I went to the mall yesterday.
I know, I know, an aspiring minimalist should avoid these temptations and reject consumerism and it’s grand cathedrals. But I actually needed a new pair of jeans, and the best price on 501’s is usually at a retailer that sits in the biggest, baddest monument to spending in the area. It looks like the Westfield corporation was going to get another shopper onto it’s turf (For those hardcore minimalists in the crowd, Westfield is a HUGE multi-national mall management company). Besides, it would give me a chance to test my resolve.
It took all of about ten seconds to remember why, even when I was buying stuff at a prolific rate, I disliked malls with a feverish passion. And worse yet, it’s Christmas shopping season! But in all the turbulence and madness of retail overdose, I found a spot to sit and relax quite peacefully. It was quite strange actually. There were literally thousands of people around me spending money, going deeper into debt than they could imagine. But my thoughts held me in a place of tranquility, knowing that I was refusing to participate in the insanity. My comfort allowed me to make a few observations about the environment I was in:
- There are very few spaces that are not begging for my attention and trying to get me to spend money. Almost every wall, stairwell, window, and doorway had marketing material on it that beckoned me to be smart (or cool) and purchase whatever thing it was pushing. There was even advertising stuck to the floor. I found it an insult to my intelligence.
- Between balloon artists, sketch artists, musical artists, and Santa’s elves there was a large amount of entertainment present. I don’t know how much this can cost, but I know it was absorbed into the cost of being there and buying.
- The mall Santa was averaging about one and a half minutes per child including picture-taking and all the normal “ho-ho-ho” stuff. As best as I could count there were forty-five or so family units waiting in line (mother-child, father-child, both parents, etc.) to see him. That’s around an hour of standing in line to promote the idea in your child that it’s good to want lots of stuff. Now if we could just tell the child that these habits will lead to a life of working class slavery and 40 plus years on the work-spend treadmill, the whole mall Santa thing might not sound so good to them.
- Very few people seemed to be enjoying themselves. In fact, most people looked one step above miserable. Hormone infused teenagers seemed to be the only people smiling. Why do we subject ourselves to an activity that we don’t like? I understand that Christmas season brings people to malls that normally go once or twice per year. But if something makes you that unhappy, avoid it. You don’t have to go to a mall. In fact, don’t buy anything, give a different gift like Francine Jay describes here.
I felt like I could have entertained myself for hours jotting down notes and observing the behavior of my fellow mall-dwellers. But after a while my tranquility began to fade and I felt slightly nervous, almost anxious. There was just too much going on that seemed … pointless. The realization that most of the made-overseas crap purchased today would end up in a landfill within two years saddened me greatly. Sure, there would be thanks and hugs and you-shouldn’t-haves all around on Christmas, but very little if any of the stuff would be remembered past that. I believe it truly says something about the absolutely disposable society that we live in.
And WE are the ones that must change our society, and I would love to believe that we can make a difference for our children (and grandchildren). Be an inspiration to your friends and family, co-workers and strangers. Realize that consumption and buying does not equate to happiness.