Confessions of a Recovering Consumer
I like Stuff.
But I know first-hand that Stuff tends to accumulate and expand and get in the way of Life. Stuff can crowd my living room, my closet, my day, my brain, my vision. And Stuff can drain my bank account, my energy, my generosity, my freedom, my spirit.
So I try to “keep it simple.” I encourage myself to “live lightly”, to remember that “less is more”, to “just say no” to the multi-billion-dollar marketing machines that take expert aim at my unquenchable desire for More, New, Better, Satisfaction. And some days I succeed. I say no to Stuff and I get rid of Stuff and I re-organize my Stuff. But other days I get smacked with a big fat REALITY CHECK when, like this summer, it’s time to pack all our Stuff into boxes, and I realize again I have waaay too much!
Where did it all come from?! How did my former walk-in closet (I miss you!) become so full that I am now using four 1920’s-sized closets + a chest of drawers + 2 tupperwares to store my excessive amounts of clothing? (Okay, I admit, there’s also that one shelf in the linen closet. Sheesh.) Can you tell that clothes are my particular weakness?
To be fair to myself, I have made strides toward simplicity the past few years in several areas of life. (Sis, can you come over and help me tackle the clothing situation soon, like we did with the shoes?) And while I’ve by no means “arrived” at a zen-like destination of austere minimalism, I guess that isn’t really my goal, either.What is my goal, you ask? I suppose it’s to have not much more Stuff than I truly need in life so that I can be FREE 1) to enjoy the things that I do have (quality over quantity), 2) to focus on what’s most important to me (relationships and life-giving pursuits), 3) to not be a slave to buying and maintaining and cleaning and storing and worrying about a bunch of Stuff (at a certain point, it owns you), and 4) to dedicate more of our family’s resources helping those in real need.
Jesus talked about the danger of amassing Stuff, warning us that there is a physical-spiritual connection in how we invest ourselves. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Without a doubt, some of the richest days of my life have been when the only possessions at my disposal fit inside a backpack I easily carried. When traveling light, I am most free to appreciate beauty, to wonder at the amazing people on this journey, to comprehend how excessive God’s love is for us, to maintain a heart alive with gratitude and compassion. Having more Stuff rarely contributes more Life, despite the marketers’ promises.
But I’ve had a relatively easy pilgrimage so far, with one big advantage: No Kiddos. These days it seems you’d need a store-full of Specialized Kid Stuff just to get a baby through its first year! (You know how the little ditty goes: “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in the super-tricked-out baby carriage with matching car seat, mountains of electronic toys, piles of adorable clothing, heaps of necessary baby gear, and the 999 other essentials you need to raise a healthy, happy, well-adjusted child.”)
So how in the world am I going to keep moving toward simplicity with a child in my arms? Believe me–I’ve thought long and hard about that question! And I’m developing a little strategy that’s slightly counter-cultural. Next blog post I’ll share with you some ways I’m planning to navigate the Baby Stuff Dilemma, to make sure our little guy has everything he needs…and not too much more.
Tell me about it: Do you resonate at all with my struggles? Clothing is the biggest trouble area for me; what about you? What have you found to be most helpful in your journey towards simplicity?