Christian Minimalism

The Consumerism Sinkhole

Hi! My name is Becca, and I’m an online shopping addict.

It began when I got sick back in 2015 after the death of our son, and no one could figure out what was wrong with me for years. I sat on the couch feeling horrible (physically, emotionally, and spiritually). I felt incredibly empty– and I filled that emptiness with online shopping.

Shopping online made me feel good in a way that my sickness and grief did not. I got a rush when I saw the piece of clothing or product online, another rush when I clicked to purchase, and yet another rush when the product arrived at my doorstep a few days later.

After a couple days, though, the rush faded, and I noticed how horrible I felt again. So I went back online in search of the rush. And this vicious cycle happened, over and over, for years. I was deep in the consumerism sinkhole, sinking deeper and deeper as I bought more and more stuff that I didn’t need or even want.

When I discovered minimalism, I knew that I needed to do something drastic to pull myself out of the consumer sinkhole. So I participated in a year-long shopping fast. It wasn’t easy, and I found myself in danger of sinking back in a few times.

But eventually, I came out of the year much more aware of my use of God’s resources, and better able to deal with the online shopping sinkhole. I learned a lot about myself and about my relationship to possessions.

That Tempting Sinkhole

I expected to be cured of my online shopping addiction after my year-long shopping fast, but that’s not how addiction works. I have managed to not get sucked back into the sinkhole now that I know my triggers, but the temptation and potential to sink back in is always there.

Because– although I know logically that sinking back into my online shopping habits is a bad idea, my body and brain still remember the short-term rush I received every time I bought something new. When I’m in a bad spot, I sometimes go on automatic pilot and I find myself craving that rush– even though it was short-lived. I am always just one click away from starting that sinking into the sinkhole process.

Unlike other addictions, I cannot totally avoid online shopping. I can limit my exposure, but some of the time products that I and spouse use are unavailable to purchase unless I buy them online.

God’s Resources

Because I can’t fully avoid online shopping, I’ve discovered that I have to be much more aware of how I’m choosing to spend the resources God has given me. This includes:

Time: I did not realize how much time I actually spent online shopping and looking for products and deals, until I mostly cut it out. Now I am pursuing my doctoral degree with the time I no longer use for online shopping.

Energy: Shopping online may not have used physical energy, but I did use mental energy that is now being used for other, more important things like family, class, vocation, and writing.

Gifts/Skills: I was misusing the spiritual gifts and skills God has given me to serve God and serve others. I am now free to use my spiritual gifts more fully to build up God’s kingdom here on earth.

Money: This is a big one– by buying things I didn’t need or really want, I was misusing God’s monetary resources. I now have more money to spend on the things that really matter, and I am much more generous and able to help others who may not have the same resources I do.

Intentional Use of God’s Resources

You may not be addicted to online shopping like me, but I guarantee that there are ways you could use the resources God has given you in a more beneficial way. Breaking our bad habits around our use of God’s resources helps us to better serve God and others, which is our ultimate baptismal calling from God.

When we are in that consumer sinkhole, we are unable to see other ways of living (Christian minimalism!) around us, and we only see our continuous consumer sinking. But when, with God’s help, we are pulled out of that sinkhole and see a new way of living, we are able to fully live the way Jesus wants us to live.

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

2 Timothy 1:7

It can be scary to get out of that consumerism sinkhole– it feels comfortable and cozy. But God invited us to live not in fear, but in power and love and self-control. By intentionally consuming, we are using God’s resources to the glory of God and fulfilling our baptismal calling to serve God and others.

How is God calling you personally to more intentionally use the resources God has given you?

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About 
Becca Ehrlich, AKA The Christian Minimalist, is striving to be a Christian minimalist in a consumer society. She currently lives in Philadelphia, PA with her husband Will. You can read more about her story and how her blog came to exist by clicking the website link above.

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