I feel so done with stuff.
Stuff that’s been created without intention. Stuff that’s distracting me from what I really want to focus on. Stuff in my house that reminds me of my own thoughtless consumerism.
Ding dong—it’s Amazon at the door.
Ding dong—now it’s the post office with a monthly order.
This stuff—it no longer fills me the way it used to. For decades it served a purpose. The constant distraction of the next new thing buffered me from a career I didn’t love.
However, I’ve found a path I’m passionate about and in the process I’ve lost my desire for massive quantities of mass-produced stuff.
Oh there are things that I want, but not at the expense of quality.
On my shortlist? I’d like to buy organic sheets for my bed. I don’t need multiple sets, just one. Cotten is one of the most chemical-intensive crops on the planet and there have been numerous cotton farmers in India dying due to unsafe fertilizer and insecticide practices. So I’d like to vote with my dollars and buy organic cotton from now on. I’d rather have one set of organic cotton sheets than 10 sets of conventional cotton sheets.
Also on my shortlist? Quality food. This is food that’s been made and made available with intention and integrity. Last week one of our local supermarkets was ploying shoppers to come in, spend $100, and take home a free turkey—which at first may appear like a great deal.
What if we pause for a moment and think about what the supermarket is saying about the life of that turkey. To me, their actions are saying that its sole purpose was to help a supermarket trick its shoppers into spending more money. It says that the turkey was not treated well in life, not given fresh air, not given quality food itself. Because if the turkey had had those things, then it would have been viewed as far too valuable to give away for “free.” I eat a plant-heavy diet, but I’m not a vegetarian, I eat meat. This still feels wrong to me on many different levels so I’m going to align my dollars to my values and not support this industry.
I’ve mentioned that it’s not evermore stuff that now makes me happy.
What does make me happy?
Focusing on the things that matter most to me.
Taking the time to think and write about how I want to show up in life.
Spending time with my two boys—playing board games in the evening. Snuggling on the couch all of us lost in our own reading. Making home-made meals and desserts together. Hearing their bedtime conversations from another room.
Talking with my husband Randy about real-life matters and learning and growing together. Being on the same team and using minimalism as a manual for living intentionally.
It helps that our home is small. Every single item coming in needs a designated space. And if we can’t find a space for it then it becomes clutter and something else needs to be removed for it to stay.
It wasn’t always this way. Too many times to count I’d come home from a dull day at the office, excited to see which package of more stuff had been delivered that day—which didn’t really matter as it all served the same larger purpose—a band-aid, buffering me from my feelings of not rising to my full potential.
Is there a physiological reason why we buy? As consumers, we pull out our credit cards and it usually feels pretty good. There’s a chemical reason for this. Hit the buy now button and you’re in for a feel-good dopamine surge. I see many women transfer their focus from eating things to buying things when embracing unsustainable diet methods. When we feel deprived, it’s natural to be attracted to other things that may make us feel better. Trading in one form of consumption for another can appear to work in the short term.
The weight falls off but we’re surrounded by stuff we don’t want or need and the only way to keep the weight off is to keep consuming in other ways. Unless, of course, we choose to do the real work and figure out why we’re buffering ourselves from our emotions with first food and then shopping. You don’t have to go it alone, it’s much easier and enlightening when done with a coach. It’s the path less traveled, but for those who do the weight stays off.
My shift to minimalism has led to an abundance of quality moments. Shedding things that aren’t aligned to our values is a continuous process and life feels lighter because of it. Our boys are not pining and whining for more and more stuff. At 8 and 9 years of age, they’re self-regulating and becoming discerning—which will serve them well in their adventures to come.
What is it in life that makes us happy? For our little family of four, it’s definitely not the stuff. It’s the experience of going after our dreams and living life and making decisions intentionally. We don’t get all the decisions right, but we’re making progress.
This morning I got a newsletter from a company and was instantly turned off when I read the letter from the founder who wrote rest up on Thanksgiving so that “I can be ready to take advantage of all the deals starting at 8AM on Black Friday.”
That’s why I should rest on Thanksgiving? So that I can be a better shopper and buy more stuff the next day? I’m questioning whether I want to buy from this company again. And I’m sure Randy would be thrilled if I didn’t.
Who else is done with all the stuff?
About the Author: Heather Aardema is a National Board Certified Health & Wellness Coach living in Colorado with her husband and two grade-school boys. You can find more of her essays focused on growing healthy and living fully at RootofWellbeing.com.