Eating off the Infinite Table: Consuming without Being Consumed

This article is very insightful. Enjoy ūüôā

Annamal house.


Every week, AT&T and Comcast conduct a direct-mail duel to see who can offer me the most channels of digital TV. I believe we are up to about 900 now. Then there’s Netflix, with more films and TV shows than I could watch in a lifetime. Even if I limited myself to just those that close friends have recommended, I would have years worth of material. There are hundreds of thousands of books I can download instantaneously to any number of devices, and millions more I can command hard copies of or borrow from a library. Then there are the millions of songs I could stream or download at the touch of a button. The billions of hours of video on YouTube. And best of all, the unceasing tide of social media: ever-replenishing tweets and status updates from nearly every person I have ever met, scattered across all corners…

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North Korea Exposes the Western Propaganda

This video is about an hour and a half. I watched it last weekend wanted to share it with you all because it made me think how we, as Americans, consume continuously. Watch it when you have time some time to sit down and really pay attention.

I know I haven‚Äôt blogged about time management and stress reduction in a while. I would still like to emphasize that we must become less enmeshed in our materialistic, consumer-oriented, business-centric culture if we want our stress levels to drop. If we are spending less, we can work less. If we desire less ‚Äúthings,‚ÄĚ we can live a more fulfilled life. We can be attentive to the small moments that make life interesting and rewarding.

Now, about the video: If you are not open minded, don‚Äôt watch it. It will challenge many ideas and beliefs that you have held your entire life. I know that the United States and North Korea are currently having a disagreement (I’m putting it mildly), and the¬†documentary¬†delves into some older political issues. Nonetheless, the video makes some thought-provoking points on how Western propaganda drives consumerism.¬†Enjoy!

Constant Connectedness

I feel left out. I watch people filling moments in their day by staring at tiny little cellphone screens. I have a tiny little screen too, but the processor behind it is slow, so I don’t (and won’t) stare at the little screen all day.

Since I got rid of my Blackberry 9 months ago, I’ve noticed something. People are obsessed with being constantly entertained. ¬†They couldn’t bear to have a few spare moments without something to see or do. Maybe I’m just bitter I can‚Äôt be a cellphone zombie with my prepaid cellphone plan,¬†but it’s really annoying to watch this. It seems people prefer to ‚Äúlike‚ÄĚ idiotic ‚Äúmemes‚ÄĚ on Facebook than talk to the person standing next to them.

Even if I spend the money on some fancy cellphone and some fancy plan, would it be worth it? Who am I connecting with that I need to be available to them twenty-four hours a day? If I don‚Äôt have a person‚Äôs phone number, and they don’t have mine, why do we need to be able access to each other at a moment‚Äôs notice? ¬†I‚Äôm not sure if some of my Facebook friends would even say hello if they saw me on the street.

As much of a hater as I seem to be to all you technology folks, I get it. People these days expect an instant response. If someone¬†doesn’t¬†respond to an email within a few hours, we start to assume the person never checks their email.¬† If someone¬†doesn’t¬†text or tweet us back within 5 minutes, we begin to think they are ignoring us: ¬†they better have a d*mn good reason for making us wait. Please tell me you think this absurd.

Why Connectedness Drives Consumerism

As you can see, I‚Äôm not immune to this connectedness virus either. It attacks unexpectedly‚ÄĒalthough usually when I have a little extra cash. In the last few weeks or so, I‚Äôve been feeling DISconnected and I’ve been trying to figure out a way to get a tablet. Here‚Äôs my thought process:

I could sell my old laptop, my netbook; perhaps spend a little less on food each month so I could afford a monthly data plan. But then again, tablets are complicated products for writers. While they are great for doing research, they are horrible for writing. They just¬†aren’t¬†efficient. And carrying around a laptop isn’t¬†efficient¬†either. ¬†If only I had a tablet connected to a keyboard, I’d be in great shape. I could get one of those Windows 8 tablet computers.

And then I realized I have something like that already: A netbook. Sure, it‚Äôs not touchscreen, but it does the job.¬† That’s why I didn’t buy the tablet in the first place. Instead of appreciating what I have, I was going to spend MORE money on something I¬†didn’t¬†need.

It’s a vicious cycle, really. When we get connected, we consume entertainment, news, gossip, etc. When we consume these things, we consume advertisements. When we consume advertisements, we purchase more items that will be better and faster at getting us connected. And then the process starts all over again, except we are able to consume more information and advertisements than before, and thus consume (purchase) more items than before.

That‚Äôs why I had to say ‚Äúthe buck stops here!‚ÄĚ No more consumption of technology until I have exhausted the capabilities of what I already have. ¬†Maybe I‚Äôll be a little behind the times in technology, but I won‚Äôt be a zombie. During the time it takes for my page to load, I can stop and look around. I keep my eyes ahead of me as a cross a street (I see students texting while walking across an intersection everyday. Their foolishness baffles me.) I can interact with the people around me. I can live in the moment.

When will we stop consuming and start living?

When consumer spending drives the economy…

This morning I read an article on the impact of raising the minimum wage to $9/hour. As someone who hasn’t quite broken into the world of salaried professionals, raising the minimum wage to $9/hour would be great news. I’m all for workers rights and corporations¬†paying a living wage. (Not that $9/hour is a living wage, but keeping up with inflation would be nice). According to the article,¬†raising the minimum wage would give hourly wage earners more spending power, which would, in turn, boost the economy.

That’s great, except, we wage workers shouldn’t spend the extra couple of dollars on economy-boosting goods and services.¬† We should be using the extra cash to take care of our family’s NEEDS, pay down debt,¬†and save MOST of it for a rainy day.¬† The United States (and many other western countries as well) absolutely depend on the spending habits of its citizens.¬†This is a huge problem, considering the amount of people¬†who are drowning in debt. If your debt is higher than your income, believe it or not, you cannot afford luxury items. (Yes, a smartphone is a luxury item.)

In this country, we are constantly overspending. And this overspending on cool gadgets, dining out, jewelry, fashionable clothing, new cars, random crap,¬†etc., is what provides jobs and financial security to our wage earners.¬†How can we live a sustainable lifestyle if our economy depends on the overconsumption of goods and services? I mean, what would our economy be like if people only purchased¬†what they absolutely needed? Would there be people working? Would there be jobs?¬†I dont know. I’m not advocating socialism, but our current system is really messed up.

Remember, you don’t have to be at mercy of the constant ebb and flow of our economy.¬†If you think carefully about how you spend¬†your money,¬†you will be in a better position than most people riding the consumer bandwagon.

Appliance Whore

I have to admit. I have an appliance hoarding problem.¬†I’ve hated cooking for most of my life so I’ve acquired¬†many appliances that can make cooking simpler. At one point in my life I had/have the following:

some of the appliances that are in my apt right now

some of the appliances that are in my apt right now

  1. Vegetable Steamer
  2. Blender
  3. Magic Bullet Knock-Off
  4. AirPopper
  5. Waffle Iron
  6. Juicer
  7. Toaster
  8. Toaster Oven
  9. Crock-Pot (2)
  10. Mixer

This of course doesn’t include the standard kitchen fare of the microwave, refrigerator, oven, and dishwasher. Do you see how redundant that list is? Why would I need all of these things? (This also doesn’t include my group other types of appliances appliances).

There literally is an appliance or gadget for anything you want to cook. Go to a department store and you will see what I mean. Typically, these appliances aren’t easy to clean, they take up a ton of counter space, and they make a bunch of noise. As convenient as these appliances are supposed to make your life, I’m starting to think many of them aren’t even worth the trouble. I usually get the appliances because I don’t want to have to do so many dishes, but the dishes I have to do with the appliance are worse than just using the stove or oven instead.

My blender can do anything my magic bullet knock off can do and my toaster oven can toast anything my toaster can… and my regular oven can take care of the uses of both.¬†Yes, some appliances are very useful and unique. However, I’m not really sure they are all worth it.¬† Get rid of some of this stuff, you will have much more room on your counter tops to do actual cooking.¬† For me, the toaster oven was the hardest to give up… but the counter space it cleared was more than worth it.

Don’t be an appliance whore.¬†Cook the old-fashioned¬†way: with love. ūüôā

Buy Nothing Challenge: Cheating

When I wrote the post about the Buy Nothing Until 2013 Challenge, I have to be honest. I really didn’t take it seriously. A couple of days later, I ordered a 50 dollar hair-styling product and a vegan meal planning book off the internet. I guess I wasn’t supposed to have either of those things because Amazon ended up sending me the wrong hair product and I had to send it back. And the book I ordered was damaged in transit, and I never received it (nor have I yet to receive a refund).¬† I did end up re-ordering the book, but I have decided that the book is the last thing I will buy until 2013.¬† Really, the challenge is about learning to do without.

Today I saw an infomercial about…. I never buy things from infomercials, but I always end up thinking, “Wow, that item would make my life so much easier.” However, I was doing just fine not even knowing about the item’s existence¬†until I saw it on television. There are a lot of items that make our lives easier, but we were doing just fine without them.¬† Occassionaly something comes along that will make a monumental change in the lives of humans, but most items these days are overrated.

It got me to thinking, do I really need the meal planning book? Of course not. I have vegetarian and vegan recpie books; and if I would sit down for an hour each week, I could make my own meal plans.¬† Did I really need the hair product? I dont know yet. What I do know is I’d recently bought mango butter so I could¬†make my own hair cream, and I hadn’t started using it yet. So at the time I ordered the 50 dollar product, I didn’t need it.

I’ve been going about the last week thinking of things to buy. I fault TV ads. ¬†If you watch tv long enough, and sit through all the ads, you see all this stuff that you think you want to buy.¬† Commercials attempt sell you happiness,¬†friends, “coolness,” personality, fun, excitement, frugality.¬†You and I both know that there is no frugality in spending money at a store like Kohls because you are still spending.

If you try to focus on getting happiness (or whatever other positive emotion) without spending money, you may be surprised with what you come up with.¬† For example: I’ve been feeling rather crafty lately.¬† Last Thursday, I was feeling super down– I guess because I quit my job, and I felt like my life was nothing because I wasn’t working (even though I started a new job today). Instead of spending a gazillion dollars on crap I didn’t need, I crocheted a cute hat. (Oh- Here is a link to the tutorial:



I felt happier, and proud of myself that I turned $2 yarn, that’d been collecting dust in my closet, in to something I love. The postitive feeling is¬†enduring longer than if I had just went out and bought something similar. Everytime¬†I put the hat on, I will remember the day I made it: I felt like crap that day, and instead of stuffing my face or spending money I didn’t have, I turned my negative energy into productive energy. Truth be told, I wasn’t even crocheting to make myself feel better, I was doing it to bide my time. And I got something amazing out of my efforts

So when you are thinking about purchasing something, think first. Can I make do without it? Am I buying it to quell negative emotions? If you answer yes to one or more of those questions, you may not need to buy anything at all.

Have a great week.



“Buy Nothing Until 2013” Challenge

Because I love my readers so much, you all get two posts today.¬† After perusing my RSS feeds, and catching up on other minimalist blogs, I stumbled upon the “Buy Nothing Until 2013” Challenge by Leo Babauta¬†on his Zen Habits blog, which I love btw.¬† I wanted to share the link with you because I think I may be participating.

Every year companies start urging shoppers to spend all their money earlier and earlier. This year I saw Christmas decorations up in stores¬†before Halloween and many stores started Black Friday on Thursday. They gave you ample opportunity to “buy, buy, buy,” “spend, spend, spend,” and go “broke, broke broke.” The whole overconsumption, commercialism, consumerism and generally irresponsible spending around the holidays, has gone way too far. I have refused to participate.¬†I did stay home on Thursday and Friday, but I must admit, ordered a couple of things online (that I was planning to get anyway) on Cyber Monday.

Now that Black Friday and Cyber Monday are over, I’m sure many of you are fraught with guilt from spending way too much, on too many once in a lifetime, AMAAAAAZING¬†deals.¬†I thought I’d give you some hope to get back in the black.

Whatever you’ve done over the past 5 days can most likely be reversed. You can take it all back. It’s not too late. You can still get money back to pay rent¬†in 4¬†days. You can join me on the “Buy Nothing” challenge, starting retroactively from “Black Thursday.”

What do you think? Who’s in?


Simplifying Your Beauty Routine

Faced with being buried in an avalanche of beauty products, I had to make a decision.¬† I needed a way to simplify my beauty routine.¬† However, if you Google “simplify your beauty routine” you will find a bunch of useless tips that leave you with just as many products as before.

The only fool proof method¬† is to get rid of pretty much everything and go rogue. Unfortunately, we live in a society where image is everything, and if your hair is frizzy, and you smell because you don’t wear deodorant, you may have a bit of a problem.¬† I don’t plan on going rogue; I do, however, plan on going natural.

Basically, if you want to simplify your beauty routine, you have to let go of the beauty standards set by people trying to sell you something and determine your personal beauty standards.  For me that means:

Not wearing makeup.¬† Maybe there will be an occasion where I don a little eye liner, mascara and lip gloss, but that’s going to be it.¬† Cover up, blush, eye shadow and the like are getting trashed. I found a great article on Loving Your Face Without Makeup.

Revamping my hairstyling routine.¬† As an African-American woman, hair care is where I spend the most money and do the most work. I’m going to make a change by switching to higher quality, natural products.¬† Instead of buying a shea butter product where shea butter is the 4th or 5th ingredient, I could make my own shea butter leave in conditioner with the real stuff. Then, I won’t need fifty thousand additional products to make up for where one product falls short because it is filled with chemicals and other garbage. (I could do an entire post on how I’m cutting back on my hair routine)

Picking one or 2 ways to remove hair. As ladies we must pretend that we don’t grow hair anywhere but on are heads and eyebrows. The fact of the matter this isn’t true.¬† We are all hairy ladies.¬† And I use nearly every method available for removing hair: I have a razor, an electric trimmer, an epilator, a depilatory (Nair), wax strips and tweezers. This is completely unnecessary. I’m not going to stop shaving my legs or pits, but I am going to pick a limited amount of ways to do it. Maybe you’ve always wanted to stop shaving your legs. If so, here is a good place to find inspiration.

The reality is, there are so many places where you can cut back and reduce your usage of beauty products. That might mean you’ll stop trying to hide signs of aging, stop painting your nails, or stop fighting your natural hair texture. I’m not going to detail them all here because Minimalist Beauty created a whole website on how she reduced her beauty product usage. (It’s a great resource, you should check it out.) You have to decide which avenues are right for you.

What I’m going to be doing while I prepare to move is trashing pretty much everything and finding alternative care products.¬† I’d like to take a more natural and holistic approach to my personal care, and I believe I’ll be using far fewer products than I do now.

Just remember, you are beautiful the way you are, and you don’t need any product that tries to convince you aren’t beautiful without it.

True Cost of Vanity

Oh, what we ladies do to be beautiful. I probably have at least 1000 different items related to my beauty regimen.¬† While I’ve been attempting to declutter my house, it seems that the beauty items are the most difficult to pare down. My sink, shower, linen closet were so full with such items that I purchased a rolling cart to hold the rest of the crap.¬† Really, it is getting out of control. Then there is the weight loss side of beauty that is its own subject. ¬† But this makes me consider the larger issue at hand.¬† We are so self-imaged obsessed. We spend so much money and time trying to look like someone else; I’m just not seeing the point anymore.

Remember in middle and high school where we are taught about advertisements, and the objectification of women for the sale of products?¬† I have to be honest. I never really understood what “objectifying women” truly meant. It means “sex sells” right? It means women are portrayed as objects, not people or individuals, right? But what does that really mean? Middle and high school students can only understand so much about “objectifying women;” at that age, we don’t have enough life experience to truly comprehend it. As of late, I think I’m starting to get it.

After watching the series the Way of Seeing, on YouTube, I’ve become hyper aware of all this vanity stuff. In the video series, the narrator addresses the fact that women are constantly being looked at, by themselves, men, and other women, and it is essentially what drives women’s vanity and obsession with appearance.¬† He analyzes the nude in art to illustrate his point. I absolutely agree with his interpretation. To take it a step further, knowing that we are constantly being looked at plays a role in our really messed up body image. There is an expectation of what we look like, if not met, makes us feel like crap. And this my friends, comes from advertising.

What I’m about to say is a tad cliche (at first), but hear me out. We are bombarded with advertisements that tell us what we need to do to be beautiful: what a beautiful woman wears, how she dresses, how she styles her hair, etc.¬† On some level, we understand that the images aren’t real, but we have internalized that message from society. We want to be that beautiful, confident woman who has maintained every inch of her hair, nails, body and skin, and nonetheless is perfect. It doesn’t matter that in school we were taught that the images in magazines are fake.¬†The message to be perfect is so ingrained that it doesn’t matter if we know consciously that some fat nerd shaved 2 inches off the model’s waist and plumped up her boobs with a few mouse clicks. We still look for that image of ourselves every time we look at ourselves naked in the mirror.

The problem is we are looking for something that isn’t real or attainable.¬† I know you know this with your conscious mind, but every time you pinch a bit of fat on your belly when you are well within a healthy BMI (don’t get me started), says that you’ve been brainwashed into believing there is something wrong with you. Currently I’m 5’1 and 128 pounds and I would like to be 10 pounds lighter. Why? I don’t even look fat and a recent doctor’s appointment reveals that I’m perfectly healthy.¬† I’ve been brainwashed like everybody else, and only now wondering, “Why?”

I read an interesting post on The Belly Project where the author quotes a student saying that this is all a conspiracy by CEOs and the like to get us to buy crap. So we buy and we buy and we buy, just so we can look like someone else, who in that particular image, doesn’t look like themselves.¬† People don’t look how they look in magazines. And if they do, they have to be obsessed.¬† That is not a way to live.¬† We’ve wasted so much time and energy, some people just don’t think its worth it anymore.¬† It is getting ridiculous.

Think about painting your nails for a minute.  You take a bottle of colored liquid, use the little brush and paint it on your fingernails. Then you have to wait (forever if you are at a salon) for it to dry completely. And if you do manage to get it dry without ruining them by unbuttoning your jeans an hour later, you wear the color for a few days, before it starts to flake, peel and chip off the day you wash any dishes. What is the freaking point of that? It looks pretty? Is that the best you can come up with? See, and all this occurred to me right after I spent 30 dollars for an ocean blue mani/pedi.  There is no point. Sure, removing dead skin is nice, so are foot and hand massages. But the polish? An absolutely pointless endeavor.  And we have hundreds, if not thousands of similar, pointless rituals: pointless vanity rituals.

Am I saying that I am the perfect human who avoids all vanity rituals? No. Will I ever avoid all pointless vanity rituals? No. I really prefer having two eyebrows. (Then again, who says I have to). But if you need to save time, money, and energy, your vanity may just be the place to look.

Next week I’m going to be talking about how to find balance between perfection and reality… stay tuned, have a great weekend, and I’ll see you on Monday.

Stop Buying Stuff and Spending Money Right Now

Photo courtesy of Kevin Conners

Stop complaining about the one percent.¬† I hate to break it to you, but it is partly your fault they are rich.¬† Yes, they may have had certain social advantages, rich parents, a free college education, and a trust fund worth more money than you will ever see in your lifetime.¬† Yet as long as you keep buying what they are selling you–iphone? fancy computer? infomercial junk?– you will continue to make them richer, and you poorer.

What we broke, unemployed masses forget, is that the rich absolutely depend on us to keep them rich. If all of us stopped buying the crap they sell us: the overpriced, overseas produced, and poorly made crap, they wouldn’t continue to make money.¬† And we wouldn’t be broke. Why do you think we are inundated with advertising?¬† You cant even breathe without someone trying to sell you something. They want you to believe that if you have all the fancy stuff they have (and believe me, they have far better stuff anyway, stuff you probably couldn’t even dream up) you will be just like them: “happy.”¬† The reality is that none of this is true.

And you too distracted playing with all those apps to realize it.¬† We are like children to them: They show us something new, shiny and colorful, and we are like “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!”¬† We spend our last pennies buying overpriced, fancy crap that we don’t need.¬† So while we are sitting in our over-cluttered house, unhappy, with all of our expensive but worthless things, they are using the money you spent on it to have a month long vacation in Fiji.

The day I realized this was the day I decided to stop buying stuff.¬† It started with me not buying a patch to repair my security blanket.¬† If I could, I would live on a self sustaining farm, where my expenses would be minimal, and I wouldn’t have the stress of making enough money to pay rent.¬† Yet that is not realistic given my current situation, nor do I care to be a farmer.¬† I’m not saying I wont buy anything ever again; I’m just saying I wont buy more stuff I don’t need.

In this society, what we are led to believe that we should buy newer, fancier stuff the second we get more money. Get a promotion=get a new car. Tax refund= buy a big screen TV. Buying stuff the second I get cash in hand is the biggest mistake I have ever made.¬† Spending more money when you get more money doesn’t make you richer.¬† All it does is allow you to spend more time with your stuff, and less time with the people, activities, and places that make life meaningful.

When your expenses stay the same, and your income goes up you have two options: Buy newer, fancier stuff or buy a more fulfilling life. What do I mean when I say buy a more fulfilling life? I mean work less, take more vacations, and learn new skills you’ve been itching to acquire. It’s up to you, but I’ve decided to spend my money on living life.

The reason why I keep going back to “stop buying” and “stop spending” is because all of the things you “want” force you to work and work and work to pay for them…until you die. That is no way to live. Quitting the spending addiction is a long, arduous process.¬† I have to stop spending money so I can save money and pay off debt first. Once I’ve paid off debt, I wont be a slave to a job I don’t like, need, or want because it’s the only thing I’ve got. But it won’t happen overnight.