I live in a world where I can buy pretty much anything I want, and sometimes it feels like thats exactly what I do. I want it, I buy it. I think that’s quite worrying. Partly because the more I consume the more I realise that it doesn’t actually satisfy me, and partly because I also live in a world where the majority of people simply do not have the luxury of being able buy and have whatever they want.
My desire to consume frightens me almost as much as my ability to do so.
I’m currently buying a flat. This requires me to think through lots of things and get continually stressed out by large amounts of money and forms. It also lures me into buying lots of new things. Today I bought bins, yesterday I bought clocks, the day before was baking trays and crockery and photo frames and glass jars. A few weeks back it was furniture – lots of furniture…the list is building. My spending is on the up. Apparently I really do need potato and onion bags for my kitchen. No really, I do.
I sat down tonight and started thinking about my new place, full of new things. I’m excited about having a corner sofa and king size bed…I genuinely cannot wait. I can picture my new little kitchen with my new plates and mugs and tea towels and bowls and and and and and… But as I sit here and get excited about all of the things I’m about to have, I wonder how long the thrill will actually last. In a few months will I be bored of my new stuff and want more? Will my new TV soon not feel big enough or be the right spec? Will I soon desire a flat with more space, a bigger garden, another bedroom?! It’s not ground-breaking news that “new” becomes “old” fairly quickly and we move on to wanting something else once we have fulfilled our current longings, but I don’t like it….I don’t want to get caught up in that cycle. I don’t know how to get out of it. I don’t know how to stop wanting newer, bigger, better, more… I’m trapped in this world that continually reminds me that I’ll be out of date if my stuff is. How sad is that?
I’m excited about this new flat, and I should be – its been an amazing blessing to be able to buy something right now and I’m excited about what I’ll be able to do with it. But there’s a balance that needs to be found with my consuming and I’m not sure what it is.
I think I have an unhealthy sense of entitlement to my things. I seem to think I deserve them and I have a right to them.
The thought, “I can buy this because I’ve worked hard for my money…I deserve this” runs through my head with alarming regularity.
Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t things I need and that its not ok to spend what I earn and to acknowledge that I work hard for what I’ve got… but I’m not sure how that logic translates to other people who work harder than I do and don’t have the money to buy things – to the single mums who are working three jobs just to stay afloat – don’t they deserve it too? And if they deserve it and don’t get it, why should I? Why am I different?
My “I work hard for this” argument falls down pretty quickly at this point and I realise that there’s no real reason why I can afford the things I want and others cant. I did nothing especially different with my life, I just got born into a bunch of circumstances that enabled me to live the life I do; access to education, health care, clean water, enough food to eat. Someone reminded me the other day that “where we live in the world shouldn’t determine whether we live in the world”. That stopped me dead for a few minutes and was a stark reminder of just how unfair this world we live in is, because far too often where we live in the world does actually determine whether or not we keep living in it. The life expectancy in Zimbabwe is 38….seriously, 38!! Could you imagine if that was the UK?? I was also reminded last week that I’m in the top 1% of the richest people in the world. I don’t feel comfortable about that at all. How can I have such a sense of entitlement to things when literally hundreds of millions of people are living off less than $1 a day? My brain just keeps on whirring over these things.
To be honest though, I’m not writing this with any new revelation this evening. I’ve thought these things before and no doubt they’ll continue to stir in me as time goes by. But what I do hope is that in the midst all of the buying and the excitement of moving that I manage to keep some perspective, learn to be grateful and live generously with what I have.
I want to be open-handed and just as eager to give away as I am to consume.
For those who want some great reading material on all of this I highly recommend Consumer Detox