9 Ways to Resist the Siren Call of Consumerism

family hiking with dog
A family hike with the dog is a great idea, as long as you're prepared. gorillaimages/Shutterstock

This is the time of year when we celebrate stuff. Mail-ordered gifts pile up on the porch as we deck the halls, fill our closets with new holiday finery, and overindulge on festive food and drink.

Not everything is about money and things, of course. Although capitalism is on display in all its glory, it's also the time of year when we do things just out of the goodness of our hearts. Maybe it's shoveling the sidewalk for a neighbor, volunteering at a food pantry or donating warm clothing to homeless shelters.

So how do you find the right balance?

John Harris of The Guardian thinks he knows the answer, recently asking his readers for their thoughts on "everyday things that represent non‐capitalist living." Many people responded with various things they do to "buck the system."

Some of the ideas are political in nature; others are more extreme — and certainly not something you could do without mad skills and serious commitment. But some are relatively simple actions that can make an impact. Not only do they reject the idea of money and stuff, but they may also make the world a nicer place.

As one reader wrote to the Guardian: "I am frequently filled with despair at the way things are going in the world at the moment, and doing this small thing at least makes me feel as though I'm doing something positive."

Here's a look at a few of the suggestions for nudging your habits in a positive way — not just this season but all year long. To start, let's look at the easier ones that can fit into your daily life.

Get into freecycling

'free stuff' sign attached to a post
Give your things away to a good home. Alex Farias/Shutterstock

When you have something you don't need anymore, give it away instead of trying to sell it or sending it to a landfill. Whether you're trying to rehome a piano or a potted plant, you can head to freecycle.org to find a group of potentially interested people located near you. There are also all sorts of other ways to give away useful items. Try Nextdoor, the neighborhood social network, or local Facebook groups.

Quit going to the gym

You know you should exercise more, but that doesn't mean you have to sign up for a gym membership. After all, the benefits of exercising in the great outdoors are immeasurable — and free. Plus, when you're walking or running in the woods, you don't have to deal with loud music, sweaty exercisers or those walls of unforgiving mirrors.

Use the library

woman choosing books at library
Borrow books at the library instead of buying them. dignal/Shutterstock

Go online and search for reviews if you're not sure what to read, then head to the library to borrow books instead of buying them. A library card is your ticket to bestsellers, biographies and entire seasons of television shows on DVDs. "Social and civic institutions like libraries are the closest thing Americans have to palaces," Sarah from Austin, Texas, writes to the Guardian. "We can walk among a wealth of riches, being inspired by not jewels, but ideas and stories."

Don't drive

Determine if mass transit, carpooling or bicycling can be your main mode of transportation. Suburban living is so car-centric but with ride-sharing services, there truly are ways to ditch your vehicle (or use it less often) if you're committed. Still on the fence? The average cost of owning a car is about $706 a month, according to AAA, and that doesn't even take all expenses into account.

Share your food

couple sharing garden vegetables
Sharing your garden bounty cuts back on food waste (and is a nice thing to do!). Hallpoint/Shutterstock

Food waste is a monstrous problem. The average American wastes 40 percent of the food that comes into the home. So find ways to cut that waste by sharing food. Invite people over and share meals with them. If you garden, share your bounty with friends or strangers or donate to food pantries. In a similar idea, people wrote to the Guardian suggesting picking up extra food from grocery stores and restaurants. They turned it into a free meal, but you could also deliver the uncooked food to a food bank.

Stop buying cleaning products

There's no reason to purchase all those fancy chemical-based cleansers when so many natural cleaning solutions are probably already in your kitchen. Try lemons, baking soda and vinegar for most household tasks. Even cooking oils and toothpaste can come in handy for cleanup jobs.

Ready to kick it up a notch?

woman sewing clothes
If you're feeling ambitious, start making all your own clothes. UfaBizPhoto/Shutterstock

If you've already mastered these easier steps, then you're ready for the more vigorous ideas suggested by Guardian readers. Maybe you're already doing these things, but most of us probably aren't quite this committed.

Make your own clothes — You know you're not contributing to big business or shady labor practices if you're only buying natural fabrics and DIY-ing it. But if you own a sewing machine, you're halfway there.

Stop buying soap — You may be showering too often anyway, so why not ditch the soap? Canadian-based writer Jackie Hong has lived soap-free for seven years, showering only with water.

Quit social media — This may seem simple in theory, but can you truly live without Facebook, Twitter and Instagram? The concept here is that if you get off all these platforms then you won't be exposed to advertising and won't lust after everyone else's things.