Friday, October 4, 2013

It's not anti-consumption, it's asking yourself a question

My last post got some "hate" when posted on Reddit because, apparently, I was being a judgmental bitch.  I personally feel that, even if not everyone agreed with what I had to say, "judgmental bitch" is not the logical conclusion one would draw about me from reading what I wrote there.  I'd like to further clarify what I meant by considering your purchases more carefully, because my intention was not to mock or insult anyone.  I didn't mean that anyone should stop buying things, and I don't necessarily think that everyone should buy less, either.  I know there are a huge number of people who DO just buy things for themselves to enjoy.  As long as they think that what they buy is worth the use they get out of it, their shopping habits don't necessarily have to change at all.  The group I was speaking about were the people like me, who just obsessively shopped with the main intention of showing it off.

On my YouTube channel, I have 62 videos in my "Hauls" playlist, so hopefully anyone who felt like I was on a judgmental, mocking high horse will be able to see from this that I used to be "worse" about this than probably the majority of the people I'm writing to.  I bought things all the time.  And I still buy things all the time--that's the point I'm trying to make.  While I'm sure the lifestyle maintains a lifelong appeal for some, I personally find the general anticonsumption mentality to be extremist and haughty.  I want to clarify that that is not how I intended to come across.  I take issue with those who say that you can't be happy because of a material possession you own.  Would I give up my 500 bottles of nail polish I've been collecting for almost 10 years to save a family member or friend's life?  In a heartbeat.  But while none of my family and friends' lives are at stake over my possession of cosmetics and clothing, I'm going to keep buying them, and I'm going to keep enjoying them.

I enjoy them a lot more now than I used to, though, and that change in mentality was what I was trying--unsuccessfully, it seems--to communicate in my last post.  As I mentioned to someone in a comment, I'm saying the very opposite of "people shouldn't splurge on things that make them happy."  In fact, I've begun to enjoy my purchases a lot more since I've stopped buying things solely because they're on clearance, and started buying things because I genuinely like them a lot.  Rather than buy a basket full of nail polish at the dollar store, 2/$1 and ending up with 30 nail polishes I never use, I've begun noting unique colors that I like when I see them in someone's blog.  I'll add them to my Amazon or Ebay wishlist, and when I feel like I can afford to spend a few extra bucks to get something nice for myself, I buy one or two.  When they arrive, I only have a couple new things to use--all my excitement can be focused on them.  One thing I found when I used to buy huge quantities of makeup or clothing in the past was that I would be excited to wear it, but I wouldn't be really excited about any one item, I'd just be excited that I had so much new stuff.

Another thing I'd just briefly like to mention is the "peer pressure" mentality.  When this gets addressed, usually everyone defensively declares that they'd never judge someone for the brands they use, and I think that's absolutely true!  The nail polish and makeup communities overall are full of people who embrace all skill levels and budgets.  I'd be furious if I ever saw someone telling a beginner that their nail art wasn't good enough because they'd used cheaper brands, and I know many other people would come to that person's defense, too.  That said, though, there's a huge importance placed on brands, and I think that does lead some people to make purchases they wouldn't normally have made.  Specifically regarding nail polish, I fairly often see someone buying Essie or OPI even though they wouldn't really have thought to, because "everyone says these are so amazing!"  (Personally, I think Essie is mediocre, at best, and comparatively awful for the $8 price tag, but I know there are a lot of girls who really love the brand.)  Or, "I just got my first Juleps, I'm a real Laquerista now!" and I feel sad that someone might feel, even lightheartedly or jokingly, that they're not "part of the group" until they've bought certain expensive products.  In my own experience, everything I bought in this haul was "peer pressure."

Everyone on YouTube was talking about the Sephora Friends and Family sale, as well as the Wet n Wild ColorIcon palettes.  I bought them because I felt that it gave me a way to really participate in what everyone else was talking about, and that I was somehow more included in the "beauty community" because I possessed those items.  I'm not going to pretend that those Sephora items were awful and I hated them.  I used them just as much as I used the other makeup items I had at the time, I just had so much that nothing really got the love it deserved.  As for the Wet n Wild palettes, I still have them, solely because they're limited edition and they look cool in the pans.  But I don't think I've used them on my face more than once or twice.

Ok, Liz, so now you sound like you're back on the point of "listening to other people talk about what they buy is horrible, and buying things because someone else mentioned they liked it is horrible, too." What are you trying to say here?  I'm trying to say that I love being an active member in the nail polish community, and I'm glad that there are so many people who share my interests.  This isn't me telling anyone that they must make a radical change to their lifestyle.  It's just me asking them to consider their reasons for purchases.  Purchases made solely to splurge a little on yourself are just fine!  My only concern is when people aren't making the purchase for their own enjoyment and instead doing it to gain approval from others.

I hope this made it a bit clearer what I was trying to say yesterday.  I do apologize if I didn't make myself clear enough in the initial post, and like I said in that one, too, I'm not trying to address the entire audience who will probably read this.  It's a much more specific issue than that.  If you think this doesn't apply to you because you buy nail polish once every month or two and you've never posted a picture of it online, you're right, so please don't mistake my meaning and think that I'm against cosmetics purchases of any kind.  I'm just hoping to possibly affect a few people to whom who this might really make a difference.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Why do we love hauls so much?

I'll be the first to admit, I love doing hauls.  I always have--since I got into the "YouTube Beauty Community" anyway.  Back when I made videos, hauls got at least 2 times the views that a tutorial or review did.  And honestly I never quite understood it.  I fully grasp the concept of wanting to live vicariously through another person, but I've always been a little put-off by the fact that, as a whole, the "beauty community" would rather just watch someone go on for half an hour about everything they bought that week--often hundreds of dollars of merchandise--than watch informative reviews on those items so they could decide how worthwhile it would be to buy those items themselves.  One of the reasons I love the nail polish online community so much more than YouTube is that usually, a post includes a review.  It may not be incredibly detailed, but it's much rarer to see someone make a post solely to talk about a bunch of brand new items they haven't even opened yet.

I've had these thoughts for some time, but it wasn't until this summer that I realized why, in my opinion, hauls are such a huge attraction for so many people: they are a form of justification for illogical purchases we often can't afford.  On RedditLaqueristas, I see posts fairly regularly that are titled something to the effect of, "I really couldn't afford this, but look how pretty it is!" or "I have no money in the bank now, but these polishes were totally worth it!"  When girls post hauls, those often get upvoted far more than the nail art that I joined the subreddit for does.  They will often title it something like "My first big haul!  How'd I do?" as though they want affirmation of their shopping habits.  And I believe that's exactly the point of hauls.  Somehow, sharing your purchases with others who have the same interest as you allows you to justify items that you shouldn't have bought.  Invest as much as you want in your hobby, but it should never be such an excess of spending that you're almost totally depleting your bank account to do so.

At this point, I likely sound fairly judgmental.  Well, in a way, I am.  I strongly disapprove of this lifestyle, but not because I don't understand that passion at all.  Rather, I understand it too well, and I've realized that life can be a whole lot more fulfilling without it.  When I was in an unhappy relationship, attending community college with no job and no friends, I'd spend all the spare cash I had buying bags and bags of clothing from the thrift store, and makeup on clearance.  The thrift store by my house had these HUGE bags, probably about the size of a 13-gallon trash bag, and on Wednesdays ($2-5 clothing an additional 50% off!) I'd routinely come out with half a bag full of new clothing that I couldn't wait to show to my YouTube viewers.  But then I'd never wear it.  Sure, there are some pieces I used.  There are some I used a lot.  Years later, one of my favorite semi-nice shirts came from there, and I've worn it dozens of times. But at least 50% of the clothing never even got worn, and of what did get worn, about 75% of it was never worn more than a couple times.  All the excitement came from showing it off in a video, to strangers I'd never meet.  These were the only people who would truly appreciate my purchases.  I felt like nobody else would care much what I wore anyway.

Now, I get really sad when I see girls falling into the same cycle I was in.  Shopping shouldn't be your main source of happiness, especially if you go shopping just to buy things, and then don't really get any use out of the items once you've bought them.  Of course it's fine to go every now and then.  I've tried both extremes, and I don't think that trying to stop shopping entirely is any healthier than shopping in excess.  But at least what I've noticed for myself is that since I stopped posting hauls and showing off everything I bought to people online, I've stopped feeling so compelled to buy more things.  I'm not perfect, and I still catch myself thinking of what I'm going to say in my video about each item as I'm placing it my shopping basket in the store.  When I get home, though, the only enjoyment I can get out of that item is the enjoyment I get from using it, and so I've found that I'm much more inspired to do creative things with the stuff I've acquired (mostly nail polish, but also clothing and makeup).  Rather than show a product in a video, swatch it, then toss it in a drawer, I've been leaving new nail polish purchases out on my desk for a couple weeks, finding ways to use them in manicures, and then by the time I finally put them away, they've been used, often several times.  Similarly, with clothing, I hang it on my bed (I have one of those futon-bunk thingies now that I'm in an apartment and out of the dorm, so I've been using the side rail as a clothing rack like I did at home), and then I see it every day as I'm getting ready, and feel a lot more inspired to use it than I would if it were with everything else in my closet.

I'm not saying this is the perfect solution; it's just an improvement.  Ideally, of course, I'd have just a moderate amount of clothing in my possession, so that I wouldn't have to keep new things out in order to be reminded to use them.  But I doubt I'll get over my excitement at new clothing any time soon, and as a $20/month or so activity I enjoy, I think buying 2-4 new items that I actually really like is much better than buying 20-30 new items just because they were all less than $2.  Since most of the clothing I've bought (I've only bought about 5 items of new clothing from stores in the past year) is from thrift stores, I really don't feel like I'm doing very much evil as a consumerist American.  Even if Goodwill isn't the most upstanding organization one could support.

As nice as it would be to start a revolution, I have no delusions of grandeur.  I'm sure this post won't reach a large enough audience to effect a change across the blogosphere, but I hope that by sharing this, I can at least reach a few people who will be positively influenced by the opinions I've presented here.  I hope that even if it's just for one person, the next time you're out shopping, you stop and think about what you're buying, and whether you're buying it just to be happy that you bought it, or if you genuinely want it and will get good use out of it.  Using a $30 nail polish once, in my mind, does not constitute "good use," but of course that value is assigned by each individual to their own purchases.  I don't advocate not buying, I just want people to think more before they buy.  Here's a video I made when I first moved to Washington for college.  While my thoughts have changed somewhat, I still think it's a fairly good summary of my mindful shopping strategy.  I enjoy fashion, makeup, and nail art.  I'm not going to stop just because a small part of me wishes I'd never stopped being the tomboy who never dressed up or even owned much makeup.  I'm always going to love having things I love using, but this is how I try to ensure that everything I have is something I actually love using.

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