I often have a feeling of being overburdened by “stuff.” I am kind of a magpie, really; I get bored with what I have quickly while new, sparkly things hold lots of appeal.
I am also a marketer’s dream. Back in the day, I would endlessly read fashion magazines (that’s the old version of a blog, my young friends; those things that are still lying around, bedraggled, at the nail salon). The entire mission behind these slick tomes is to sell, sell, sell. You don’t have this $300 eye cream?! Oh my goodness, no wonder you look haggard. Peasant blouses are what’s up for this season; you MUST go out and grab them in every color available.
Even now, I can spend hours perusing my favorite blogs. Though my current reading selection tends to be more about holistic wellness, plant-based eating and yoga, many of them are still “selling” a particular lifestyle. It’s not their fault nor is it necessarily their intention. But we know that what goes on blogs and other social media is often the good stuff – it’s the pretty, glossy version of someone’s life. So of course, it’s only human that our collective reaction includes covetousness.
I find myself thinking, “If I just have that t-shirt, her top or that bag — not to mention all the super food supplements and high speed blenders my online idols recommend — my life will be complete and I will be happy.”
The end result is piles of stuff I don’t need or use combined with a lot of guilt. When I think about how much money I’ve wasted over the years, my heart races and not in a good way. My personal contribution to our planet’s degradation weighs on me as well.
Consuming feels a bit like an addiction to me. In the past, there were times when I would go to the mall (young folks – that’s where people used to shop before Amazon Prime and Zappos) and I would get sweaty with want and giddy with the feeling of a spontaneous purchase. It’s a weird kind of high. And then, as with any high, you come down, back to reality with yet another thing in an already overflowing closet.
Online shopping is a sneakier little beast. No shopping bags mean less evidence. And it is so ridiculously easy; if you think of it, you can own it in just a few seconds and have it delivered right to your doorstep. I don’t even feel like I’ve done any harm for the few days between making the purchase and the time it shows up at my house. I started to realize the extent of my problem, though, when I’d come home from work to find a tower of boxes waiting for me. I am honestly embarrassed when I consider what my mail person must think every time she leaves yet another package.
Now, I’ve got a very real reason to cut this shit out. Since this past spring, I’ve been working for myself. A regular paycheck is no longer a guarantee. Purchases need to be made mindfully and in consideration of the potential risks (e.g. can I still pay my mortgage and feed myself if I buy this sparkly thing?).
Years ago, I read a book titled The Paradox of Choice and it’s stuck with me. In a nutshell, those of us who live in well-off regions of the world are actually making ourselves miserable because we have far too many options.
I’ve had it wrong this whole time. It’s not that new, sparkly thing that will make me happy. Maybe it’s lessening the load, having fewer things to choose from, and freeing up both time and headspace to focus on what’s most important to me that is the path to contentment. I watched this Ted Talk this morning and it provided a nice bit of inspiration. It’s certainly worth a try. And, with my new self-employed status, I can’t afford not to try.
How to begin, though? It feels a little overwhelming. So I’m going to start with something very concrete: my closet. Remember the blogs I am obsessed with? Well, I came across this one over the weekend and it’s inspired me. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a baby step in the right direction. I am going to capsulize my closet and see how that goes. My hope is that, if I am able to make it stick, I can expand my efforts and “capsulize” my life.
I can’t guarantee I won’t get caught up in wanting another sparkly thing. But maybe sharing this will help to keep me more accountable. I’ll keep you posted on my progress…