I kind of love stuff. I hate to admit it, but it’s the truth. I own a media library and collectibles and special mugs and “favorite” clothes. I used to love things much more than I do now, but if I’m honest with myself, I still overvalue a number of earthly possessions. I wish I didn’t, but I do. I imbue them with far more value than I should–as if they were irreplaceable or even worth inherently more than the plastic of which they are made. I impart sentimental value to things and put them on shelves and treat them as more important than things that are actually useful, hence a Blu-ray film that I enjoyed is worth ten times more to me than a hammer–despite the inherent usefulness of the latter.
And what’s worse, I love to get more. More. More. More. I am a cultural child of the consumerist economy, feeling that I am doing my nation good by buying this trinket or that doodad. I become excited about the prospect of the new, the “not-yet-acquired”, the “must-have”; and upon getting said wondrous thing, I enjoy the process of the exchange–my currency for their goods, both of us pleased at the mutually beneficial transaction. Oh the fleeting happiness I have in that new stuff.
For a while. Until some other new thing comes into focus. Until some other product is placed before me. Then the gloss of what once was new fades to a relic of prior satisfaction, surely not a thing to sustain it. The new need to purchase rises within me, and I find myself once again ecstatic at the acquisition of more of whatever, simply for its own sake and the sake of the rush that I receive when obtaining it.
I have a problem.
Or rather, I did. I have been curbing this appetite of mine for some time. No, it is not quelled to nothing, but it is a fraction of what once it was. For this I am ever grateful. I found over time that only one thing satisfies, and if you’ve been reading here for any time, I am sure you know what that thing is. Tis not a thing at all but a person, a Savior, Christ Jesus, who saves men from themselves and the void in their souls. He is the constant sustainer and comfortable for a humanity ever seeking for some new thing to counteract the emptiness of his absence.
But echoes of old habits die long, horrible deaths, and even now I feel that surge within me, that I must obtain the latest Lego or new DVD or book I want to read, forgetting about the bricks I have in the closet or unseen film I was gifted or free classics on my kindle. The bug to buy still stings with its venom, and the poison of discontentment leads me to want, then to believe I need, then to covet. I could go on and on.
But, my friends, I have developed a tool to curb this aching want that lingers despite my attempts to slay it. I have found a short term solution to recall whenever I find myself longing for more. I offer it to you with loving hands, saying, “if you ever want to stop yourself from buying more you do not need, simply sort and engage what you currently own.” Oh how the tide shifts during that little project.
Nothing makes me hope never to attain the new as trying to sort through the old. The very action of seeing what one owns assures one of how they are not in want. As I said, this is no long term aid–the long term aid comes from cultivating what truly fulfills, but this is a solid short-term deterrent if I do say so myself. Let me also offer some other tips, for those who like me, are caught in the web of consumer spending for its own sake. Here’s some practical apps:
1) Spend an evening organizing your stuff. Like I said, this is the top notch deal, and it will curb your desire for the new. In fact it may help you to get rid of some of the old. Some of the clutter. Your clutter. Do you know how clutter happens? You add new stuff that is unnecessary to an already owned item that has proven unneeded. Go through this stuff. Put it in a database. Alphabetize it…I dare you to finish. I still have not. I have been trying to complete my toy and DVD collection database (the former for resale the latter for lending), and I still have not finished–not because of new stuff but because of old stuff still sitting in boxes. So yeah, when you get that itch for that great new thing…go through the stuff in the boxes first. It will make you hate “stuff” (and for a moment yourself, but you get over that).
2) Listen to this and get a reality check. Bruxy Cavey gives his listeners an amazing challenge in regard to their possessions, and I am challenged anew each time I listen. It’s 27 minutes, which makes it the same running time as a half-hour sitcom and a hundred times more useful!
3) Start giving to charities and follow what your money is accomplishing. Suddenly, $10 has far more value than you thought it did, much more than value than that vinyl Phil Collins record you had to have (because of how awesome “Don’t Lose My Number” sounds) or that out-of-print edition of The Hobbit with faux-gold lettering. This is a game changer. Trust me on this.
4) Create a reading/viewing list from your books/films and purpose not to buy any new books/films until you have read/watched ALL the items on said list. Even if your favorite self-publishing blogger releases a novel entitled Stronghold, commit to getting through your reading list of unread titles on your shelf before you start spending money on something new that will inevitably sit on the shelf and go unread/unseen.
5) Recognize that “clearances” and “sales” will dupe you. Just because the 3-disc special edition of Jurassic Park is only $7 does not mean you need to buy the three-disc special edition of Jurassic Park, especially if you had no desire to buy Jurassic Park in the first place. In my early 20’s, I was all about the “library” being full, which meant that I was buying movies all the time simply because they were cheap and apparently “classic”. I had no interest in them per se, but I had full intention of making the library complete. That’s wise right? False. But they were on sale. So what. Ten dollars for 4 movies you will never watch or five books you will never read is ten dollars wasted.
6) Adopt my Father’s rule of Virtue and Wisdom in Purchasing (as I have dubbed it). For each new item that enters, one must leave. It’s like Thunderdome, but not. It’s an excellent rule. Remember that buying something new will cost you something you already have, and the new does not seem so useful when its price is more than money. This curbs your intake, your clutter, and your ever-expanding, unexamined library.
7) Don’t neglect the actual libraries that exist or the libraries your friend’s already have. I am amazed at how many titles I own that overlap with titles my buddies own or the local library carries. Not everyone needs a copy of Spider-man 2. It’s an excellent film, I know. But if Buddy-A has it, then Buddy-B can borrow it if he wants to watch it. Buddy-B doesn’t need his own copy collecting dust on his own shelf. “But Buddy-B loves that movie” You say. Good. He can. That’s fine. Maybe he can wait to receive it as a gift or simply accept the fact that you don’t need to own every movie or book that you love.
I am ranting. I’m sorry. I am talking to myself than anyone else. You think this is neurotic? Now you know what God puts up with every hour of every day. See, I told you he was gracious and merciful. And now you also have proof that my wife is a saint.
Remember, you can’t take it with you. Christian brothers and sisters, especially, we know that this life is a sliver of our existence…invest in the future not the present (or the past for all of us nostalgia types). Remember that your money is on loan from God to honor him and build relationships while you are here. If you think your money is yours because you earned it and you can spend it on whatever you choose, just remember that God could make you penniless tomorrow and will have done you no wrong. Think about that the next time you buy another remastered CD of an album of you already own of a band that claims to be bigger than Jesus. (I only say it because I am guilty of it! Not those guys, mind you, but the other King of Pop).
So there you have it. Want to avoid buying stuff you don’t need. Get proactive. Try to master the stuff you already have. Challenge yourself to think before buying. It changes the game. Take it from a recovering comfort-consumer. Yeah an occasional indulgence is not the ultimate evil, unless it is, when that occasional indulgence becomes a weekly one that results in money out the door and clutter on your shelf and misplaced value on the wrong things and a whole lot of wasted resources.
Thanks for reading, I know I ranted on this one, but I am ranting against myself, the recitative collector, more than anyone else. If you survived the tirade, congratulations; buy yourself something nice–oh no wait, don’t!
Ha ha. Gotcha.
Much love to you all, have a wonderful weekend.