By Tara Tracy
Just before Christmas we found our dream house—a fire sale on a lovely old-fashioned home with a wood stove, wrap-around porch, lofty pines and landscaped gardens, just steps from the river, parks and the bike path. We didn’t buy it. The place was too small.
Maybe I should have titled this blog post “why I don’t buy stuff”. These two questions keep getting jumbled together in my head, but I digress.
We rationalized that the house, at under 1000 square feet would need an addition soon if we were to expand our family, and we weren’t keen on a big reno.
Yet something about our decision nagged at me—the house had felt so right, so calm, and so …simple. So, I start to experience something resembling regret. That house had every single element we needed—and it was beautiful. Was it just that we had wanted something more?
Determined to wiki my way to internal resolution I start in on some research.
I learn that the average size of a family home is 900 square feet—in the 1950s. Turns out, in today’s world this is about the size of a three-car garage. I think about how that extra garage space is probably used for storing equipment and other stuff… Ugh. I start to feel a little more sick in the gut. Then I read about this lady and her very happy life in her house of 84 square feet. I call back the agent.
“Yes, the house has definitely sold.”
He signs me up for e-notices of house sales. But all I get are postings for big, modern places in the suburbs—some of which are still in the floor plan stages. …And I’m left with a big fat question about how I make my decisions about any/all the stuff I buy.
I keep coming across this quote by financial guy David Ramsey:
“We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t really like.”
Hmm, sorta harsh. But it’s true that the few times in the past month that I’ve found myself wanting to go shopping (not even for anything specific) had more to do with my mental state than a need for anything in particular. And when I think back to times in my life when I was really into shopping, I realize that it was in those teen and early university years when I wasn’t so sure of myself and more concerned about fitting in and what others thought. I think I measured myself a little by what I owned—sometimes throwing money away on objects to give myself a boost. It seems I shopped alot out of stress, anxiety or boredom …buying things instead of doing things.
But even now, knowing all this, it can be hard. And I’m a bit worried that since I’ve started this ‘buy nothing new’ year, I’ve had so many people (mostly women) tell me, “Oh I could NEVER do THAT!” The shopping we’re talking about—the extras, the indulgences, the things we either have already or don’t need in the first place—should be easy to walk away from. But why isn’t it?
Maybe because we live in a culture where shopping is sold as a means of self expression, and where having it all—even if you don’t have room for it all—is a pretty big measure of success.
I find this quote more inspiring,
“Own nothing that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” -artist William Morris
And I realize that overall it has been a freeing experience to NOT spend money. I am outside alot and really enjoying swapping mall walks for river walks.
And in my closet and in my home and in my life I’m realizing that less really IS more—that it’s way more fun focusing on being and doing than having and wanting. I love all my new found free time! Free money!
So maybe it is time to buy that small beauty of a house and stop shopping.