“I know we don’t need it, but it’s still pretty cool.” -IKEA shopper
I’m wondering about the reactions of the shoppers as we sit here in a living room set writing. Do they think we’re store employees? Paid actors? Squatters? Performance artists? I imagine writing in this space as a quiet protest against the necessity of purchasing things, at least for today.
I think one of the chief lures of IKEA is that it allows us to visualize how our lives might look, going so far as to set up entire (cute, space efficient) houses within the store. I do value that they consider efficiency and beauty and that does make me likely to purchase something here rather than elsewhere if I’d made the decision to buy something. Things are also really cheap at IKEA, at least in terms of dollars. There are hidden costs of things, though. The emotional costs of having to manage stuff, to put it away, to clean it, the energy to replace it.
I’ve been thinking about objects differently over the past several months. From getting rid of 75% of my clothes to parting with several large bags of books and household furnishings, I’ve been trying to donate or trash things I don’t find beautiful or useful, preferably both, rather than asking if I might need the thing one day.
I realize that purging can be a privilege. There are things I haven’t worried about donating because I know I can borrow one from a friend if I need them again. And I don’t have the experience of ever having lived in a situation where I didn’t easily have my basic needs met, which I’m sure affects the way that those who have lived this way relate to material belongings.
The purging can be challenging, but the not replacing is even harder. I’m finding that I often have the impulse to purchase things for reasons other than the thing itself. I want to buy stuff when I restless or tired or lonely. I want to buy stuff that will change the way I feel about my relationships or my job. In the past four months, I’ve bought four items of clothing (recent weight loss made that seem reasonable), a book, and a cake pan. Everything else that I’ve bought has been consumable (toilet paper, food, shampoo, etc.). It’s been an interesting (unintentional) experiment. I’ve been inspired along the way by friends who live significantly more simply than I do and by blogs like Zen Habits and Becoming Minimalist. A slightly strange effect of this is that I’ve found that I’m holding on to the things I do have more lightly. A friend’s friend’s friend, stranger to me, is staying in my house this week while I’m away.
I’m still wrestling with this idea of stuff. Wondering when, if ever, I’ll ever go back to something that looks like my old purchasing habits. For now, I’m resting in this slightly uncomfortable space.