While attending my niece’s high school graduation party I spent time with the ladies of the family. As we cooked, baked, cut, and frosted we started talking about daughters and their messy rooms. This topic arose because my niece was having a challenging time cleaning her bedroom to her mom’s expectations.
Being daughters ourselves, we talked about our own adolescent bedrooms and tried to compare our messes with the messy bedrooms we encounter these days. Wanting to be fair, we turned to the older generation for some perspective. My sister-in-law asked her mom if her bedroom had been such a pig sty. With age comes experience, patience and, often, pearls of wisdom. My mother-in-law didn’t answer right away. She paused, she thought and then she opened her mouth and spoke. Her answer was simple, but has subsequently caused serious reflection on the habits in my life. She said, “Back then you girls didn’t have much stuff. Your rooms would get messy but since you didn’t have that much, the messes were manageable.”
We didn’t have that much stuff. I grew up in a one income household. I learned early how to stretch a dollar, the difference between wanting something and needing something, and how to take care of what I had because chances were if it was lost or damaged there would be no replacement. I didn’t feel deprived. We were a typical middle class family.
So how did this need to consume products overtake us and when did we start to get so much stuff? Is it because we think we have more disposable money to spend? Is it because we are more mobile and can purchase products easier? Is it because we have decided we should have what we want and not worry whether we need it or not? Is it because we are spoiled?
I don’t know the answer to these questions. I do know the conversation that day in my sister-in-law’s kitchen helped me return to some basic beliefs from my childhood. Evaluate your purchases from a need not a want perspective, make the effort to take care of what you already have and, most importantly, strive to have less and be thankful more.