From Issue: 471 [Read full issue]

Seven Perils of Consumerism

Consuming is far from harmless. A lifestyle focused on consumption does the following:

1) Wastes your time—When you flip flyers, search aisles and wait in checkout lines, you lose precious time. When you own a bigger house, an extra car and more appliances, you organize more, clean more, repair more—and lose more precious time. Consumerism steals your time to relax with family, engage in worship or help the community.

2) Distracts you from your goal—Our routines absorb us each day as we earn, buy, store, clean, organize and discard “stuff”. We have little time to contemplate why we perform these tasks and possess these items. Slogans of “Buy now! Enjoy now!” emphasize instant gratification and obscure the deeper purpose and priorities of our lives. We rarely remember to show gratitude for what God gave us. The more we ‘consume’, the more consumerism distracts us from our goal of pleasing God [Quran 102: 1-2].

3) Increases your needs—As you own more, your needs increase. A bigger house requires more furniture, more curtains, more decorations and more cleaning supplies (maybe even a maid!). Now you need to work longer hours to maintain your bigger house. When you work longer hours, you have less time so your needs increase again—you now need outside food, more childcare, a dishwasher, and a vacation to escape the stress! Consumerism traps us in a cycle of ‘own more, need more, work more’.

4) Enslaves you—The fashion industry, with the media’s help, creates, sells and alters styles to keep you spending. If you follow the latest trends, wear what’s ‘in’ and avoid what’s ‘out’, ask yourself why. Are you letting wealthy fashion and media leaders control your wardrobe and your wallet?

5) Creates more responsibilities—Are you ready to account for everything you consume—how you bought it, how you used it, how you shared it? [Quran 102:8] As you own more, you increase your burden of responsibility.

6) Weakens your health—Juliet Schor, in “Born to Buy”, shows that children who lead a consumeristic lifestyle, spending more time watching television and shopping, face greater health problems such as obesity, depression, and low self esteem.  Even adults who are responsible for more financial and physical wealth suffer greater stress and stress-related diseases. A simple lifestyle, with meaningful physical and mental activities, can protect your health.

7) Destroys our Environment—An individual in a developed nation consumes three times as much meat, nine times as much paper, and eleven times as much gasoline as an individual in a developing nation. This materialistic lifestyle sucks up natural resources and dumps tonnes of waste on the planet. Where does our garbage go? Many toys, electronics, and household items North Americans consume and discard ends in piles on landfill sites in developing countries where the toxic chemicals seep into water and soil. Each item we consume involves consequences we rarely consider.

"Unclutter Your Life: Reclaim Your Mind, Body and Wallet" - Shehnaz Toorawa