Monday, March 8, 2010

Stuff Demon #1: The Illusion of "the Deal"

The journey toward wanting nothing is demanding. For me, consumption is tangled up with identity, stress relief, productivity and the actual requirements of my life. One can't give up buying things entirely. One can strive not to be identified by things, but rather, to use things as tools with which to live one's best life.

"Remember, stewardship, not consumption, is the proper relationship towards material things."

This line from "Big Love" has been haunting me for weeks. The idea of caring for things in our lives, instead of buying, using and discarding, struck a chord with me. It's a small part of why the DIY and handmade movements mean so much to me. But I don't always live by those ideals.
This is a difficult subject to tackle, but I'd like to confront my relationship with material things, in order to explore and slay my "Stuff Demons" one by one.

Here is the first and most problematic Demon. I love to buy things because they are a "good deal". I regularly haunt the aisles of Target. More specifically, the off aisle endcaps, often filled with a random assortment of orange stickered clearance items.

I'm there at least once a week, often for more than an hour at a time. Generally, I go in because I need a gallon of milk or a prescription. But I also go for entertainment. There is a thrill in finding a little box of note cards that WERE $7 for $3. Do I need note cards? Nope. I design and sell my OWN greeting cards for heaven's sake! And yet, I sneak them into my cart by convincing myself that I've found a good deal. $6 is my emotional limit. If it's less than that, I can rationalize it with no problem whatsoever.

I'm not going broke or swimming in clutter because of my Target habit. But the thing is, there is no end to desire. And suddenly this box of note cards is making demands on me. I have to find a place to store them in my home. I am compelled to "use them up". I have to buy stamps in order to use them up. I have to manufacture an occasion to write a note to someone.

These are small, innocuous, even cute examples, but the attitude that underpins them is what I'd like to root away. An insatiable lust is incompatible with the life of thoughtful gratitude and creativity that I want to live.

The reality of the situation is that paying full price for one thing that is actually on my list is better than filling my cart with odds and ends for half price and inviting unnecessary objects into my life.

These "deals" are objects I will have to manage. Caring for them is a time commitment. Cleaning, repairing, and putting possessions back in their proper places takes up time and energy. It makes sense that less stuff means less mess. less responsibility, more space and more freedom.

But most importantly, less stuff means more room for the creative process that I want to push myself to engage in more deeply.

Tuning out is so easy. There are a million ways to distract myself from the creative goals and tasks I set for myself. Though I love to create, I find many ways to avoid doing exactly that. I honestly don't understand the motivations for checking out, but I know I'd like to make it more difficult for myself. My goal is to establish what Twyla Tharp calls "The Creative Habit".

I am moving towards the well chosen less. So instead of quantity, I choose quality, space and simplicity. What are your thoughts on managing stuff and conquering demons?

1 comment:

  1. A beautifully written, honest and thoughtful post. Thank you for taking time to put it down on "paper" and share it!
    The "well chosen less" is the direction I want to go in too!


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