I hate shopping. I’d rather perform an appendectomy with an ice pick than willingly subject myself to a crowded mall. Unfortunately, I’m also vain enough to love cute dresses and sparkly shoes, so shopping is, at times, unavoidable.
Malls are strange places. Rooms and rooms and rooms filled with stuff — seemingly infinite amounts of stuff. Cheap stuff, expensive stuff, stuff of every shape and size and color. So. Much. Stuff. People spend their weekends looking for parking, waiting in line, fighting crowds to spend their money on said stuff. Then they fill their homes with the stuff. ALL THE STUFF.
But I digress. In addition to my intrinsic distaste for malls, I’ve noticed another unpleasant aftereffect of shopping. After a (rare) day spent buying stuff, I find myself carrying home more than just Forever 21 skirts and Express jeans. I carry a feeling, too. It’s a heavy, uncomfortable, anxious feeling. It courses through me as I unpack my shopping bags, hang my new stuff, throw away receipts and tags and plastic wrapping.
I hate this feeling. Almost as much as I hate the shopping process itself. It’s almost like I’m being weighed down, anchored — smothered even, by all the shiny new stuff I just bought.
But isn’t buying stuff supposed to make us feel good? Isn’t that what our consumerist society has taught us? Isn’t that the dogma we’ve lived with since we were begging Santa to leave Cabbage Patch Dolls and Barbies and Super Mario Brothers under the tree?
We are a society that is horrified by hoarders, and yet, how many of us have stuff spilling out of our closets, attics, basements, cabinets? How many of us pay to let our stuff sit in a storage unit? How many of us are constantly worried about where we’re going to put our stuff, what’s going to happen to our stuff, how we can acquire more stuff?
Stuff is suffocating us.
A few years ago, in a much-needed effort to refresh my look, I paid a stylist to help me clean out my closet and shop for new duds. WIth her help, I ditched 80% of my wardrobe.
I don’t think I’ve ever felt so free. Staring into my nearly-empty closet, I felt like a weight I didn’t even know I’d been carrying was lifted from my shoulders.
There was some discomfort involved in parting with frocks I’d spent years acquiring. But once they were gone — so was the discomfort.
I think it’s no coincidence that recently, as I’ve ventured down the road towards spiritual awakening and self-actualization, I’ve found myself growing more and more uncomfortable with the stuff that surrounds me. Gradually, I’ve been getting rid of it, donating bags and bags of clothes and books and other stuff to Goodwill. But there’s so much more I can part with. Not just material stuff — other stuff that unnecessarily occupies my attention, energy and time.
Recently inspired by The Minimalists, a duo who’ve thrown off materialistic convention to embrace greater meaning in their lives — I’m embarking on an epic scale down of my material possessions.
In line with their wise advice, if it’s not bringing me value, it’s not long for this world.
In my experience, human beings tend to have a hard time letting go of things. We cling to stuff, and this manifests itself most obviously in the unwillingness to part with material possessions. But it’s not just the stuff that packs our closets and purses and storage bins. We’re reluctant to part with jobs, cars, homes, people, situations. Even when they’re uncomfortable.
Truth is, clinging to stuff won’t keep us safe, make us happy or bring us love.
But doing the opposite just might. When you ditch your stuff, you’re forced to look within for all the attributes you were seeking without.
By getting rid of the meaningless stuff that’s occupied my home, my mind and my attention, I’m making room for all the intangibles that bring me joy — my writing, my loved ones, my self-inquisition. I think it’s a means of liberation — embracing a freedom I didn’t know I was missing out on.
So long, stuff. Somehow, I don’t think I’ll miss you much.