When is Enough Enough? : [30 DAYS OF WRITING: EPISODE 28/30]
When I was 7, I got my first home game system, the Atari 2600. It already came with Combat and my parents splurged for Pitfall. Those two games entertained my brother and me for almost six months. When I was 9, I got my first Transformer, and it kept me occupied for, again, about six months. When I got my first record player, I had about three records, and somehow, those thirty songs kept me occupied for half a year.
You can guess where this is going. In the course of time, I collected many Atari 2600 cartridges, Transformers, and records. And in every case, the period of time between a new acquisition and the resurgence of my hunger for yet another acquisition would decrease.
The more I owned, it seemed, the less I had.
An actual photo of me in my clothes closet.
Now, I’m a grown-ass man, and I have many sweaters. And likewise, my first cardigans kept me pretty satisfied, for 6 months or more, before the sweater itch returned, so to speak. In the grand scheme of things, there are worse things to be addicted to. I have known people brought to ruin by their addictions. The only trouble my morass of sweaters has caused is that my shelf space has been completed colonized, as if by Tribbles.
That said, I am aware that I need to keep an eye on this. And I know I’m in good company. The book Craving: Why We Can’t Seem to Get Enough lays out some of the facts behind our insatiable hungers for what we already own (hint: we’re hard wired for it) and provides some strategies for dealing with it.
For me, desire has a shadow side, to be kept under control, but also, it speaks to a human need to grow, to be creative, to have options for expression previously unavailable. How are we, as people with many sides, many dreams, to make do with a limited number of anything?
The Buddhist “Wheel of Samsara” depicts the cycle of desire and satisfaction that is pretty hard to break. It takes some people a zillion incarnations to stop buying sweaters.
To begin with, we might recognize that it is entirely too easy to acquire. Newcomers to style will discover a proliferation of discount clothing websites and apps designed to get merchandise onto your shelves as easily as possible – generally with one or two clicks. I have erased all of these from my iPhone. Once you start to wonder if maybe you have enough, you have more than enough. Erase the apps.
Next, try to build personal relationships with all the items in your collection. If you love what you have, you’re less inclined to want more. And we only love what we spend time with. Figure out what is your favorite whatever, and wear it a lot.
Only acquire quality items. Part of why we acquire new things is to address perceived flaws in what we already have, even if we don’t mean to replace the old, flawed items. It feels like a fix. A lot of clothing is made cheap, feels cheap, and won’r satisfy you – sort of like the quick fix of fast food vs. the deep satisfaction of a home cooked meal.
Be aware that satisfaction, like hunger itself, is fleeting. Easy come, easy go. Wheel of Samsara, anyone?
Take joy in abundance. But the actual number of anything required for “abundance” is lower than we often think. 1 or 2 are perfectly decent manifestations of abundance.
After taking a good, hard look at yourself, don’t judge harshly. If your collection brings you joy and isn’t hurting anyone, then it’s a hobby. Like many others. But you might want to make your other hobby “getting rid of things.”