“We make ourselves miserable by first closing ourselves off from reality and then collecting this and that in an attempt to make ourselves happy by possessing happiness. But happiness is not something I have, it is something I myself want to be. Trying to be happy by accumulating possessions is like trying to satisfy hunger by taping sandwiches all over my body.”
-Roger J. Corless, Vision of Buddhism: the Space Under the Tree
After over a year and a half, I continue to grapple with my pattern of accumulating material possessions. It truly is a fixation, bordering on compulsion; shopping is habit-forming. In my former life I got my shopping fix just as easily at a thrift store as at Nordstrom. It wasn’t about the cost of the item, which is probably the only thing that kept me from bankruptcy. Well, maybe it wasn’t quite that bad. But I used to jokingly say that I was one psychological mishap away from being a hoarder.
Before my new life I used shopping as a form of recreation and as a de-stressor. My life is a lot less stressful now than when I was a litigator in medical malpractice, but it is hard to shake the routine of shopping as entertainment.
You would think that after facing all of my worldly possessions in the estate sale, I would have learned my lesson. I had over 200 vintage handbags and 150 pairs of shoes. I owned 150 tiki mugs and dinner services for 12 in four patterns. I had seven Christmas trees with corresponding themed ornaments. I had enough booze to stock a TGI Fridays for a solid month. Did I learn my lesson? Not quite. Not yet. But, I’m working on it.
Part of my continuing struggle has to do with the way I shopped on vacation. For me, buying a Christmas ornament or a T-shirt was my way of remembering the holiday. But now, I am not on vacation. If I bought a trinket at each place I visit, the rig would be overflowing with junk. I am trying to remind myself that a photo or memory is just, if not more, valuable than a souvenir.
Also part of the problem, on an almost daily basis I exit through the gift shop after touring an historic site or museum or a restaurant – such enticements! Occasionally I will scratch the shopping itch by purchasing something for a friend or family member, but that could get expensive quickly if I did that for everyone I knew.
The size of my living environment is helping to curb my shopping craving, which is one of the major reasons I made this transition in the first place. There really is only so much you can pack into a 320 square-foot space (and that’s with the slides open!). But of course, I have found a way around space requirements – jewelry! Small, abundant, cheap or expensive, jewelry. Which is really ridiculous, if you think about it. First, I sold more jewelry in the estate sale that I could ever hope to wear in a lifetime. Second, for the fancy and expensive stuff, there are only so many opportunities on the road to wear it.
Which brings me to my moratorium. In August of this year, I made a pact with myself to make no purchases of jewelry, shoes, or handbags for the rest of the year. I would give myself a C+ on the follow-through; there were all of those sandals on sale in Wisconsin at the end of the season, and I’m on my way to Florida for the holidays. And, I just couldn’t pass up those Calder mobile earrings. Oh, and there was that pair I bought at the Biltmore in Asheville. But I digress …
Do you struggle with stuff? Are you like me? Here’s a little reminder list I compiled for myself, specifically tailored to the RV life. Some of the list is good for sticks and bricks too! I hope you find it useful if you’re struggling too.
STUFF: TAMMY’S TOP TEN TENETS
1. If you must empty the shower before you can get in it, you have too much stuff.
2. If you’re not donating a box or a bag to Salvation Army, Goodwill, or the charity of your choice at least six times a year, you have too much stuff.
3. If you’re buying bins and organizers and storage gizmos for your stuff, you have too much stuff. (Why buy more stuff to deal with stuff?)
4. If you buy new clothing or shoes and don’t rotate something out to the charity bag as soon as you get home with your new purchases, you have too much stuff.
5. If you have enough dishes and glasses to serve 12 people dinner, you have too much stuff.
6. If you “store” so many things in the sink or on your bed, sofa, or dinette during transit that you are not be able to use them, you have too much stuff.
7. If it takes more than a half hour to break down the inside because you’re displaying trinkets and tchotchkes and dust collectors, you have too much stuff.
8. If the only empty spot in your toad while towing it is the driver’s seat, you have too much stuff.
9. If using the microwave or oven requires removing stored inedible objects, you have too much stuff.
10. If the slides in your basement compartments won’t slide because they are full from top to bottom and side to side, you have too much stuff.
Are there any other tenets you’d like to add?