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THE TWELVE STEPS FOR A RECOVERING SHOP-A-HOLIC:
1. Admit that you have a problem with shopping--that your life has become powerless to consumerism.
My name is Stephen Danner. I am 25 years old and I am a shop-a-holic. I suppose I first realized I had a problem when I would find myself feeling bored and going to the mall or stopping in for a bite to eat at a fast-food restaurant to kill some time. I realized I was using shopping and eating as a hobby, as something to do to pass the day away. Even now, I sometimes feel lost in the whirlwind between what I want and what I need.
2. Make a decision to confront the problem.
To confront the issue of shopping, I searched for what it is that really attracts me to shopping. I decided to take my digital camera into a popular technology store at the Mall of America and to document my shopping experience in order to get at the heart of my consumer bug. In the store, I saw robotic dogs with emotions, glowing light pads promising to read my level of happiness, a wide-screen movie theatre that fit on the bridge of my noise, and ionic air purifiers guaranteeing better health. I was mesmerized, but before I could reach for my wallet, I remembered to confront this experience.
3. Learn the history of consumerism and why it has such a nasty reputation.
Humans consume. We always have. Sure, we've advanced somewhat since our days as hunter-gatherers, but the point is still the same. We work to make money, and we use that money to purchase food and shelter. Sensible enough, right?
4. Come to believe you can overcome the problem.
When I find myself saying "I'd rather die than give up my Twinkie", "I'm happiest when I'm wearing Banana Republic" or, even worse, feeling the emotions that go along with them, I can understand why people in the U.S. have such a nasty reputation for being product-hungry consumers. I do think, though, that if we learn more about ourselves and the impulses that make us consume, we can again live authentic lives free of advertising as well as remedy some of the damage we have done to our environment.5. Speak with other shop-a-holics and hear their stories.
After my little run in at the technology store, I decided to speak with some of the visitors at the Mall of America to find out why they were there at the mall instead of somewhere else. Some of the people I spoke to said they were there shopping for something specific, like a new shirt or a gift for Valentine's day (reasonable enough), but the majority of the folks told me they had come to spend the day. One gentleman told me that he and his family go to the Mall of America often because, "Everything is at your fingertips. You can shop all over, eat over there, play games right here [in the amusement park, that is]...I never come here just to shop, I come to take part in the most popular spectator sport in the country...people watching". Really? That was pretty insightful. I guess consumerism is not just about shopping; it's about being entertained. Is that because we're bored, or don't see enough inside our own hearts to entertain ourselves?
I am ready.
7. Humbly seek the guidance of a close friend or professional.
Kalle Lasn is the founder of the Media Foundation, the editor-in-chief of Adbusters magazine, and the continent's foremost critic of American consumerism. During my talk with him, Kalle spoke about the country's transitions to becoming a consumer culture. According to him, "it used to be that Americans produced their own culture, but now that culture has been taken away from us".
According to Kalle, in America we feel like there is something sexy about ownership, that being able to buy new things makes us cool, that our lives are not just more convenient but somehow better if we own more. We must take the power back from the businesses and advertisements we have allowed into our homes and our public spaces. We must stop considering shopping to be a viable hobby. We must become active participants in our lives.
Raisenettes, potato chips, a greasy hamburger, blue shoelaces, and a gumball at the Mall of America (The list would probably be longer but trekking doesn't leave much time to buy things).
9. Take inventory of useless goods and give something a way.
A month ago, I accidentally bought the wrong the size of some extremely red, fancy pants at a popular store. I later found out that MY size had been sold out, and after searching nationwide began to feel depressed that I would be stuck with the wrong-sized pants forever. Have no fear, though! Trekker Neda does not just like orange and yellow. She likes red too! I passed the pants on to her and she's now sporting the hand-me-downs on the trek! Check them out for yourself here!
10. Continue to take inventory of useless goods and give them away.
I plan to.
How? It's simple really. Turn off your TV. Promise yourself that one day out of every week or every month you are not going to buy anything but are going to spend time developing your own interests that don't require money.
Did you know that people all over the world are already doing that? There is already an International Buy Nothing Day and a very popular TV Turn-off Week that you can take part in! Take action and spread the word in your communities that by taking part in these activities we can combat our nasty reputations as product-hungry consumers, and we can reclaim our culture.
12. Having realized the effects of shop-a-holism, share the history of American consumerism with others and carry the message of activism.
With these twelve steps, I hope to do so.
Please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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