The curse of ‘accessories’

AccessoriesWhen I talk of accessories, I don’t just mean a nice bag, pair of earrings or a tie, I mean those extra items you buy as ‘add ons’ to your main purchases. It appears that nowadays it’s almost impossible to buy anything of note without being tempted
by a million other must-have items. The possibilities seem endless and this is the curse I’m talking about.

Take a car for example. I was given my dad’s car when he was no longer able to drive for health reasons. Although I had escaped the need to spend lots of money on a car, I then proceeded to start buying all the things associated with my new motor. From air freshners to gadgets to check the tyre pressure they found their way into my shopping basket. It was if a whole new world of shopping opened up to me and I dived right in (although I did draw the line at a pair of fluffy dice to hang near the windscreen.)

The same thing happened when I reached a couple of major life milestones – getting married and having a baby. Suddenly I had a million more options to spend my hard earned cash,  accompanied by the pressure of my peers to provide the ideal wedding and perfectly reared child.  And as my daughter grows up these options keep on multiplying. Every hobby I adopt has its share of must-have equipment, better materials to use and libraries full of books to teach, entertain and amuse me, should I wish to peruse them. And as my pile of ‘accessories’ grows, the space in my house gets smaller and smaller.

So how do you stop the rot and reduce the pile? It’s a tricky one in principle, with so much temptation and so many shiny things. It’s easy to say it is just a matter of resisting temptation. Yet we all know how easy it is to give in and the more we try to resist, the more the desire to acquire begins to grow.

The answer could be to start practising what I call ‘mindful consumption’.

By practising mindful consumption we can admit to ourselves that the feelings of wanting an object may be very strong, but it also reminds us to acknowledge that we could often live without the item we desire. We can also begin to think about what having the object really costs us in real terms. We can think about how many hours we would need to work to afford the object. We can think about the cleaning and maintenance the object will demand of us and the time that will also have to be factored in to accommodate this. We can think about the space that the object will need to be stored. We can also balance these factors with how long the object will actually last. This might be in terms of durability, need, or even fashion (although hopefully our purchases are not governed by the need to be ‘fashionable’ as this state tends to be transient by its very nature.)

Once we have thought about the purchase in these terms we may still decide to go ahead and purchase the item. Sometimes we may wrongly justify to ourselves that we really need an accessory when really we do not. It may be that we only discover we’ve made mistake a week or so after. By being mindful of our purchases, even if we make a mistake we can acknowledge that at least we thought seriously about what we were buying and hopefully, it will help us not to make the same mistake twice.

Accessories will always be available and marketing people will always be finding new ways of encouraging us to purchase. Ultimately though, the choice to buy remains with us.

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