Consumption isn’t the key to happiness.
Here’s a quote from a recent article from Breakpoint by Eric Metaxas – “Clutter Gone Wild” –
One of the biggest bestsellers in recent years is the little book called “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” by Marie Kondo. Over six million copies have been sold—which means an awful lot of us seem to have trouble dealing with our junk.
But did you ever consider that piles of clutter may affect your spiritual life?
Americans, it seems, are overwhelmed by their stuff. For instance, their garages are so full of junk there’s no room for a car. Papers pile up on counter tops. Clothing—much of it unworn for years—explodes out of our closets. And you become absolutely certain that the kids’ toys are somehow secretly breeding—especially when you stab your bare foot on a Lego or trip over a Batman action figure. http://breakpoint.org/2017/07/breakpoint-clutter-gone-wild/
Ouch. So here is the third character-building habit that Ben Sasse, (from his book –The Vanishing American Adult, wants to instill in his kids – Resist Consumption. I call this the Stuffitis Disease. Or it’s cousin, Afluenza. When I was young, there didn’t seem to be as much stuff. Most of us had one TV (black and white), with 3 or 4 channels. We had one car. We had small homes with either a carport or maybe a one-car garage. They were just beginning to build malls. We didn’t have “exploding closets.” Now we have so much stuff, we need to rent garages to store it.
Now I’m not saying that the homes and cars we have now are bad. But are we breathing the air of a culture that has transformed what used to be “wants” into “needs?” And principally, what is this doing to our kids? How does this work if we want to teach our kids the values of self-denial and deferred gratification?
America, for better or worse, is a consumer’s paradise. And we can have just about anything we want, instantly. We can pull out our cell phone, book a flight to Paris, rent a car and a hotel, and reserve dinner on top of the Eiffel Tower during a commercial break of “Breaking Bad.” As someone named Anonymous once said – “We buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to keep up with people we don’t even know.”
Sasse tells us how we got here (to this consumer-driven culture), and how we can keep our kids disentangle from this ever-growing river of stuff. Here are just a few tips:
- Go out and camp every so often, to experience what mild deprivation is like. (It makes them appreciate their home even more.)
- Take 14 days and do this – write down what you buy, how much you spend, and how much “screen time” do you pack in during a day? How much is going to junk food and stuff you don’t need?
- Talk to your kids about all the commercials they see on TV and how they are made to create needs. (In effect, we’re drawing back the curtain.)
- Show them some other, more positive ways to spend (or save) their money.
- Start giving away stuff and share with the needy. (Seriously, if you haven’t worn something in two years, why are you still keeping it?)
- Learn to travel light by going on a trip and carrying only one roll-on bag.
- Next time you need clothes, why not find some decent, clean clothes in a thrift store?
The key is to know and teach that our desires can be brought under control. We are not powerless to the forces of culture. It is actually possible to live light, to live with less, to give to others, and be extremely happy.
Next week, we will look at the fourth character-building habit – Travel with a purpose.