Y’all. We’ve got too much stuff.
I’m about to date myself y’all. ABBA sang: money money, money. Must be funny, in a rich man’s world. Long before I had any idea how accurate their lyrics were I sang along with that song (and all the rest) with glee. It’s fun and peppy and great to dance to. And now that I’m an adult I know that money makes the world go round, like it or not.
We can’t change that, but damn if we don’t have to play the game by the rich man’s rules. This slow living year has made me more aware of the ways in which we are programmed to numb with busyness, and shopping. Good heavens we have so much stuff and here’s the thing: we use very little of it. And someday it’ll all go in a landfill. It has become very obvious to me that slow living isn’t just about our time.
Bigger Faster Newer
Here’s how it started. About a year ago our cheap old Ikea skillet began peeling, the non-stick was coming off which is no good as it ends up in your food and that’s just… scary, frankly. So we bought a fancy new nonstick pan. (It was not cheap.) And it was OK for a while but then it started sticking, and peeling. And one day we found ourselves hauling out the decades old cast iron because it just worked and we weren’t worried about weird chemicals.
After a while we looked at each other and asked why we kept buying throw away pans that lasted just a couple years when there was a perfectly good alternative that would last the rest of our life (if cared for properly)? Other than “because it’s easy” we didn’t have a good answer. Our cast iron pan was about big enough to scramble eggs, not make dinner. So we invested in a new, large cast iron skillet.
Old is New Again
It’s old technology, really old. And yes it’s missing some of the “convenience” factor. We have to clean it carefully, we’re still working at getting it properly seasoned. But we’ve come to realize just how costly “convenience” turns out to be. To save a few minutes of cast iron care every day we have to continue to buy throw away pans that will end up in the landfill every few years. As my father likes to say: that’s penny wise and pound foolish. In other words it looks like a smart decision in the short term but long term it’s horrible.
In March we also started on a second phase of our remodel (ah old houses) which meant packing up a great deal of crap (again we’ve got too much stuff) and cramming ourselves into half the house while the other half gets gutted and fixed up. I began thinking about how much I could do without. How much I didn’t really need.
I like makeup, it’s one of my little self-care tools. But as with many things I had begun to notice that over and over again I used the same things out of my big collection. So while we are in construction I have been running an experiment. I went through my makeup and chose one item from each category I use on a regular basis. The goal is to see if I really miss the rest of it. See I have a theory that we’re so trained to the serotonin release of shopping that we buy a lot of stuff we have no need of or even desire for. It’s the acquiring, not the owning that we’re actually getting pleasure from. And that’s a problem, because it isn’t sustainable: personally or for our overall culture.
One and Done
How’s the experiment going? Great. Honestly I haven’t missed anything. Not one single, solitary item. Which tells me I’ve got a heck of a lot of shit I don’t need. And you know this isn’t just true for makeup. I’m a slow learner y’all. I’ve done this before with things I love: fountain pens, perfume. And yet every time I’m surprised by how little I really need or ever want when I can get past the trained Pavlovian desire for more. I’m not a minimalist by any stretch of the imagination. I have (and use) 25 perfumes after all. But hundreds of new perfumes are released every year and the truth is I don’t need any of them. I have enough. No matter how cool the color I really don’t need another blush, or eye shadow palette either.
And yet there is huge pressure, much of it that we aren’t even aware of, to keep buying. My goal for the rest of April (and quite probably beyond) is to not add to my possessions without a great deal of thought and planning first. Like the cast iron, I want to invest in things that will not only work but that will last.
What about you? How much attention do you pay to your buying habits? How do the things you own impact your life? Do you need less, more, are you comfortable where you are? While these things might seem divorced from spirituality our lives are an integrated whole. When we were totally distracted by stuff it is a lot harder to do the inner work we need to do.
Just a reminder, my slow living experiment is guided by my #balance4life planning tool. If you’re interested in playing along sign up to get it below!