In the 21st century, through capitalism, the internet, social media and neoliberalism, we have been sold the narrative that the more stuff we own, the happier we will be. But is it really true? Over time, clothing has decreased in price (most often at the expense of exploited garment workers) and increased in accessibility, thanks to same-day delivery making it easier than ever to shop. Meanwhile, social media constantly triggers FOMO, telling us not only that we must buy something because someone else has it but that once we've worn an outfit – and satisfied our brains with that hit of dopamine – it can't be worn again.
Now, though, thanks to a global pandemic and ongoing climate crisis, the narrative around consumption is shifting: priorities are evolving and people are looking to reclaim their power and buy what they actually want and really need rather than what they are influenced to buy in order to reach the ever-shifting goalposts of happiness. Progress-pushing brands are putting the planet over profit and a previously fringe movement of people who claim it's cool to care about the environment now make up the majority.
So will owning less truly make you happier? In the research paper turned book, The High Price of Materialism, Tim Kasser offers a scientific exploration of our culture of consumerism, finding that people who consider material belongings and assets important are less satisfied overall than those who don't. Happily, the digitalisation of our daily lives has enabled more sustainable movements to flourish: from low waste to slow fashion to the sharing economy (renting a dreamy dress for a special event is now as normal as the way we used to view shopping new), 'less is more' has never felt truer.
That being said, it can be hard to change your actions and divorce yourself from societally conditioned ideas about consumerism, particularly when fast fashion tends to be more size-inclusive than luxury and more affordable than sustainable brands. To get you going, we've compiled a starter guide for stepping off the consumer carousel with the help of sustainability expert Victoria Prew, cofounder of rental platform HURR Collective.
Click through to find five points that'll help you shop less.