6 Tips to Free Your Mind from Materialism


How to find contentment in a world that's overwhelmingly focused on consumer culture.

We live in a consumerist society. We use material things to express ourselves, shape our personalities and solve problems. This focus on material things is doing strange things to our minds. Compared with previous generations, today we own more possessions like cars, technology, clothes and gadgets. Yet we are facing a mental health crisis. Our material culture convinces us of the need to constantly upgrade our stuff, so of course we feel overwhelmed and unsatisfied. The happiness attained from buying things is short-lived. Moreover, when we try to buy solutions, we defer real action we could take to reach our goals.

It doesn't have to be this way. Try these simple steps to liberate yourself from the unsatisfying cycle of consumerism.

Try Before You Buy

When starting a new hobby, it's tempting to kit yourself out with the best gear right away. At first, making these purchases makes you feel amazing. If in a few weeks' time you've decided the new thing is not for you, you may feel guilty about how much money you've invested, or under pressure to continue something when you'd really rather not. You'll also have added clutter to your home.

Challenge yourself to keep up new past-times for a month before investing in equipment. Chances are you don't need much to get started. Could you work with what you already have? Maybe you could borrow equipment from a friend first to see how you get on? For example, when I first started running, I wore my trainers and a hand-me-down T-Shirt. After I'd built a habit of running consistently over a few weeks, I bought some specialised running shoes.

Clear Your Home and Free Your Mind

Decluttering is an extremely effective way to address your relationship with things. The process is cathartic and forces you to recognise how materialism affects your life. When I set out to de-clutter, I ended up discarding more than half of my possessions. Discovering that I could live with less immeasurably improved my well-being.

The easiest way to start is by getting rid of things which are clearly rubbish - do you have any old shoeboxes, magazines or broken items stored away? Next, move onto more challenging areas. If you hold onto every book you read, ask yourself if you really need to. If your kitchen is packed with rarely-used gadgets, you could part with these and win back space.

Once you recognise what's truly necessary for you, you will feel liberated. Your newly transformed calm and tidy living space can also contribute towards greater peace of mind.

Make a Capsule Wardrobe

Challenge yourself to live with a more compact selection of clothes. You could follow 'Project 333', and dress with just 33 items for 3 months. The 33 items include all clothes, shoes, coats and accessories, but not underwear, pyjamas or sportswear.

The idea is to create a capsule wardrobe which works for your lifestyle. Start by creating a plan; writing down weekly activities and what you wear for each. Then, look for instances where the same thing might suit for more than one occasion. For instance, one pair of shoes might work both for the office and for date night. Next, pull everything out of your wardrobe. With your plan to hand, select items which meet your needs. If you struggle to decide between similar pieces, choose your favourite! Box up everything that doesn't make the cut and stow it away somewhere difficult to access, to help resist the temptation to go delving through!

Be Sceptical

Words like 'good for you', 'lighter' and even 'source of protein' jump out from food packaging and assure us that buying them will help us to achieve our fitness goals. Don't be fooled. Phrases like these are aimed at lifting profits, not improving health. Products are attractive when their message is one that we want to believe; such as that physical fitness can be bought.

In reality, we know the only way to maintain good health is through a balanced diet and frequent exercise. Besides, the ideal balanced diet does not include the processed foods we often see making health claims.

Be critical of packaging and remember that companies are not your friend. Instead, you can be honest with yourself about what really makes a difference. You don't need to buy yoghurt with 'feel good' written on it, when you already feel good about keeping up your gym habit.

Consider Sustainability

Many of us are adopting lifestyle changes in order to address concerns over environmental sustainability. Maybe you have stopped eating meat, looked for plastic free cosmetics or started cycle commuting? If you are serious about living sustainably, buying less is one of the most sensible steps you can take.

Every item of clothing, every mobile phone, every bar of soap you buy contributes to your carbon footprint. Furthermore, manufacturing processes use harmful chemicals, degrade ecosystems and produce air pollution. Not to mention much of what we buy ends up in landfill after a short useable life. The rate at which goods are bought and sold is simply not compatible with our planet. Keep this in mind when considering buying new things.

Buying less is a positive choice contributing towards a better, more sustainable way of life. The satisfaction of doing something good can replace the short-lived gratification of buying stuff.

Protect your Pocket

Are the things you exchange your money for worth the time and effort you put in to make it? Maybe you enjoy your job, maybe you do not, but at the end of the day we spend a significant part of our lives at work. Being mindful of this can help you to focus on what you really want to spend on, this usually means valuing experiences over things.

When you spend less on material things, you can afford to do more things such as like meeting friends in restaurants or taking holidays. Experiences like these enrich your life in ways material things cannot. Long term savings goals are more achievable when you buy less stuff. For example, I've been able to cut the term of my mortgage from 30 years to just 7! You can achieve big things when you don't spend so much on small things.