Today, I ran a quick errand to the mall to return a shirt.
Or so I thought. It wasn’t quick, because I spent more time driving around looking for a parking spot than I did in the store. And I even browsed and bought something with my store credit after my return.
The entire mall parking lot was full. I parked far away, in some kind of overflow area that still had snow covering all the spots, because it probably wasn’t meant to be used as parking.
Guys. It’s 13 days after Christmas. Haven’t you gotten everything you need? Don’t you have it all? Haven’t we all been shopping, shopping, shopping for months?
What does it take for us to be satisfied?
I say ‘us’ because I’m guilty too. After Christmas, I heard The Limited was going out of business so I ran to the nearest store and bought five sweaters. A few days later, a pair of my jeans ripped so I went to Gap and bought two to replace them. But sales! 75% off! Clearance!
I watched a documentary on Netflix last night called “Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things.” I’m not new to this relatively recent idea (concept? fad?) of minimalism so, intrigued, I hit play. It was created by “the Minimalists” and follows their story of how and why they got rid of most of their stuff to live a simpler life full of more meaning.
The film opens on an (unfortunately) all-too familiar scene of crowds on Black Friday charging into stores in the dead of night, trampling each other to snatch the latest gadget or gizmo that is supposedly so cheap that it cost more to pay an employee to stack the boxes than it did to manufacture every single item. Supposedly.
I couldn’t tear my eyes away from this documentary.
Minimizing is one of my goals this year. But let me be clear, I don’t want to get rid of all my stuff. I don’t want to downsize my house – we just bought it and I love it. I don’t want to do Project 333 because I have more than 33 items in my closet that I love. I don’t want a capsule wardrobe and I don’t want to KonMari my belongings. (Yes, I just turned Marie Kondo’s nickname into a verb.)
What I want is to know that all of the things I own have value and meaning to me. I want every item and every new purchase to serve a purpose. I don’t want to waste time and money on materials things that I don’t need when that time and money can be spent elsewhere.
I opened a drawer today and found 8 old kitchen knives from college and 5 pairs of scissors. In addition to the beautiful block of knives sitting on my counter that I got from my wedding registry. Why do I need 16 kitchen knives and 7 pairs of scissors?!
The minimalists said it best in the documentary – we don’t have a consumption problem. We have a compulsory consumption problem. We do have to own stuff. We need stuff to get things done, to cook, to clean, to sit, to entertain, to live. We have to consume, in some capacity. The problem is when we think that the stuff we have isn’t enough. Or the stuff we have isn’t good enough.
I felt a lot of guilt when I was registering for my wedding. My husband will tell you – the only time I had a major meltdown about anything regarding the wedding was when we started to register for gifts. I felt, even then, that I had everything I needed. I felt that I was being greedy by asking for new sheets when I already had two sets of perfectly good sheets. I felt like I was being spoiled and petty. I felt like I didn’t do anything to deserve these things. I felt like the whole registry was just me asking for stuff I didn’t really need and receiving it – for the sheer fact that I fell in love! How ridiculous! So I cried. I had a meltdown. I felt like a terrible person. I felt like there were people somewhere in Africa who probably needed sheets way more than I did.
My husband and my mom had some serious chats with me to calm me down – people wanted to give me gifts. They wanted to show their love and support. They wanted to feel like they contributed to our life and love and happiness. So I should give them a way to do that through the gift registry. I accepted this, and I so appreciated every single gift. I love everything I received.
But I know now that everything I was feeling back then was just the beginning. Those feelings of guilt for wanting more were the first steps toward my attitude now, my leanings toward minimalism, my pursuit of a frugal but meaningful life.
I truly do have everything I need. Thanks to the generous wedding gifts of our friends and family, we have a beautiful home filled with everything we need to live, to entertain, and to be comfortable every day.
So I have to keep reminding myself of that. I have everything I need. I have everything I need. New curtains and new carpets and new nightstands won’t truly change the level of happiness I experience every day. Those are just cosmetics.
Happiness is spending time with my husband and family. It’s taking my dog for a walk, even when it’s eight degrees outside. It’s writing blog posts about something I’m passionate about. It’s an evening to myself doing yoga, drinking wine and reading a book.
So who cares what color my curtains are?! Would any of you know that my kitchen table was a hand-me-down if I didn’t tell you it was? Would you even notice that my bookshelves have a tiny scratch because it was raining the day we found them on Craigslist and we were rushing to get them into the car? Would you even care that my couches came from my in-laws’ basement, as long as you have a place to sit when we invite you over for game night?
And so, my friends, I repeat: minimize. Put value in the things that matter. Be grateful for the things you have. Stop going to the mall. And remember that you already have everything you need.
“Love people. Use things. The opposite never works.” -The Minimalists.