You are not what you own.
“Imagination will take you everywhere,” said Albert Einstein, and he was right. As humans, we’re limited in what we know and understand, but imagination transcends all of that.
Unfortunately, we tend to bolster our fantasies by buying the props that go with them. Francine Jay, author of The Joy of Less and Lightly, calls this “aspirational stuff.” These are the things we buy to project a certain image, to impress others, or to help ourselves believe we’re a certain type of person.
I once imagined I was a great home cook, so I decided I needed a shelf full of celebrity cookbooks and drawers full of specialty gadgets. With a little more imagination, I might have decided I needed a professional six-burner stove and a Sub-Zero refrigerator too.
Turns out I don’t enjoy multi-step cooking day after day. I tend to fix crockpot and one skillet meals and I use certain recipes often. I finally stopped trying to impress anyone, and my kitchen is quite basic.
I sang opera, so I used to imagine I needed a closet full of formal gowns. The reality was that I sang opera, but the director put me in a costume and a wig. I needed only one elegant black gown for the occasional solo or recital gig. After all, I wasn’t Renee Fleming traveling the world! A silk wrap of any color could be added for variety.
It took me a while to notice that my fantasies tended to require a lot of stuff while the reality could usually be satisfied by a minimalist approach. Did I buy all that stuff just to bolster my sense of self-worth? Does it really take courage to admit that I don’t own a citrus zester or a full set of Le Creuset cookware? Was it my gown that people came to see, or my voice they came to hear? It wasn’t hard to decide that I wanted to be known for my voice! Sure, I wasn’t going to perform Mozart in jeans and a tee-shirt, but elegance and professionalism didn’t require a closet full of one-time-use formals. And if I didn’t practice every day, and my voice wasn’t up to the task, an extensive wardrobe wouldn’t fool anyone.
It’s what I do, not what I have, that really matters.
A friend of mine uses one pattern over and over, purchases different fabrics as needed, and has given away dozens of well-loved heirloom baby quilts. Another keeps adding to a large, expensive, and hard-to-store fabric stash, but hasn’t finished a quilting project in several years.
Recognize that you are not the same person you were ten years ago. Your interests, tastes, and life circumstances have changed. Maybe it’s time for you to declutter your attachment to the title “Quilter” because that’s no longer who you are. Decide you’ll keep only those things that support who you are today.
Do you own top-of-the-line backpacking gear you haven’t used in a while? Maybe you’re nearing 60, and you have a bad knee, and the most you can handle is a not-too-strenuous day hike, but you hang on to all of the paraphernalia because you once planned to traverse all 211 miles of the John Muir Trail. Why don’t you keep that great photo of yourself looking fit and handsome on a long-ago hike in Yosemite, but donate or sell the equipment? Then start imagining the challenge you might like to try now.
Fantasies are fun, and they can be useful for identifying what you care about and where your interests lie.
But beware of trying to buy the fantasy. Invest your limited time, energy, and money actually doing what you like rather than buying stuff, since things will never make you something you are not.
High-end clubs won’t make you a championship golfer, only years of hard work and practice will do that.
Designer shoes won’t make you a supermodel; confidence, hard work, and luck.
A new vacation home or Disney cruise won’t guarantee happy family memories. You need to actually spend the time playing with, laughing with, talking to, and listening to your kids. And you can do that anywhere.
I needed to stop shopping so I could spend more time learning, practicing, creating, and enjoying.
About the Author: Karen Trefzger is a writer, singer, teacher, wife, mother, and grandmother. She writes about the many joys of a simple life at MaximumGratitudeMinimalStuff.