This past weekend I did something I never imagined would happen. I cleaned out my family’s book collection. For years, my wife and I would buy books and expand our home library. We’ve always seen literature as a treasured asset, one that epitomizes growth for intellectual beings who strive to constantly learn. Michelle, my wife, even organized our library by color to add a personal touch to our living room. So why did we pack up all our books and give them away?
Consume. Consume. Consume.
We live in a materialistic world that is constantly consuming: in stores, online, at home, at work. Yet onone seems to understand the severity of this issue.
Consumption invades every facet of our lives – we are socialized into it. From an early age, we watch as the adults in our lives constantly shop and consume. In recent years, consuming has become easier, cheaper, and (to some extent) a form of entertainment – resulting in consumption increasing even more. Obviously, a degree of consumption is necessary to fulfill our basic needs for food and shelter. However, there is a fine line between must-have consumption and wasteful, irresponsible overconsumption. Can we be as happy as we are now, if we consume less? My argument is: we will be happier and more satisfied with our lives, by consuming less.
Less is more.
In America, we have the unpopular and quite unflattering stigma of being referred to as “the over consumption nation”. As of 2014, over two-thirds of U.S. adults are considered overweight or obese; we drive unnecessarily oversized vehicles, and believe “bigger is better”; our homes have even increased 140% over the last 50 years. We reinforce consumption by demonstrating to our kids that overconsumption is acceptable. We buy our children toys that are rarely used and keep those that have broken; the average U.S. family spends $8,000 on toys for a 10 year old, out of which 70% (5,800) are not used.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel, however. Advances in technology, logistics, and communication allow millennials to use their money to gain experiences without ownership. Therefore, their capital extends further and they are able to have a better and more fulfilled life, while reducing waste and being eco-friendly.
My mother used to say, “Sharing is caring,” but how does this idea work in relation to an economy?
Rather than focusing on creating new products, the Sharing Economy creates creative ways to reuse what has already been produced. Let’s use driving, for example. 90% of cars in the U.S. sit idle for 23 hours a day. Services like Lyft and Ridejoy allow a family to reduce car ownership to one car and outsource work commutes. The $30,000 you’d save (car + insurance + maintenance) would go a long way in improving your quality of life. Not to mention, you just removed a car from congested highways and reduced air pollution.
A multitude of other services are sprouting to help consumers spend less and enjoy more. You can now rent dresses and jewelry for a high-end event, cameras for a safari you’ve always wanted to take, and toys so your child always has the best of the best.
Owning is old-school; sharing is the way of the future. So, ask yourself: “What do I own that I don’t really need?” I bet you’ll surprised with what you come up with.