Do We Really Need All the Stuff?
I really just want to walk away from consumerism
In Accepting the Unexpected, I step away from writing about travel to comment on the bigger journey of life. While the topics may vary, the central theme is always the same: living life means learning to deal with the unexpected.
It happens every time we move. Somewhere in the packing and sorting and then unpacking and trying to figure out where we are going to put all of our stuff, we look at each other and say, “We have so much crap.”
While I fully admit that nearly everything about moving sucks and we have said, at least twice, that we’re never moving again, there is one advantage to the awful task of packing all of your earthly belongings and moving them to a new location: It forces you to consider what you really need and purge like you’ve never purged before.
And every time we move, I promise myself that we will not do that again. We will not keep buying things that we don’t need. We won’t keep filling space for no reason except to fill the space. We will be responsible, stick to our budget, and pursue a more minimalist mindset.
We’re still working on it.
It’s a work-in-progress that follows us every time we move into a new house. As we are purging and getting rid of the stuff we don’t want and we never use, we are simultaneously buying items that fit the “needs” of the new house. During our last move, we added more than a thousand square feet to our living space but purged a lot of stuff on the way because they didn’t fit into the Pods that we had to use for the transition. When we moved in, there were items that we needed to replace because we no longer had them, such as a new dining room table.
But still, even after at least one trip to donate items that made the move but we decided we didn’t need anyway, we are surrounded by questions about our stuff.
Have I really used that flour sifter that we bought several years ago? No, but I used that one recipe that one time that called for it, so I’m not getting rid of it. Do four people really need all those mugs? No, but we really like some of those mugs that we’ve collected over 20 years of marriage. Do I actually use all of those flip-flops? No, but they aren’t broken yet. Do I wear all of those t-shirts? No, but I just can’t get rid of that Homecoming 2000 t-shirt from my senior year of college because…reasons.
Do I really need to keep all of my books? Yeah, we’re not even going to go there. No one is going to purge my book collection. No one.
I’m constantly plagued by the question, “Do I really need that?”
And nothing makes me ask that question more than the season between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
For the month (at least) leading up to Thanksgiving and the entire month after, we are inundated with sales trying to convince us that we need more stuff, we need more gadgets, we need to find the perfect gift for our loved ones and of course, that perfect gift should be something that they don’t need.
And this year, with an economy heavily impacted by a global pandemic and a fragile supply chain that finally collapsed due to all of the pressures of that same pandemic, there is an inordinate amount of fear about whether or not Christmas is going to be ruined because people won’t be able to get more of the “stuff” that they want to fill stockings and pile under their Christmas trees.
Yes, I know, our economy is driven by how much we buy. We constantly hear about how the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas is the month that will make or break a business. There’s a reason Black Friday has been such a big deal for so many years. It’s become the day (or weekend) when a business determines if they will end the year in the black or in the red. Will they walk away from the year with a profit or in debt?
But after two years of a pandemic, after two years of so much talk about what was and was not working for us before we even heard of coronavirus, after two years of asking what a “new normal” could look like, can we possibly start talking about a paradigm shift away from this materialistic way of looking at our “needs” and the economy?
We shouldn’t lament when the under-40 crowd doesn’t want to buy all the things and fill their already small homes with more stuff. We shouldn’t complain that stores aren’t stocked with cheap stocking stuffers that are destined to break and be thrown in a landfill less than 24-hours after our kids open their stockings. We should keep asking ourselves, what do we really need?
So as we head into a new season, I propose that all of us make some small changes to our holiday buying habits. If you are donating to a shelter or toy drive, pick items that will last instead of cheap trinkets that will quickly break or tear after only a few wears. Perhaps stick to the “four-gifts” rule for your kids (need, want, wear, read). For our kids, they get a new pair of Christmas PJs, books, and a big gift (or two smaller gifts) in addition to stockings filled with candy and mementos. Maybe focus on experiences instead of material items by buying a zoo or museum membership or even taking a family trip to create memories. Instead of spending more money on Amazon, buy from Etsy shops or local businesses to support your community instead of big business. Instead of adding to the accumulation of things that we don’t need (and probably won’t want weeks or months later), let’s focus on investing in our communities and pursuing quality over quantity.
No, this won’t solve the supply chain issues. No, it won’t shut up our kids who bombard us with requests for every little thing they see in the stores. And no, it won’t completely clear our homes of all of our junk. But if we can take baby steps to a better future post-pandemic, it’s worth the try, right?
Please “like” by clicking on the ❤ and share this post with your friends so that others can join me on the journey.
On the Journey is a reader-supported publication. To never miss a post and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.