materialism

the dentist office where i work gets all manner of magazines – despite the fact that we only have one or two subscriptions. i was reading through the current issue of yankee magazine, and there’s an article about glenn close. apparently, she and quite a few generations of her family grew up on connecticut. some of her comments were interesting. for instance, she mentions how her mother was one of the “least materialistic people i know… our whole culture is based on buying things that nobody needs and being convinced that you cannot live without them. when we did buy something, we bought very high quality so that it would last.”

it’s no secret that people nowadays are extremely materialistic – from shoes and articles of clothing, electronics and other gadgets, to sundry other acquisitions. i know this, yet reading it made me wonder why this is so. we know that having these things doesn’t equal happiness, especially if you’re buying something that won’t last or that, ultimately, you can’t afford.

especially when it comes to buying gifts for people – every culture has some practice or another that revolves around the giving and receiving of gifts; it’s a tradition to show appreciation or congratulations or whatever sentiment appropriate for the occasion. it does seem, however, that we have gotten carried away in this respect. there have been times when i’ve asked my sister-in-law, wife and mother of four boys, what she would like for her family for christmas or some other event. she always says she doesn’t like it when people feel obligated to give; if anything, she would rather the gift of time (be it babysitting, spending time together, even a phone call to show you’re thinking of her), things of the more practical and oftentimes more meaningful nature. think of charity – sometimes it’s easier to write that check than roll up your sleeves and get dirty.

i will admit that some purchases bring a sense of well-being, satisfaction, accomplishment even – maybe the fact that you have the money to spend in the first place, perhaps buying a pair of pants that actually flatters the figure. and when i’m shopping for someone else, even though i may despair over the cost, i enjoy the search for and – hopefully – the ultimate discovery of The Perfect Gift that will brighten her day and bring a smile to her face. if it’s something that she really wants and can use, even better.

shopping at target the other day – god, i love that store! – i noticed all the things i didn’t have the money to buy. not even necessarily important things, but things that could definitely enrich my life to one degree or another. and sometimes i feel bereft inside, knowing i can’t, shouldn’t have those things, even more so i shouldn’t be despairing over that very fact! it seems i spend much of my time and energy not only obsessing over one thing or another, but in turn obsessing over the fact that i’m obsessing. is that crazy, or what?

my sister spends much of her money on clothes and shoes… expensive clothes and shoes at that. she says she demands quality, and i see her point… but she doesn’t seem to be buying them for their longevity. myself, i shop at discount stores because that’s what i can afford; if instead i bought one or two pairs of really nice, pricey items that would last a long time, i would still have to buy replacements considering how much my weight fluxuates. when it comes to these types of items, the thing that bothers me most is not what i’m buying and how much i’m spending, but the fact that i have to keep buying them because they don’t fit.

sometimes i’ll see a really snazzy picture frame, basket or container, pillow for the couch, and i think – that would look great in my house! most of the time i’ll come to the conclusion that i don’t need it, but there’s still that desire for stuff. i see pictures in magazines of homes that are well put-together, and they’re obviously contrived for the photo shoot… but there’s no clutter, no imperfection, no sensed of a lived-in home. i wonder what it would be like to be free from all these things. mostly, i wish i didn’t want things.

but i do. not only do i wish i could buy The Perfect Gift for any and every occasion (it would help if i could buy everything i liked as soon as i saw it, and have a gift stash), but i like putting my home together. i like having furniture and appliances and decorations (although usually i prefer meaningful pieces that have a story behind them) and an assortment of things to choose from. not only do i wish we could afford to finish our home, i wish we could afford all new furniture and window treatments. just the other day i wished i had more cardigan sweaters, because i pretty much only have one (that i stole from my sister), and it doesn’t match everything. the other day i bought a new pair of sandals to replace the ones i just threw away, and i saw a pair at target – they’re a different color/style, why not have two pairs? the list goes on.

what things do you feel you need in your life?  what do you wish you could afford?  how would they enrich your life?

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