I have a bit of a confession to make. Something I am somewhat ashamed to admit, but I feel I need to come clean. I love shopping. I don’t know why I love shopping, but there is something about it….the fulfilment of a perceived need, the excitement of a bargain, and the ability to walk into a shop and to acquire whatever goods I desire. I really can’t pinpoint exactly what it is, but there’s just something about it that I find quite exciting. I never really noticed this before. I always knew I enjoyed shopping a little, but it took a shopping drought, brought on by the birth of my baby, for me to notice exactly how much. After not shopping for a couple of months I finally visited a local shopping centre, and I’m embarrassed to admit I found the experience somewhat exhilarating.
I should probably point out here that I’m not a huge spender or anything. I’ve probably just given the impression that I go throwing wads of money away on next to nothing, on the contrary, I am quite careful and even my husband says I’m pretty good with money. I look for bargains, rarely buy myself clothes, often buy the kids discounted clothes at the end of the season for next year, and talk myself out of numerous purchases that we don’t really need. I do, however, sometimes indulge a little more than I should, and I know I can do better. So it’s not that I find my love of shopping problematic in and of itself, it’s just that on a personal and spiritual level I find it quite disturbing.
What I find equally, or perhaps even more disturbing is another discovery I made about myself recently – I love throwing things out! There’s something empowering about getting rid of objects, objects that you no longer need, and more often than not, you never did. Objects that just sit around taking up precious space, making it harder for you to clean and tidy based on the overwhelming amount of things that you have. With each thing you get rid of you create more space for yourself and make your life that little bit easier. Curiously, the more I get rid of, the better it feels! As I declutter more and get rid of more things I can feel a weight lift from my shoulders. It’s liberating.
Upon reflection, I have come to realise that I have become the perfect citizen in this capitalist world; I have become the ideal consumer. We love to buy and obtain more and more material possessions. The next bargain, the next breakthrough in technology, the next fashion item, and the latest gadget to teach our children. Then, over the years, we realise we have accumulated so much that it becomes suffocating. So we go through the cleansing process of eliminating that which we do not need. We throw away what is not worthy of keeping, ‘blessing’ others with the objects that no longer add any value to our lives. This of course, in turn, makes room for more possessions and the cycle begins all over again.
How do you break free of this cycle? I am not entirely sure. However, I do have some ideas which I hope will at least help alleviate part of the problem. The first step is awareness. I know it has become a bit of a cliche, but I really do believe that the first step to finding a solution is acknowledging the problem. Furthermore, before making any purchases I will ask myself “do I REALLY need this or will it just end up in a garbage bag, as so many things have before?” “Is purchasing this akin to throwing money down the drain?” Hopefully, this will help me to avoid unnecessary purchases and keep me on track.
Another area I need to work on is to focus on quality instead of price. In search of the elusive bargain, over the years I have prioritised price over quality. The result is that many of my possessions needed to be replaced regularly. Not only do I end up being stuck with things I don’t really like, but I spend more time and money having to constantly replace them, often holding on to the older item, and thus generating more and more clutter.
I made this discovery a few years ago when I discovered Kon Mari. As her method dictates, while decluttering my closet I held each item, asking myself “does this bring me joy?” It was rare that I would answer in the affirmative. This was quite an eye-opening experience as I came to the realisation that I barely had anything in my wardrobe that I actually appreciated. Each day when I’d try to find something to wear I had to navigate through an abundance of clothing that I never wear and don’t even like. I promised myself that going forward I would be kinder to myself, allow myself to spend more on individual items that bring me joy, with the knowledge that in the long term I would be spending less. In my futile attempts to be selfless, I had been wasteful. I was spending more, buying things I didn’t like, and generating clutter.
So going forward I plan to focus on quality and enjoyment instead of quantity or price. I doubt the results will be instant, but I do hope that within a year or two I will notice a big difference. I don’t expect that I will ever cease to be a consumer, but I do hope that my role as one will become limited and that over time I can learn to live more simply.