Blog: Organize This!
Christmas CRAP! Unconcious Consumerism at it's Worst
Hello Organizing Fans, Welcome to 'Organize This!' I'm your blogger, Vali Heist, professional organizer for homeowners and businesses.
My rumination about CRAP today is about Christmas. My sister hates going Christmas shopping with me. Ever since I can remember, I have used the word CRAP to describe all of the stuff that retailers put out in their stores, aisles, and on every last inch of their retail floor during the holidays. I often wonder: Where does it all go when no one buys it? Do they save it for next year? Or worse, do they (gulp) throw it in the landfill?
As a professional organizer fascinated with consumerism, I am frequently intrigued by the way my clients think about their belongings before and after an uncluttering session. Before uncluttering, many talk about shopping without a list, buying something twice because they can't find the first one they bought, or buying before they knew whether an item would fit, work, or be useful. Most consumers practice 'unconscious consumption,' or buying for the sake of buying without much thought at all.
Before you start feeling bad about yourself, let me assure you we have all been programmed to become unconscious consumers especially around the holidays. Here are a few of my reasons why:
First, the Shopping networks and commercials on television. I affectionately call them 'home invaders' because, while we have control of our remotes, they can hold us captive by using the 'Stepford wives' technique. They use perfect people to sell must-have items in an over-the-top manner to convince us to buy things we don't need, don't have money for, and never knew we wanted until we tuned in!
--They use words like 'only 20 left' and count down the number of items left to give us a sense of urgency to buy immediately.
--They tell us to call in the next 10 minutes and they will double the offer, but only for a limited time; that is until the next commercial airs.
--And have you seen the stuff they sell? Very often it is the ugliest, gaudiest, over the top thing you've ever seen, especially when it comes to jewelry or clothing. Can you tell I'm not a fan?
Second, advertising. Companies used to produce goods to fulfill needs, now they manufacture needs to produce goods. Advertisers play on our emotional vulnerability by:
--Over-using words like "designer," "collectible," "gourmet," "retired," "official," and "discontinued" to get us to buy almost anything.
--Trying to convince you that you'll be an outcast if you don't buy their product.
--Producing false needs to persuade us to buy items outside our value system and beyond our means.
--Promote 'one day sales' as exceptional, until they hold another one next week. One day sales used to mean one day. Not anymore.
After uncluttering, many of my clients notice a change in the way they spend their money. Many take stock of what they have before they buy, and use lists to distinguish needs from wants.
So as the holidays approach and the year ends, I'll give you some practical tips on some ways we could all rethink our buying habits instead of continuing to clutter our homes with unnecessary items.
--Use your own values to determine what to buy instead of letting advertisers dictate your purchases.
--Be a wary consumer, spotting those over-used advertising words so we can see what's really for sale.
--Take control of what comes in our front doors and tell 'home invaders' we aren't for sale.
--Before buying a high priced item, ask if we want that item more than other things on our 'list' such as a new sofa, a new kitchen, or even a new home.
--Buy used instead of new. Look for words like 'consignment' and 'gently-worn'. Even buying a certified used car is a bargain compared to buying a brand new one.
--Shop local instead of long distance. Supporting our unique and interesting local companies, big and small, helps the local economy and it reduces our carbon footprint.
--Try eco-shopping. Shopgreen.pricegrabber.com has more than 20,000 products, ranging from organic lip gloss to EnergyStar appliances. This site donates 5% of profits to environmental charities.
Just think of the collective difference we could make if we became just a little more mindful of how we spend our hard-earned money and practice a little less unconscious consumption and little more conscious consumerism during the holidays and in the New Year.
Let's close today with a quote from Richard Louv, in The Web of Life.
He says "We live in a time which the process of life seems less important than the products that life produces. So it's important to be reminded now and again of the process."
Thank you for reading 'Organize This'! Your comments and suggestions are appreciated. Have a great day!
posted on: 7/31/2010 2:30:00 PM by Vali Heist
category: General Organizing Tips
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Vali Heist is a Professional Organizer, the owner of The Clutter Crew for homeowners, and a Certified GO System Trainer for businesses. She also writes a monthly column for the Reading Eagle called 'Ask the Organizer' and has a radio program called 'Organize This!' on BoomerGenerationRadio.com. Vali's bachelor's degree is in Business Administration from Shippensburg University and her Master's Degree is in Higher Education from Kutztown University. Vali has an extensive background of 24 years in Higher Education including training, administration, project management, writing, and editorial production. Her passion has always been organization and how it relates to the simplification of work and personal life in order to enjoy both to the fullest. Her ultimate goal is to continue finding simple, easy to implement ideas that work in the real world and pass them on to her clients.