Back to Basics
In a world where we are driven to obtain the newest, the coolest, the best and most expensive items at an ever increasing rate, I’ve finally had enough.
One really can’t help to notice the discrepancies in society. People are living in war zones, being tortured, brutally murdered, starving, trying to escape in any way possible. And what do the rest of us do? We shop. We shop for the newest and most stylish furniture. We shop the latest trends and fashions. We buy cheap crap that does absolutely nothing but take up space. And why do we do it? Because we’re told we have to…for a multitude of reasons.
- We need to ‘bolster’ the economy
- We must keep up with the Jones’s
- Little Johnny won’t understand an investment into his future, best buy him a toy he may or may not play with
- We must surpass the Jones’s
- To be successful, we must look successful. (My personal favourite & it’s true. However, we don’t need 200 ‘successful’ outfits that aren’t being worn)
It’s ALL marketing. Every last bit of it. We’re bombarded with marketing 24/7. Not just the obvious types: TV, movies, billboards, commercials, flyers and the like. But like, everywhere. The sugar in your childs’ cereal & the pictures on the box, the hot girl/guy walking down the street in a billabong T-shirt (This is a whole other post. I don’t understand why people pay so much to be walking advertisements for brands?) It’s the lady/gentleman sitting next to you in a bar sipping extraordinary brandy. It’s all extremely well researched marketing that tells you, that YOU are old, out of style, ugly, poor, dirty, basic. And it shows! But we can fix that with a newer & larger home, more modern furniture, the newest instagram worthy watch / diet fad /must-have cosmetics, a shiny new car, this fantastic food which is actually unhealthy as hell (but you’ll never know it), or this €/$ 2000 gown made from recycled trash bags. You need these things. Oh yea, and in 1 months’ time you’ll need all new things or you’ll be old, ugly & poor again.
Bolstering the economy is a joke. The only economy we are bolstering, is the 1%. True, there are jobs. But the ratio of jobs to spending doesn’t match in any accountants books. What we are doing is fulfilling the ever increasing profit margins that companies set that year. When a company declares a loss, in most cases, it is because it did not meet its profit predictions for the year. They over spent. But if you look at the stock history, you will see that the profit predictions are higher than the last. Every. Single. Year. No economy can sustain unbridled growth. The end result is the same globally: Financial crises.
Ever wonder how by the time you get your new stilettos or speakers home, there’s a new chunky heel trend or taller smarter speakers?! How lightbulbs used to last MANY years, but now they die on the regular? It’s called OBSOLESCENCE defined by oxford dictionary as ‘The process of becoming obsolete or outdated and no longer used’. This is a very real tool corporations use in order to maintain sales. There are 2 types of obsolescence. Planned obsolescence (lightbulbs) and Perceived obsolescence (fashion).
Planned obsolescence is when items are designed to break so that they must be replaced. I know, a lot of people think this is just conspiracy theory. But it isn’t. There are actually innumerable memos from the 70’s which are out there, openly discussing planned obsolescence. Why? Because it was considered a form of marketing and nothing more. Design a product so the life span is shorter, and your customers must replace it. Most of the memos discuss the ‘ideal’ lifespan of products. This took years of research because if a product died too quickly, the consumer would tell themselves that the company made sub-standard products & go elsewhere for the replacement. If the lifespan was too long, companies would loose their profit margins. So where’s the sweet spot? It used to be a decade or more for machinery. For example, my previous washing machine lasted 10 years. The one before that? Forever. This one lasted 3 years before it started to sputter. The time span gets shorter as we grow more accustomed to replacing our items. We are still saying ‘they don’t last as long as they used to’ a phrase muttered countless times in the past 60 years. And this is where perceived obsolescence kicks in.
Perceived obsolescence is when the consumer (us) is convinced that an item is old, out of style, no longer impressive to the outside world. Fashion is the largest of the arenas which employ perceived obsolescence to keep ever increasing profit margins. But, take iPhone for example. They can be both planned & perceived, but stick with me here. Raise your hand if you have purchased a new smart phone before the old one broke. Why do you do it? The never ending hunt for the newest and brightest affects ALL aspects of our lives. Even our relationships. Why do people cheat? There’s the perception that there is always someone better out there. There isn’t. There’s faster internet (which actually isn’t faster on phones, the old ones were just slowed down) there’s new apps (great, more gen pop ADHD) there’s a sleek new design. Just like fashion, which is now turning over at a staggering rate. In the 1930’s, the average woman had 9 outfits in her closet. We have hundreds of mix & match, spring/summer, fall/winter, going out, business, hanging in clothes and always on the hunt for more. In the 50’s -70’s, fashion lasted years. You could easily update your wardrobe with 1 simple piece. Now, its a complete changeover. Wedges are in (Yay! They’re comfy!) nope, wedges make you walk like a trucker. Stilettos are in. Not high enough, go skyscraper heel. Nope, those are too man-eater, go for a platform. no, not the 70’s ones, but they look like the 70’s ones. Oh wait, change of plan, Chunky heels are in. We can’t keep up! And because we are being told non-stop what the appearance of our person, our car, our homes are telling people about our personality, we feel like we HAVE to keep up. We don’t. Everything is so mixed up now that what’s out of fashion now, will be back in fashion in a year or two. Just enough time for us to toss all our out-of-date items into the bin….and then replace them. See where I’m going with this?
Do you realize that if we compare today’s economic index per household with 2 working adults with the 1970’s economic index per household with 1 working adult, the results show that we are actually bringing home LESS today than 40 years ago! The results are staggering. Of course, pay nowadays is much higher. But we are spending so much more. The average family in manyCountries (especially America, Canada & Europe) is up to their ears in debt. We are in debt because we hit hard times, of course. But mainly because of societal expectations. It’s the bigger house. A mortgage that should only take up an average of 28% of your pre-tax pay, but somehow takes up at least 70%. The items to furnish the bigger house. The kitchen remodel of the bigger house. It’s seeing a suit you fall in love with & not having to save the money to buy it before it no longer exists. We impulse purchase without a seconds thought to the fact that we are paying 10-25% over the already sky high purchase price because we have to have it. It’s the newest phone that we don’t need. Look at us, our friends will be so jealous.
Now I am as guilty of credit card abuse as the next person. Nearly having heart palpitations at the thought of not having it (them) for ’emergencies’; Which seem to include that perfect 100% silk dress I can’t find anywhere else, instead of oh I dunno…maybe in case the pipes burst again or the walls start to crumble around me. Or if we find ourselves stuck in an airport overnight because the flight was cancelled. This happens all too often & I never have my ’emergency’ funds available for actual emergencies.
It’s a vicious cycle, really. We spend more to get more, then work harder to pay off our debt & find ourselves in a cycle of work-eat-sleep-cram all your home stuff that needs to be done in the weekends – repeat. What happened to a day of rest? What happened to our connection with nature? What happened to picnics in the park on a sunny day?!
I’m done. I’m done with all of it. Of course I like to look pretty, but I can handle a few options without needing to renovate my house for closet space. I’m done paying an exorbitant amount at the market for food I can plant in my own yard. I’m done buying electronics that I don’t need. I’m done spending my money on frequent nights out when I can’t even afford a dishwasher & spend all my time washing dishes. I’m done giving expensive gifts that people could care less about instead of making something special or giving a charitable donation. I’m DONE being told what is socially acceptable of me! I am what I am and those who love me, will accept that. To those who don’t: well, there’s the door. I’m taking it back to basics. Since we, the consumer, have the ultimate say; I challenge you all to think about your next must-have purchases. Do you really need it? Do you really love it? Why? If yes, go for it! But if not, I encourage you to leave it behind & give your wallet and hard working self a smile, for once.
Anybody else as frustrated as I am? Please, feel free to share!