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26 May, 2006

A Consuming Life

I used to love shopping a lot but not anymore. The idea of accumulating or collecting "stuff" no longer interests me, either. Except for books, and even that was reduced drastically as I got older and simplified my life by throwing out the junk and cutting back on acquiring more.

So when I saw this Newsweek article and its lead, "could you live a year without shopping", it made me scoff. Where's the challenge in that? Nowadays, I do no more than two or three shopping excursions a year, and reducing it to zero isn't a stretch.

That is, until I read what Judith Levine did. Her experiment wasn't about giving up the usual department store or shopping mall purchase, but about reducing the very act of consumption and giving up luxuries that we take for granted.

Like my cup of macchiato or occasional fashion magazine. Or watching a movie or eating at a restaurant. Admittedly, it would be very tough to give them up because I enjoy them a lot.

It's humbling to realize that I'm not as detached from material things as I thought. I tried to excuse it by reasoning that my attachment is to the experiences they provide, but there's no denying those experiences are closely intertwined with the very act of consumption.

As Levine pointed out, consumption is such an emotional thing, and in a consumer-oriented society it plays a major role in our lives. Though I'm now more conscious of what I buy, I'm still a long way from being able to say it doesn't take much to make me happy.

posted at 11:48 AM by City Muse


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