Because I’ve been staying home more due to COVID-19, I became somewhat oblivious to when the seasons changed from summer to fall and then winter. By not being outdoors as much, I missed the normal markers; the changing of the leaves; the increasing amount of Christmas decor at malls; the red cups at Starbucks.
Besides the essentials, like food, non-edible grocery items like toothbrushes and detergent, I haven’t really shopped, not even online. I gradually noticed that the less I was exposed to the outside world, the less influence it had on me.
In late 2019, I flew home to Philadelphia and in the airport, I saw a woman wearing a pair of shoes that I KNEW I had to have. It took me about two hours to find the shoes online but when I did, I was elated. They were going to be in my wardrobe rotation for the winter but by the time I was ready to debut my cute shoes…LOCKDOWN! They are still in the box, nicely wrapped in tissue paper and individual plastic sleeves. Since we’ve been sheltering in place, I haven’t worn anything on my feet except slippers, sneakers, and rain boots. I’ve dressed for comfort and wearability, not so much style. Of course, it begs the question; how much do I really need? I like nice things and I don’t think that I need to pare down to blandness, but I have hit the pause button. In 2020 our finances have taken a hit but I have found joy in rediscovering the things I already have by not piling up new things that had obscured them.
I recently heard a radio show about the minimalist movement. The two young men who are at the forefront of this movement spoke about growing up poor and how their experiences made them want to get an education and well-paying paying jobs when they grew up. They met when they were employed at the same firm and were each earning six-figures plus bonuses. The disillusionment set in when they found that earning a lot of money can bring its own unique set of problems. Young man #1 talked about having a huge house with more toilets than people and having to work eighty hours per week to maintain his lifestyle. His excessive overtime eventually cost him his marriage. The other young man spoke of the crushing debt that he incurred by buying more stuff than he needed to make up for his childhood poverty. He, too, was working so many hours that he didn’t have time to even enjoy what he had bought. They were both just as miserable (if not more so) as they were when they were poor.
It seems like there may be a shift happening in America from consumerism to “consumption-ism”. The difference is this: Consumerism is when we buy something and we use it until it becomes unusable or cannot be repaired. The aim is to get as much value out of a thing as possible; Higher ROI is the goal. Consumptionism is best characterized by treating the things we buy, including big-ticket items, such as cars and homes, as disposable objects. Think about you last saw a shoe or a television repair shop?
Could 2021 be the time to really think about what we need vs. what we want? I’ll probably still take my new shoes out of the box to look at them because they are really cute. But I’ll put them back, slip on my Nike’s, go for a walk and enjoy the simple pleasures that are free. Shifting from consuming to conserving will take thought and effort, but underneath you might find joy.
Happy New Year!
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