Monday, March 26, 2012

Simplicity vs Consumerism

"We don't need to increase our goods nearly as much as we need to scale down our wants. Not wanting something is as good as possessing it. ~Donald Horban

As I have talked about in previous posts and in my goals for this year, I would like to improve my wardrobe. I received a generous amount of money for my birthday and have been using it towards that goal. Since sometime in February, I have spent a considerable amount of time in the mall and various clothing stores. Now, I am at the point of having to spend my own money and I am having an honest guilt trip. Actually, not just about my own money but about how I spent my birthday money. I keep hearing this in my mind, "I thought I was smarter than that..." Some of these feelings are from just the general guilt I have from spending money, and also from wishing I had planned out my expenses a little better.

Truth is, I did get lots of good items and several for great prices (which I will feature in a post this week), but I am not able to make as many outfits as I would like. 

If I had been wise and shopped with a plan, it would have looked something like this:
1. Asking myself how much money I have to spend and be conscious of it the whole time
2. Finding about 5 outfits to recreate / making a list of items I really need
3. Recording each item once getting home

I don't think it is bad to want upgrade my wardrobe and to be more fashionable. However, I feel like I have turned into a little consumer. I have gotten quite caught up in buying things and have a bad case of the "Diderot Effect" as described in this much-needed read, Treasure What You Have, that was posted this morning on the Simple, Green, Frugal Co-op blog. In this hard hitting post, I learned that I have fallen into the same trap as the French philosopher did-- comparing my new items to my old ones. Like Diderot, I initially feel pleased and contented with my new items, and then want to throw away all my old clothes and buy everything new. That feeling of dissatisfaction seeps in quickly and once that comparison is made, it is mighty hard to think of much else. It becomes this never-ending spiral that consists of rash thoughts, careless spending, and constant feeling of "want, want, want." Basically, a whole lot of want.

So how I can I stop this cycle before it gets out of control? Well, for one, it is good that I recognized this thought pattern this now versus later. I do realize I am in a challenging place-- wanting to promote a confident image of myself by looking good and not wanting to blow my bank account. Also, deep down, I know that happiness is not truly rooted in stuff. I am content with what I have but clothing is the one area that I tend to fall into many temptations.

I think it is good to start with Rhonda's discussion for today on her blog, Down to Earth. Her post today is Adding Value to Life. How appropriate that she wrote about this today along with Gavin's post on the co-op blog (she also is part of that blog)! Suppose they had a chat?!

Reading her post drove Gavin's point more into my heart and made me remember how much I do love simplicity. I have always been attracted to living a simple life-- the rewarding feel of your own vegetables (ooo can't wait to grow my garden this year), knowing that money is saved, living debt free, giving to those in need, healthy meals, homemade cards, farmers' markets, spending more time reading good books....

Really, when I take a step back I picture my life in general, I see it as always being simple and non-froofy. I am well aware that I will struggle of the need vs want, simplicity vs consumerism. When I am living on my own, I have high hopes for a comfortable and simple lifestyle. But I can't just have hopes, I must practice these things now. I love the life that Bonnie, Rhonda, Aimee, Sage, Shannan, and so many others have created. Rhonda said some wonderful things in her post today, but this stands out to me, "I have never been a follower, and regardless of the consequences, I've always gone for the interesting option rather than the safe one. I have lived a most remarkable life and I think one of the main reasons for that is that I don't take the easy option and often the paths I walk along are not main roads, they're back streets. I am convinced that those back streets and all I experienced along them, added value to my life."

Adding value.... That is where we start and she poses an important question, "Live according to your values or go along with everyone else?"

Hm. That's a profound question. Some days much easier than others. Will I be a consumer or a thoughtful buyer? Will I add value to my life by making this choice? Or not?

I like to think of values as anchors. We may wander a bit from them but when we have gone too far, the rope gets tighter and we sense it. For some, it is a "little voice" in the back of their minds. For others, it is recognizing the reality of their current situation. We may travel far from those firmly planted anchors, but if we truly and earnestly believe in them.... we will return, make necessary changes, and do our best to live out those convictions.

It's true. We are human. We mess up and make a plethora of mistakes.

Now that I have rambled on from where I began (my intensive reading course is making me write like this-- we are supposed to make connections with different articles and our thoughts)....

In going forward with trying to be stylish and keeping it simple, I am going to now follow that plan I have listed above. I am going to hunt for five outfits I really like (via my computer, browse my fashion blogs and my board on Pinterest), see how I can make them with what I have and what I need. Be mindful of the weather patterns here-- don't give into many summery items... while I love J's Everyday Fashion, I must remember I do NOT live in warm, sunny Florida. Also, getting my healthy dose of reading blogs that are about simplicity will remind me of my long-term goals and keep me a bit more grounded.

I will keep you updated on my journey to fulfill this goal this year and I do promise to be honest.

P.S. I do realize I might be slightly contradicting myself when it comes to values... perhaps do we have values if we wander? Can we still call them values? I really think so. Because I value my relationship with Jesus but I am better at being at His presence than other times. Believe me... I do know when I wander from Him. He always, always pulls me back and I am reminded of where I belong... Okay... Think I have made my point.

Please share your thoughts! Do you struggle with consumerism? How do you live simply? How do you keep on your chosen path?

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