I came across this article in The Atlantic a few days ago and have been pondering it since: How Online Shopping and Cheap Prices are Turning Americans Into Hoarders.
Almost everyone I know shops on Amazon using Prime. Literally - almost everyone. We buy groceries, toiletry items, furniture, backpacks, cleaning supplies, shoes, books and just about anything else we can imagine.
And our stuff arrives two days later (sometimes more....seemingly more often, actually). In our house, we've become so used to the thud of an Amazon box dropping on our doorstep that we sometimes don't even react.
Oh yeah....micellar water. I'll get that later.
Our kids are obsessed with shopping on Amazon and are downright angry if packages don't arrive within 48 hours, constantly asking me to check the tracking status. When other stores don't offer Prime shipping, my kids become slightly incensed: why would a store not offer Prime shipping? What the hell?
Don't say what the hell.
Fine. What the heck.
Don't say that either.
Heavy teenage sigh, slight eye roll, retreats to room.
Anyway, the point is: are we all becoming hoarders of cheap goods delivered in record time as a sort of addiction, and is this addiction feeding our inability to focus, wait patiently and actually consider our purchases?
According to the article:
Online shopping allows us to get that dopamine hit, and then also experience delayed gratification when the order arrives a few days later, which may make it more physiologically rewarding than shopping in stores.
I have to say, I agree. There is the actual looking for items. That in itself is exciting. Then, there is the purchase. We often agonize over purchases in our house, filling our shopping carts, removing items, refilling carts. Then there is the moment we hit 'buy' and see the purchase go through. Then there is the waiting, watching, peeking through the dining room window as the UPS truck drives through the neighborhood.
Then there is the item.
But, interestingly, the actual item seems like the least exciting part of the whole process. I rip open the box, look at the book and then....it's sort of like the day after Christmas.
Before I began exploring minimalism and thinking hard about all of my shopping and accumulation of stuff, I would just go buy something else a few days later to get that little Christmas-like high.
Now, I try to be more present with the feelings I have regarding shopping, spending, accumulating and waiting for packages. I try to recognize when I'm shopping for reasons other than legitimate need, like recently.
Recently, I've started an online MS program (as many of you know and have been incredibly supportive of). I've also taken on more writing jobs, and tomorrow I have a job interview, the second round of the hiring process.
It's a lot.
I've gone from famine to feast in the matter of a few months, having spent the last year unpacking from our move and counting bread crumbs on the floor. Just kidding. I was at Jazzercise.
But now I've got classes to consider, more articles to write and the prospect of a dream-job in the works.
Want to know what I want to do?
Buy stuff off Amazon and Nordstrom. I filled my cart on JCrew the other day, knowing that I didn't need one single item in that cart. But somehow, filling it was like taking action on something that didn't have any weight to it, like school or work. It was soothing. It was emotional.
I want to buy all sorts of stuff lately. High-end hair dryers. Skin care. Perfume (and I have three almost-full bottles of perfume). Bathrobes. Purses.
The list goes on.
And with Prime shipping, endless websites to fill my needs, photoshopped models and a brown UPS truck staffed with a guy with nice legs, it's all so easy and available.
A few months ago, I did an experiment where I didn't buy anything for a month. I even wrote about what I didn't buy, and looking back at that post reminds me of how liberating it was to not spend money, to not feel regret and to not have piles of stuff coming into the house.
And there's no way to escape what all of this shopping is doing to our environment, both our personal homes and the world as a whole.
This quote from the article says it all:
But most Americans are not curtailing their shopping habits. And as consumers demand cheaper clothing, electronics, and other goods, manufacturers are spending less to make them, which sometimes means they fall apart more quickly. The share of large household appliances that had to be replaced within five years grew to 13 percent in 2013, up from 7 percent in 2004. Cheap clothes might lose their shape after a wash or two, or get holes after a few tumbles in the dryer; electronics become obsolete quickly and need to be replaced. While some of this stuff can be recycled or resold, often it ends up in landfills. In 2015, the most recent year for which data is available, Americans put 16 million tons of textiles in the municipal waste stream, a 68 percent increase from 2000. We tossed 34.5 million tons of plastics, a 35 percent increase from 2000, according to data from the Environmental Protection Agency. Over that same time period, the population grew just 14 percent.
Looks like someone needs another shopping ban. :)
I'm curious how all of you feel. Does online shopping make you shop more or, as some people argue, less?
Some people on FB said they shop less using Amazon Prime because they can think about purchases and wait to make decisions. Many argue they buy only what they need when they shop online rather than being tempted by all the stuff in stores.
For me, I guess I'm just tempted by all of it. But somehow, when it's a virtual shopping cart, and when I'm trying to maximize one credit card transaction and one shipment, I feel like I should make the most of it and go ahead and buy three books rather than one.
Anyone else have thoughts on this?
I've got Sandy asleep at my feet, my boy off to school and my daughter still sleeping away her last mornings of summer vacation. I figure middle school is so rancid she deserves these last hours of magic.