By Loraine Debnam
One rainy evening last month I picked up my knitting and tuned into a home renovation program on television.
The homeowner was explaining to the contractor the changes she required to update her master bedroom.
Along with a bathroom remodel, she wanted two walk-in closets installed.
I assumed one was for her and one for her partner. I should never assume I know what someone else is thinking.
One was for her “stuff” — clothing, handbags, hats, other accessories and so on, but the other was for her shoes.
She had over a hundred pairs of shoes and boots for which she required a separate space.
I must admit I was astounded. My family was certainly not poor when I was growing up and I remember being happy to have a couple of pairs of different coloured runners (we called them sneakers then).
One pair stayed at school (mostly so I could hide my cumbersome saddle oxfords in my locker). But, who needs a hundred pairs?
Singer and comedienne Margaret Young once remarked “often people attempt to live their lives backwards — trying to have more things or more money in order to do more of what they want, so that they will be happier.”
This frenzy of excess has led to unprecedented consumerism and greed.
One Facebook page showed a young man with four Rolex watches on his arm. Apparently, this was intended to project a certain social image and incite envy in his viewers.
The Huffington Post reports families today have twice as many cars, twice as many recreational toys, many more articles of clothing with designer labels and eat out twice as often as former generations.
This rampant materialism is not doing our society a service.
Researchers have noted buying more “stuff” is associated with depression, anxiety and broken relationships.
It is both self-destructive and socially destructive and is resulting in unpayable debts leading to isolation and even mental illness.
In a search for personal gratification, we are becoming more competitive and selfish. That was certainly obvious in news reports on Black Friday, when buyers were lining up outside retail outlets at four in the morning to be the first in the door and the ensuing crush left some trampled and even one fatality.
When I downsized to my little house, a friend gave me the best advice I’ve ever had and I try to stick to it whenever I am making a purchase or a replacement decision.
She said, “If it’s not beautiful, useful or precious for a sentimental reason — out it goes.”
Trend-setters are noting we are all striving to simplify our lives and they repeat Robert Browning’s mantra “less is more.”
For me, it’s finding a balance, deciding how much is enough and how many material things I actually need to thrive. There is a huge difference between want and need — so even if you love to shop, you don’t always have to buy.
Since I always try to look on the brighter side of things, I guess there are a couple of benefits to all this buying.
When spring cleaning begins and the nicer weather appears, there will be an overabundance of garage and yard sales, which are so much fun with a five-year-old who has loonies in his pocket.
And, for the things (in good condition) that remain, my favourite thrift shop would be happy to receive them (even the shoes).