Nothing New 2016: Let Us Share Our Resolutions (And More).
Almost a month into 2016 and still not sure what your resolution or intention for 2016 should be? Here’s an option.
It might seem pretty radical initially, but I assure you, it’s not.
Nothing New 2016.
Okay, collective sigh heard, but wait, hear me out.
There are a number of legitimate reasons why we should be committing to recycling, sharing and renting rather than buying new products, and in the age of eBay and other similar platforms, why would we need to buy anything new?
Ever heard the proverb One person’s trash is another’s treasure?
Time magazine wrote, ‘Today’s Smart Choice. Don’t own. Share. Someday we’ll look back on the 20th century and wonder why we owned so much stuff.’
Have you ever considered that the days of embellishing ourselves, our homes and our lifestyles with lots of stuff are temporary?
That this might only be a twentieth century or twenty-first century affliction that you could end this very hour, this very minute, indeed, this very second?
It’s completely possible.
I’m not debating that since caveman times we’ve been out for ourselves, trying to stuff our world with, well, stuff.
Back then, this might have meant lining our own caves with animal skin (for survival against the winter cold), preserving the best food for ourselves and our closest kin (again for survival when food was scarce), or hoarding tradable goods.
But the key word in all of this is survival.
As Maslow’s pyramid of human motivation would teach us, once we go past the survival element (the meeting of our basic needs) we move on to a desire for love and belonging, esteem and self-actualization.
The reality is, those higher elements of Maslow’s pyramid have today been linked with the acquisition of consumer goods.
Alain de Botton wrote in Status Anxiety: “Every adult life could be said to be defined by two great love stories. The first — the story of our quest for sexual love — is well-known and well-charted… The second — the story of our quest for love from the world — is a more secret and shameful tale. If mentioned, it tends to be in caustic, mocking terms, as something of interest chiefly to envious or deficient souls, or else the drive for status is interpreted in an economic sense alone.”
That economic sense for many of us has become the sole driver, and inherently along with that, comes the thirst for possessions. They act as talismans, symbols of our wealth to greater society.
Many of us have been led down that path before. The possessions equal self-actualization and love path. I’ve been led down that path before. Confession: I was once a stuff-junkie. When did I decide to stop?
When I found myself surrounded by a miasma of colorful, nonsensical stuff… so much so, it was closing in on me, one claustrophobic stuff-piece at a time.
We live in an unprecedented time for sharing, exchanging, bartering and renting.
In fact, as we reach the latter stages of the second decade of the twenty-first century, it is becoming more and more obvious that a culture of sharing is changing the way we spend and shop.
Sharing has become the new black, and as The Times pointed out, one day we’ll look back and wonder why we owned so much stuff to begin with.
Sharing is starting to take on juggernaut proportions, not just from an object perspective, but also from a travel, food and lifestyle standpoint.
Think Uber for example, a company worth over $51 million dollars, which makes short trips inexpensive, and primarily functions on the concept of sharing.
The founder of Uber, Travis Kalanick, was quoted in Vanity Fair (October, 2015) saying that parking garages will be made obsolete in the next 5 years. Why? Transportation will be so inexpensive that it will be cheaper than owning a car.
Why are we suddenly going down this path? Has the wave of glitz and glamour of consumerism finally crested? Have many of us concluded that the promise of happiness and status as a result of new purchases is in fact a false one?
Are we all economically unstable as a result of all of our extravagant purchases, and now need to come up with a more financially viable approach?
I would argue that there are two psychological elements, which weigh in heavily when it comes to the new culture of sharing and nothing new.
The first is that sharing actually makes us feel good about ourselves (as opposed to purchasing numerous shiny possessions to fill the inevitable void).
As Hugh Mackay writes in the Good Life, “The simplicity-oriented messages of the green movement have appealed to many people, providing them with ways of making a personal contribution to the campaign to clean up the planet: use less energy recycle every possible thing, adopt a more natural lifestyle. Others have responded to appeals by international aid organizations on behalf of the millions of people living in poverty and hunger: ‘Live simply, so others may simply live’. Whatever the specific trigger, a passion for the simple life is usually based on the belief that there is something inherently virtuous in the decision to live more simply: not only will this reduce our carbon footprint, but we may become better people as a result of our concern for the natural environment and our determination to be more faithful stewards of this fragile planet.”
So there is a personal gain element in there. We feel good about ourselves as a result. But is that a negative thing?
Wouldn’t it be the ultimate if in a world driven by individuals on the pursuit for happiness, this desire is expressed in a philanthropic, unselfish, and benevolent manner?
The second psychological element is indeed this pursuit of happiness.
Somehow, within us, and perhaps as a result of trial and error, we are very much aware that the consumeristic life does not hold the holy grail of personal happiness.
We are very much aware, as Benjamin Disraeli points out, that There’s no education like adversity. And that there’s no happiness without adversity.
The word happiness actually derives from a Greek concept, and one which back in the day when Aristotle and his crew walked the streets of Athens, reflected a great deal more than it does today.
The life of eudemonia (happiness) encompassed living virtuously, our civic duty and being fully engaged in the world (Mackay).
Somehow, and as perhaps another reflection of our genetic makeup, we know the Greeks were right all along.
A society of sharing, and nothing new reflects the original ideals and origins of the notion of happiness. Being part of something greater, giving back, caring for the natural environment and those around us.
This year, I’m embarking on what would seem to be a long voyage — Nothing New 2016.
That’s right, like many who have tried and failed spectacularly before me, I am setting myself a lofty and potentially unachievable New Year’s resolution. I will seek to purchase nothing new in 2016.
Inevitably, this statement contains a number of asterisked conditions.
The first is, this does not include food (at this point, I’m not sufficiently established in the garden/livestock area to be able to self-sustain for a year… might I add, not even close).
This also does not include amendments to my person (for example, haircuts… yes, I’m not evolved enough to deal with the horror of a bad haircut), nor does it comprise of personal experiences (for example, travel abroad).
However, it does include all objects and possessions (clothes, furniture, products, etc.). All these things will be shared, bartered, exchanged or rented.
It sounds like a reckless resolution, some might even call it crazy. But it’s not as hard as you would initially expect. Take a look at your local swap-share-sell platform, or even on a more ubiquitous level, eBay.
It would be difficult to not find a product there, even of the most specific and random specifications!
Okay, I might fail in a spectacular fashion. Crash and burn within the first few weeks. On the flip side, I might make it, learn some new things about myself, and achieve a greater sense of eudemonia.
I would call fellow readers to action, to embrace Nothing New 2016.
It seems daunting, but we’re in an unprecedented place in human history, where technology and state-of-the-art resources allow us to trade in virtual marketplaces on a daily, hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute basis.
Why not take advantage of it?
What’s the old proverb? To try and fail is worthy; it’s better than never having tried at all. Join me.
Lisa Portolan is a writer from Sydney, Australia. She has three books published, and often blogs for a number of websites including Elephant Journal, Yoganonymous and Mamamia. She is currently completing her PhD at the University of Technology Sydney on ‘happiness-washing’. Lisa is also a Yoga and meditation instructor, frequent green-juice-sipper and incorrigible dreamer. Note, she does not like cardigans. Check out her website, or follow her on Instagram or Twitter.