We have spent too much money we don’t have on stuff we don’t truly value and it has left us a huge mess. Call it the three-legged stool of American-style consumerism: debt, dissatisfaction, and debris.
– Dave Bruno
I’ve been thinking a lot about less lately.
Three weeks ago, I was in Barnes & Noble waiting for a friend when I saw Dave Bruno’s book The 100 Things Challenge. Briefly scanning the book, it struck me as interesting. Thinking that buying the physical object felt contrary to the spirit of the Challenge as I understood it from the book cover, I pulled my Kindle out of my bag and ordered the book on Amazon.
The short version is that Bruno spent the better part of a year pairing down his possessions to under 100 things and then spent a full year never owning more than 100 things.
I struggled as I read the book. Over and over I sneaked into the back room of my brain to ask myself if buying the book meant I too needed to undertake such a challenge. That felt like the case. Why spend the time a reflective how-to manual on minimalist living if I had no intent of living minimally myself?
It started to feel like literary voyeurism.
Because I have a basement that houses a portion of my possessions, I know I own more than I should.
While I consider myself globally aware of what Bruno calls American-style consumerism, that awareness doesn’t always stop me from consuming, only feeling guilty later.
A quick scan of my latest bank statement shows the purchase of only two tangible non-food items in the last month – a pack of ink pens and a new set of headphones for running. So, while I might not be down for the buying of stuff lately, I need only look around my house to realize the too much of the stuff I have.
I love the T-Shirts of threadless.com. When the good folks a the Chicago-based company send me an e-mail alerting me to their latest sale, I often find myself browsing their inventory and confirming my purchase unthinkingly. No one should own as many T-Shirts as I.
That gets me to the other idea with which I wrestled whilst reading.
This is all an intensely First World Problem.
I’m angry and ashamed that I live a life that prompted me to buy a book (even electronically) about how to own less stuff.
I’m out of town this weekend. Throughout the next few weeks, via donations, eBay and craigslist, I’ll be minimizing.
I’ll be asking myself what I need, what I don’t and what I didn’t remember I had.
I’ll also be reading more about minimalism. It’s an idea that makes sense to me. I’m not sure whether this makes sense, but having less stuff makes me think I’ll have more to give.
Who wants a T-Shirt?