy. But in reality they make us more insane than happy.
The goal of Madison Avenue is to increase our desire – to change our attitude from “That’s extravagant” to “That would be nice” to “I really want that” and finally to “I’ve got to have it.” They are so subtle at their craft that we hardly realize we are being brainwashed. Subconsciously, they take control of our desires, our checkbooks, and our life.
To stop letting advertisers control our lives, we must make firm concrete moves to counter their assault:
- Realize that happiness is not an item to be purchased, it is a decision to be enjoyed. Understand that your happiness in life does not need to be based on your possessions. Some of the most joyful people I have ever met live in poverty, while some of the wealthiest people I know are miserable. Happiness is a decision to be made and enjoyed – not for sale at your department store. In fact, many times our possessions actually keep us from truly living and enjoying our life. Decide today to be happy.
- Identify what advertisements are really trying to sell you. The emphasis in modern advertising has moved from providing ‘factual’ information on a product to creating associations in the mind of a consumer. Most advertisements are not trying to sell you on the material properties of the item; instead, they try to appeal to our subconscious desires (status, sex, prestige, happiness, appearance, self-esteem, identity, or reputation) or subconscious fears (loneliness, security, weaknesses, uncertainty). Be aware of their strategy, look for it, and don’t be fooled by it.
- Buy things for their usefulness, not their status. Purchase items for their ability to meet your needs not for their ability to impress your neighbor. Apply this principle everywhere, but your house, your car and your clothes are good places to start.
- Remove advertisements from your life as much as possible. Cancel your junk-mail. Mute your radio/TV during advertisements or better yet, stop watching television altogether. Enjoy outdoor recreation (biking, exercising, hiking, gardening, camping) or occupy your mind with reading, art, conversation, philosophy, or meditation.
- Enforce a 30-day wait period on major purchases. The extra month will provide you ample opportunity to answer the question, “Do I really need this?” It will also help you answer these questions: “Are there any subconscious motives to this purchase?” “Which brand is the highest quality?” and “Can I find it cheaper elsewhere?”
- Join the joyful revolution. It seems that more and more people these days are choosing to say “no” to the mindless collection of material possessions and are saying “yes” to living simple lives instead. Overwhelmingly, these people are adamant that life is better on the other side of consumerism. Join us. And know that you are among friends.