We’ve flattened the curve in my neck of the woods, and the malls have re-opened. No longer are we told to limit our shopping excursions to essential goods — now we are to consume goods and services in great gulps to help the economy rebound. Honestly, I find it a little nauseating.
I had to go to the mall today to mail a package and deposit some cash I earned from selling my crap. I very rarely go to the mall, even pre-pandemic, but every time the sheer volume and intensity of the consumerism takes my breath away.
I’m bombarded by ads — every store has a sale, and loud signs scream at me. Shoppers chat happily, their arms draped with numerous bags yelling brand names and logos. Upbeat music pours out of the stores, specifically designed to keep us in a good mood, because happy people spend more money.
I think the pandemic has shown how shopping is as much a pastime as it is a search for essential goods. It’s something to do when the day is hot and the mall has AC. It’s tactile; you can browse knick knacks to fill the lulls in conversation with friends, much like you’d sip a coffee between pauses. It fills the void of boredom. It rewards you for your hard work with a little shot of dopamine when you find your perfect thingamajig.
Ever since I found minimalism and really started cementing it into my bones, I’ve felt like I have this power shield protecting my wallet and my mind. I go into a store with a specific purpose, and I stick to that purpose, because if I didn’t, I’d be letting all that ad science get to me. And it is a science. A psychological science designed to manipulate us out of our hard earned coin.
But I’m not infallible. Sometimes that siren call lures me in. Like when Leuchtturm A5 hard back notebooks with dotted acid-free paper are on sale, and I don’t need one right then, but I will about a year from now, and what if they aren’t on sale then?
What protects me at these times is an agreement I have with my husband: if something’s not on the list, we check with each other before we buy it. Usually one of us has the willpower to resist the urge, and our wallet is heavier for the effort. Alternatively, if we’re unsure, we tell each other we’ll sleep on it and decide in the morning. Usually the sale will still be on the next day, but by then we’re back at home, sitting amongst our clutter that’s still waiting to be purged, and we don’t want to add anything else to it.