Here’s a question for you to ponder over your morning cup of the beverage of your choice:
Which makes you feel more better? Getting something…or getting rid of something?
Does going out shopping, for whatever, and acquiring something new, shiny, or high in fat and calories make you happier?
Or does tossing something out, selling it, or successfully getting rid of the body of that ex who was surely going to drive you into the nuthouse, give you some warm fuzzies?
Think carefully about this. A question like this can go a long way in determining if you are more suited to a consumeristic lifestyle, or one that is more minimal in nature.
Take a look around at some of the things you currently own. Your home, your vehicle, or go a bit smaller. How about the device you are reading this blog on, or the appliance that concocted the morning beverage you are now consuming. Even the container you are drinking out of. All those things you acquired at some point in your life, either by purchase, gift, or perhaps in some cases, through nefarious means. No matter. Just try to remember how you felt when you acquired said things. Were you happy, elated, scared, sad, or thankful? With the larger items like a home or vehicle, you can probably recall the feelings you had when you signed on the dotted line. If there was a mortgage, a loan, or other financial burden, you were probably a bit tense, hesitant, and frightened. Purchases like these have some serious impact on our lives. As for the smaller things, you may not recall how you felt when you brought said smaller things into your life, but try to recall how you feel the next time you acquire something. Even if it is just a trip to the grocery store. When you score a deal on two for one Key Lime pies, or find a nice cut of meat on sale, don’t you get just a little euphoric?
Now here is another important question…have you ever gone shopping just to make yourself feel more better? C’mon, now, admit it. Things may not have been going quite right. A relationship on the outs, a bad day at work, something made you unhappy, so to cheer yourself up, you went shopping. A trip to the mall, if they still exist. An afternoon at Wally Mart. Go someplace, anyplace, just to spend some money, buy yourself a little present or two, just to make you feel more better. A reward for surviving another of life’s hurdles, because, dammit, you deserve it. We’ve all done it. I have.
But on the other end, how do you feel when you are rid of something? Do you feel relieved, unburdened, and a bit more free, when you have deleted something from your inventory of possessions? Selling a home, getting rid of a vehicle, or just as importantly, clearing out some clutter. Does shipping something off in the mails to complete an Ebay sale give you a small sense of the same euphoria when you scored those Key Lime pies? Does watching the garbage truck empty a container full of junk you have thrown out give you cause to celebrate? Does patting down that last bit of dirt on that unmarked grave give you a sense of relief? Or after the moment you have gotten rid of something, do you have the urge to go replace it?
You can probably pretty much guess which camp I am in these days. I always seem to be looking for a reason to relieve myself of just one more possession. I’m finding more and more, that I am happier with less and less. But it wasn’t always like that. In the day’s of old, when I thought possessions equaled wealth, it was almost a ritual to go out every week to the stores to buy more crap. Didn’t matter if I needed something or not, I had to buy something. Something to fix the house, a new appliance to cook with, or a new tool to do some specialized thing. It was not hard to waste an entire afternoon searching for the next elusive gadget that would make my life complete, at least for a day or two. And while things have changed dramatically, I still on occasion fall back into the old habit. Give me a gift card and I can make an entire day out of a trip to Bass Pro. I have the floor plan at West Marine memorized. And don’t let me anywhere near an Apple store. But there is a difference. Bass Pro is my supplier for clothing. West Marine handles the boat, which is also my home. And Apple provides me with the means of an income, meager though it may be these days. As for anywhere else, I don’t go into a store unless I know what I need, and these days, I need damn little.
Seems like anytime now I can get rid of something, and not have to replace it, that is one less thing I have to worry about. More room in the boat, more room in the back pack, which means I can go to a smaller back pack, (the boat is as small as it is going to get). To me, having less means having less responsibility. With less stuff, my ability to do more things that have meaning in my life increases. The ability to travel, the ability to live on a sailboat in Key West, the ability to decide for myself what direction my life will go. When I was acquiring things, those abilities were gone. I was stuck in places I wasn’t real happy to be in, doing things that I didn’t want to do. My possessions determined the direction of my life. No more.
Right now, as I write this, virtually everything I own is within arms reach, except for the bicycle which is on the dock, and Charley the cat, who spends her days hiding in the nether regions of the Spirit, (that is one screwed up cat). Everything I own has a purpose. It gets used regularly. I have a simple rule: If it don’t get used within a year’s time, I don’t need it. So I get rid of it. That simple rule has served me well.
As for what the future will hold, income issues aside, I think sometimes that if I could acquire that catamaran I’m always talking about, I would just sit back and enjoy life here on the rock, or at least beside it. On the other hand, I could just as easily see me with all that I own stuffed into a small travel bag, standing at the airport, or bus station, or train station, with a ticket in hand for no place in particular, and in no hurry to get there. Just be free to travel and see and do other things.
Next week starts yet another holiday season. Hell, who am I kidding, it’s been going on for months now. Seems that all the major stores are foregoing the tradition of closing on Thanksgiving Day and opening for Black Friday. Now they will be open on Thursday because on a day where families get together for a fine meal, and enjoy each others company, it is way more important to be open so you can fight with the crowds to buy those $2 waffle makers. You are going to be inundated with ads to spend and buy and buy and spend. Anyone who doesn’t spend and buy, just ain’t patriotic.
It don’t have to be that way. Don’t fall into the trap of feeling that you must go out and acquire more stuff. The euphoria will be gone so fast, after you get back home and un bag your new possession. If you haven’t been listening and still use a credit card, that euphoria will turn to despair come January when the bill comes due.
Instead, try an “opposite” holiday this year. Instead of buying stuff, get rid of stuff. Regift things that are still useable. Pack up old clothes or unused items and donate them. Have a winter yard sale and delete all that junk from your inventory. See if you can get the same warm and fuzzies that you used to get when you acquired something, by instead, getting rid of it. It worked for me. It can work for you.