My first real job out of university involved festering in an office in New Jersey, USA for about a year until a school friend suggested we go travel. Clearly, it would be very stupid to ditch a coveted job with a great company to go backpacking, so of course I said "Yes." I asked my boss for a year's leave of absence so that I could have the safety net of a job waiting for me at the end of the travels, and, to my complete surprise, he and HR agreed.
As I practically danced out of the office on my last day there, a colleague sighed to me, "Oh, I wish I could do what you're doing." I asked why he couldn't and he responded, "Well, I just bought a sofa."
I JUST BOUGHT A SOFA. Are you fecking kidding me??
His answer completely stunned me. I'm sure it was a very nice sofa, but I was beyond baffled that someone could get to the point where his possessions owned him rather than the other way round.
Fourteen years and two kids later, I can sort of see how it happens.
We started house hunting recently and a beautiful place within our price range popped up. We oohed and aahed over how perfect it was, how incredible the location was, how happy we'd be living there... And then we dismissed it as being too small.
Of course, after a savvier buyer had purchased it, we realised it wasn't too small for us at all. We could have lived there just fine. It was too small for our stuff. We'd let our stuff - most of which we don't need - make an important decision for us.
While a TAD bit frustrating to have passed on a great home, at least the experience gave me the idea for the Stuff Your Stuff challenge and led me to research all those horrible side effects of consumerism.
Oh my GAWD, is shopping ugly.
It makes me feel pretty guilt-ridden that I've been ignorantly supporting such awful practices for so long (see: H&M and Zara's dirty secret). If it were cheap and I liked it, I'd buy it. I wouldn't give a second thought as to who had made it and what had happened to people/the planet in order for me to maintain my REALLY fashionable image... (my 'look' is probably best summed up as 'sloppy/generic'.) In fact, while living in the US, the consumer culture wore off on me so much that shopping basically became a perfectly legitimate pastime.
"What are you doing this afternoon?"
"Probably going to the mall."
"What do you need to get?"
"Oh, nothing. Think there are sales on though."
And then we moved to Spain. We packed a suitcase each and boxed the rest, arranging for a shipping company to send it all over to us when we had found a place to live. Naturally, it took WAY longer and cost WAY more than we expected to get our stuff over. When it finally arrived, we'd spent 3 months living with just one suitcase of stuff each.
It was great.
And then TWENTY SEVEN boxes of junk arrived. Stuff that we hadn't missed and didn't really need suddenly demanded a place in our lovely spacious home. The spacious home became smaller because we had to buy more furniture to store all this junk. It took longer to find what we needed. Worst of all, we sometimes ended up buying doubles of items because we couldn't find the originals. Those 27 boxes of crap were not a welcome addition.
So here we are now, still house-hunting, with about six weeks to go before we have to move out of our current rental. No matter the size of the place we end up living in next, I'm using the Stuff Your Stuff challenge as an excuse to drastically downsize our belongings.
We've simply got too much (yes, I'm rolling my eyes at my first world problems, too.) I don't like what all this excess teaches our kids; I don't like spending time every day picking up all this junk and putting it away; I don't like knowing that people have basically lived like slaves in order for me to own tacky t-shirts; I don't like seeing photos of the damage done to the planet so that I can spend less on an outfit than I do on a meal.
Enough with the stuff.