When I was working at BYU Student Employment, one of my coworkers took me out to lunch one day. He had a second job at Eddie Bauer in the mall, and he was telling me how much he liked it there.
"Everyone's happy in the store, because they're shopping and getting their retail therapy, you know?"
I probably nodded in agreement to avoid continuing that conversation ... but I think it was the first time I'd heard the term, and I haven't forgotten it. In fact, I've been fascinated with "retail therapy," and materialism in general, ever since.
I've read article after article that I wish I had compiled somewhere. The one about why people in poverty buy a Rollex (or Oakleys, or whatever ridiculously-priced superfluous thing) with their first paycheck. The ones about people living out of vehicles to save money and/or just to be different. This one about exactly how much stuff we consume. The ones about the tiny house movement. The one about the mother who took away her kids' toys and asked family members for experiences as gifts. The ones about capsule wardrobes and Marie Kondo's Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (first step: GET RID OF STUFF).
Also fascinating: the culture and process of accumulation.
My grandmother's hoard of Christmas decorations and goblets, her ever-growing pile of beautiful trinkets that "you'll get when I die!" (When none of us really want them.)
My great-grandparents' habit of stuffing cash into nooks and crannies, and old copies of the Church News, never to be thrown away. The Great Depression made them do it.
Other friends and family members who spend their waking hours looking for deals, only to spend more than the rest of us who aren't buying things all the time.
The recent surge in house-party businesses, where a hostess and consultant team up to take advantage of the weaker parts of female human nature. (These are especially discomforting to me.) Why do we buy stuff when we get together??
Most recently I'm wondering if the work climate in this country is what perpetuates the vicious cycle. You spend most of your days working, working, working to get ahead. When you get some time off, you "deserve" to spend that hard-earned cash. On the other hand, if you're a stay-at-home mom with a never-there husband, you "deserve" to surround yourself with the things that you want. I understand all of these positions completely.
So the siren song of minimalism is a tempting one for me. I haven't taken any drastic measures but I am still, always, careful to keep my consumerist demon in check. She rears her ugly head on occasion, and I am always ashamed. I've been the one with no money who obsesses over the things she can't buy. I've been the one to buy superfluous stuff with that first paycheck. I've been there, and I've learned from it.
But some days, I think what would make me the happiest is to leave the rat race completely. No more 60+ hour workweeks for Slice. No more mortgage or utilities or picking up all the clothes and toys AGAIN. Just living on the bare minimum, and making a great life of it.
Anyone have ideas on how I can?