Unboxed Life

Boldly existing outside the box through conscious living and constant learning.

How Over-Consumption And Materialism Box Us In

Sometimes to really understand something and to have it positively affect your life first it has to punch you square in the face. My lovely wife showed me some research the other day that really made me start thinking about my habits and how my choices really do affect the rest of the world. The statistics are here, please go check them out real quick, I’ll wait…

Yeah, that was my reaction too, pretty shocking huh? I wanted to explore today how we can be more conscious of our consumption on all levels and how making more informed and mindful choices can have a huge impact in the world. Whether you come from America or some other part of the world we can all do better in our consumption habits. Being aware of how our existence progresses in relation to every other human being can help guide us as we honor the interconnectedness of the human race and live life outside our own boxes.

The greatest gift in life is the ability to improve constantly and to strive for a more meaningful and centered existence while growing through relentless learning. That is what we are doing here, we are seeking knowledge. There is an epidemic in the world that is based on the fact that more things is equal to a better life or that the goal of life should be to do whatever is needed to gain more possessions. This is a universal principle that exists in many cultures across the world. This is materialism and it is the scorn of the true self. The worship of material things. The never-ending pursuit of more. This is what causes the outrageous figures you see in the research above. We are a world of over-consumers on all levels and our habits are affecting our planet and each other in irreversible ways.

Consumption happens on many levels. Consuming of food, natural resources, water, energy, etc but I want to focus on the consumption of goods or the cultural practice of possessing more things than we need. Look around your house and I bet you will find a multitude of things you rarely, if ever, use. I’m sure there are some unneeded items, things you bought because you could or because you felt like you should. I know I have those things in my house. Even though we have a very small home there are still things we have that add little to no value to our life but that we purchased at one point or another. We all do it. We all feel the pressure to get more, to buy more, to have more. The beauty of living Unboxed is that it doesn’t have to continue. We can change our habits now.

At some point in our development into adults and our navigation through the social gauntlet to maturity we learned that things are what make us happy and are the indicators of a successful and content life. We lose some valueable things and gain some detrimental things. We carry that understanding into adulthood and end up basing our very existence on the getting, having, using, and owning of things. I challenge that idea and say that more things is often equal to a lower quality of life. Clutter breeds disorder and throws our being into a state of clouded progression. Continuing to function in a state of disconnectedness does not allow us to really tap into what it means to be alive or to appreciate the immense beauty in our world. We are so focused on populating the empty spaces in our hearts with things we forget to listen to our passions. This leads us to prioritize the wrong things and lead an untrue life.

Life should be measured by the quality of experiences and the impact we have on others and not by the perceived value of our possessions. We should be judged for our actions and our contribution to the betterment of the world and not by the size of our house or the cost of our car. Materialism is the mother of over-consumption which is killing our world. To save it we must alter our mindset and leave materialism behind.

To find balance in life we must find balance in our possessions. Indulging in something that makes you happy is not a bad thing, but like most all things it is best done in moderation. Having things is not the problem; it is making those things the defining factors in your life and the marker by which we measure success that is the detriment to our world. The value we place on things is the function by which our impact on the world is measured. By taking the value away from material possessions we can free ourselves from them and begin to alter our impact toward a life that matters. When the value of things is diminished and replaced by the power of experience we move from a self-centered life to a outward-focused being. We all must take an unbiased look at our habits of consumption and find the areas we can do better.

The epidemic of consumption and the plague of materialism will not discriminate and finds it’s way into all our lives. In the coming weeks I am going to be putting out a challenge, an activity that my wife and I are going to do and that I hope you will all do as well. The goal of this challenge will be to look critically at the things we have in our lives and if what we think is a necessity really is such. By the end of it my hope is that I will have a clearer picture of what is truly needed and what is simply clutter. In addition learning from this exercise how my habits contribute to my own materialism will allow me to grow in my understanding and to reshape my future decisions. I am putting the finishing touches on the parameters of the exercise and will publish it when it is ready. I hope you will join me in taking stock of the material possessions in my life.

Whether you choose to ignore it or not the fact remains that the resources on our planet are not infinite. They will run out at some point and will be gone forever. It is our responsibility as inhabitants of this amazing planet to do whatever we can to alter that course. Let us lead by example and first take the steps to bring our own lives in line with a conscious state of being and show others that it can be done. Before we point fingers at other people, countries, or cultures let us point the finger back at ourselves. Let us live each day with the knowledge that even a seemingly insignificant choice can ripple through the world and either harm or help the world we live in. Let’s make the choice to help in our own small way.

Clutter photo: Sean

Cash photo: 401K 2012

Trash photo: Calamity Meg

Enlightenment phot: vladLitvak

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13 comments on “How Over-Consumption And Materialism Box Us In

  1. julia christine stephen
    June 30, 2012

    I think there will come a time when North Americans can no longer go on the way we do…a tipping point, when it becomes impossible for us to continue along this road to destruction. My prayer is that it wont take a disaster to get us to that point. Great posting 🙂

    • Tanner Colton
      June 30, 2012

      I totally agree but I do think there is still time for us to collectively shift our mindset toward something better. If we take the power away from things there will be less need to consume more and thus the impact on the world will be less. This is my hope as well and my first step is to start doing better in my own life. Thanks for the comment Julia, I really appreciate it!

  2. Elizabeth Terry
    June 30, 2012

    This reminds me of a conversation about the excess we have in our lives and we just throw away things that could be useful to others. How we in the US buy and consume and we don’t create much. We simply consume. I’m down for your challenge. Bring it! 🙂 Thanks for the great post.

    • Tanner Colton
      June 30, 2012

      You are so right, if we created as much as we consumed there would be a net gain for everyone, great thought. The challenge is rounding into form and I will be putting it out soon. Thanks for the enthusiasm Elizabeth! Talk to you soon.

  3. Jennifer Stuart
    June 30, 2012

    It still blows my mind that disposable coffee cups aren’t just illegal or not used. How hard is it to bring your own cup? I feel like we could have the exact same level of luxury that we are oh-so-attached to (lots of us, anyway) without nearly the same environmental impact if we brought our own coffee cups, grocery bags, and jars for cereals and other things instead of having everything boxed and bagged. And the things that are sold in100-calorie packs should really just be outlawed. How is it that these things are so hard for people to do? 🙂 I like this post.

    • Tanner Colton
      July 1, 2012

      I think it is the same sort of thing that Elizabeth is talking about, that we as Americans spend most of our time consuming and barley any time creating. Just the simple act of creating less garbage would make a huge difference in the world. I am proud to say that my city, Seattle, that today all plastic bags at grocery stores are not illegal. Only paper bags or you bring your own bag. I think it is pretty awesome. Thanks for the comment Jennifer, come back and talk with us again.

      • Jennifer Stuart
        July 1, 2012

        Very true, creating can help a lot. In Northampton MA where I used to live, there was a bag co-op where people made reusable grocery bags out of cloth scraps. Then you would borrow one from the store when you forgot your own, and bring it back later. It was a great thing! I think in Austin, they are getting closer to getting rid of plastic bags in some places. Yay for Seattle!

      • Tanner Colton
        July 1, 2012

        That’s awesome! I hope more cities follow the lead. Thanks for sharing.

  4. The Professor
    July 2, 2012

    Brilliant post. In this case, less is definitely more. We have to focus on ways to cut down the waste we produce for ourselves.

    Mark Blasini

    • Tanner Colton
      July 2, 2012

      I really do think that just the conscious thought of awareness of our own impact on the planet can spark huge change. Creation over destruction and conservation over waste. Thanks Mark!

  5. Pingback: From Strong Bases Spring Powerful Structures « Unboxed Life

  6. Steve
    July 5, 2012

    I couldn’t agree more with what you said here especially about how life should be measured by the quality of experiences and not possessions. That’s how I try to live my life.

    I’ve gone through my house several times and donated a lot of the items I no longer use, but the sad truth is that I could probably get rid of a lot of other stuff. But I have so many things because i got married and we both had a lot of the same items.

    My wife and I try not to buy something unless we really need it. Otherwise we know that it will just end up on the pile of other things we don’t use and just get thrown away or donated. I don’t like useless clutter.

    • Tanner Colton
      July 5, 2012

      It really is a struggle to works against our society where material possessions pile up in our lives. I know that I have a lot more work to do on this as well. That is so great that you guys try to donate as much of your extra stuff as you can, you really can make great us of things you no longer need. I hope that when I publish the challenge based around this topic you will join in, its going to be a lot of fun. Take care.

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