Keeping Up With the Jones’

I read something the other day that really resonated with me.  Basically, it said that the economy is geared to make us unhappy.  Because if we are unhappy, we buy more stuff.  Unhappy with the way you look?  We have something you can buy for that.  Unhappy with your house?  Redecorate it with this stuff you can buy.  You get the idea.  And we feed into it.  We (pun intended) buy into that way of thinking hook, line and sinker.  We declutter at the beginning of a new year because we have accumulated a lot of stuff that was supposed to make us happy.  We have whole sections of books in libraries and bookstores, whole websites and seminars, and job titles dedicated to the idea of decluttering and organizing all of our stuff.  But does our “stuff” make us happier?  My new coffee maker makes a better cup of coffee than my old beat up one did.  But it takes up twice the room in the kitchen which makes it harder to keep the kitchen clean.  My new comforter looks nice and suits the bedroom better than my old one, but does it keep us warmer?  Now the old one is being stored, which takes up more room in the closet.  I can donate it, or have a yard sale.  I recently took three large boxes of books to the library to donate them.  And then I quickly filled up their spaces on the bookshelves with new books that have been purchased or gifted to us.  As a society, we have so much stuff, that we design houses with storage in mind now.  Bigger closets, bigger kitchens, bigger bathroom cabinets.  At the end of the day, how much bigger does everything have to be to make us happy?  Better yet, when is enough enough?  How many thousands of dollars do we have to spend on Christmas?  Or birthdays?  How much do we need to be like Dudley Dursley to be happy?

Is there a better way?  Do we have to keep up with the Jones or the Kardashians?  Do we absolutely have to have the newest, shiniest, biggest thing?  In addition to everything else I resolved this year, I think I may have to add a late one.  I want to resolve to accumulate less stuff, buy fewer things, and learn to find my happiness in moments, memories and time with my family.  Instead of buying a new kitchen gadget that I might use three times this year, I am going to be present in the moment of kneading bread while my husband preps stews.  Instead of worrying about how new my jeans are, I’m going to focus on the fact that they have paint stains from when we made our master bedroom our own.  Instead of buying piles of new books by the dozens, I am going to read the ones I own that are sitting in stacks around the house, waiting for their worlds to be discovered.

This year, I resolve to find my happiness outside of consuming.  To be present and notice the texture of a moment.  To be aware of sounds and smells that permeate this existence and find my joy in them.  No, I really don’t need a new car, or a new wardrobe, or a new gadget.  I need to enjoy what I have, but more importantly, who I have.  We sometimes forget that it’s the people and the memories that make us happy, not the things.  It’s hard to focus on the moments when our entire world is geared towards reminding us of all the things we don’t have.  And filling us with an urgency to go acquire them.  But at the end, it’s the people that make life memorable.  And it’s the people that make you happy.

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