Things ‘n Things

As I was flipping through my first issue of Conde Nast Traveler (thanks American Airlines miles!), I was inspired to write about something that has nothing to do with my having a disability. I wrote a post a while back about Living on One Dollar, an extremely touching and thought-provoking documentary on Netflix. The older I get, the less attached I am with things…stuff. But I feel like watching that documentary was a really big turning point for me. My relationship with “stuff” really changed. I get rid of clothes more than I buy them. I keep a much more stringent budget so I can save money or donate it rather than spend it willy nilly on the latest online sale.

But getting back to Conde Nast…in between some great articles on travel they have some rather ridiculous columns/pages on things…sunglasses, bags, shoes. I understand how those can intertwine with travel but the things they advertise aren’t in 90% of the population’s budget. A $2000 Chanel bag is the “best” purse for airplane travel? $700 Louis Vuitton sunglasses are the latest trend in travel wear? I was so obsessed with brands and labels in college because every around me was. I just wanted to fit in and have an expensive purse or wear a pair of 7 jeans. Now I just don’t get it. There’s absolutely no need to spend that much money on things. Sure you don’t want to buy the $5 sunglasses at the cart in the mall because you need to protect your eyes but newsflash for you, that Chanel purse is made in the same place with likely the same materials as one at Target.

We live in a consumerist and capitalistic society…I get it. Our economy is basically driven by the amount of “stuff” we buy. I just wish we could all see there’s so much more to life than stuff. It’s natural to want to have nice things. To have a comfortable life. But all this overpriced superfluous stuff is just so unnecessary. It’s just a status symbol to say to the world “look how well I’m doing” or worse, “I’m doing so much better than you”. It’s using something external to try and validate something internal. Cause let’s be honest, if you didn’t really care about the label, you would buy that Target purse instead (I know, there’s brand loyalty too and blah blah blah).

And our culture totally encourages this idea that we need more “stuff”. More clothes, the newest car, the newest phone, some stupid smart watch. None of that will make you happy. Yeah sure maybe you’ll get some satisfaction for a day, maybe even weeks but then that fades and if you don’t feel happy with all of the internal “stuff”: your self worth, your inner peacefulness and happiness, no amount of Louis Vuitton sunglasses and Chanel purses are going to fix that or improve those things. Personally, when I die, I would much rather do so knowing I had at least a little bit of inner peace and happiness. That I had good memories with those I loved rather than a lot of expensive purses or sunglasses.

I know I sound very judgmental and on this particular topic and I freely admit I am. There’s just so much more to life than stuff and it makes me sad how much our society and so many of us (even me at times) put so much emphasis on meaningless things instead of meaningful experiences and memories. Life is short. Make the most of it…without that Chanel bag.

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15 thoughts on “Things ‘n Things

  1. Love this! It was hard for me in SoCal at times because of this very thing. Not to say I don’t like my “stuff” (I have a stupid amount of clothing still that I just never wear). any way don’t know where I was going with that, but I’m constantly trying to simplify and Be more minimalistic… Easier said that done 🙂

    On Wednesday, April 29, 2015, Diary of an Inspiration Junkie (Living with

  2. Ahhhh! I feel you! I used to work for a luxury handbag company and almost died when I found out how much people paid for canvas! CANVAS people, canvas! I took a trip to Haiti last year and when I came home I found myself crying in my car in a Target parking lot over shopping carts. I was having a heart crisis over the fact that they are happy loving people with pretty much zilch and we have carts to cart out crap we don’t even need. I too really enjoyed that movie and I also read a book called “7 an experimental mutany against excess.” and decided to try it. WHOA?! Apparently I can live just fine with only 7 articles of clothing. Needless to say old habits are hard to break and I find myself often purging my closets and drawers wondering how I let it fill back up again.

    1. Hi Jonie. Yes yes and yes to all that! I find myself in stores now just staring at all the stuff. All this stuff really none of us needs that we try use to fill ourselves up or make us feel better. That must have been an extremely profound experience going to Haiti too. I’ll have to check out that book too! I watched an episode of Oprah one time and she went to India and met a family of four that lived in a tiny one room place. It wasn’t an even apartment just one big room. And they were the happiest most joy filled family I’d ever seen even though they didn’t have hardly any material things. Truly inspiring. Old habits are definitely hard to break too so I totally relate on that. I just got rid of a bunch of stuff myself but then went shopping last week and bought more which now only makes me feel worse. It’s hard to break the cycle for sure.

  3. Hi there I’m an Occupational Therapy student from Loma Linda and I was referred yo your blog! Thank you for sharing your life and I enjoy reading your pieces like this one. Here in the states, we are definitely brainwashed by consumer culture and the media. I was affected by it because I grew up in poverty, I remember how happy I was when I bought my first pair of Nikes in 6th grade. It’s crazy how a single material item can change someone’s happiness because we care so much about fitting in, when we were brought into this world to be unique. But like you have mentioned, this “happiness” is very short lived.

    Last year I took a trip to Thailand that changed my life. I encountered many locals there that live paycheck to paycheck. I talked to a daughter of a farmer who told me their rice farm only collected a few hundred US dollars per year. My mind was blown at the fact that so many people do not continue their education after 12 years old. I hear this all the time, but it’s another thing to actually meet and talk to someone that lived that life. This girl was only in her mid-20’s, working at a motel to send money back to her family on a monthly basis. I asked her about her future plans, because in the life that I know, we are in this rat race where everyone is expected to go to college, get a 5-6 figure salary career in order to be happy. Her respond to my question humbled me and also challenged me to change my attitude on life.

    Her respond to my question is simply this: “I plan to go back and spend the rest of my life with my parents.” Last summer, she had finished helping her parents build their house on their rice farm. That was her one goal in life, and it was completed. Her mother is dying of old age so her plan is to make her comfortable. She simply felt that her life was fulfilled because she has her health and her youth. She look forward to spending the rest of her life just LIVING. There was no talk of plans of how to advance financially in order to purchase a car or a mansion, to her, she already have all she wants. Instead of drawing up plans to acquire material things that we think will provide happiness, the people there focus on just BEING happy and living in the moment. The one thing they value the most is the sense of community and family.

    When I came back to the states from my Thailand trip, it was back to the rat race. Everyone on my facebook feed is always complaining about something: working too many hours, not making enough money to buy the things they “need” to impress the people they don’t even like. I was depressed that I had to live the rest of my life in this rat race. But then I changed my attitude about it and decided to stay positive and make light of my situation. I was fortunate to live in this country of opportunities, and I realize hard work will take me places that the girl in Thailand simply cannot have even if she tried. When I realized this fact, I quit my complaining immediately. I know I will go on to have a successful career with a salary that won’t be too shabby. But rather than spending my money on material things, I’m inspired to save up my money to travel to unknown parts of the world and help people in need. As progressive as the United States is, we are so sheltered and constantly stay in the comforts of our safety bubble. I want to expose myself to as many cultures as possible to make a real difference in this world.

    1. Hi Rocky. Wow thank you so much for sharing that story with me. That girl’s story has hit me profoundly as well without having met her. Just to have the goal to be able to live with her parents back on their rice farm. Amazing. You just helped me look at my own goals in a completely different light. And you are so right about what people put on facebook. We think our problems that are really pretty small are so big sometimes and are always trying to achieve or earn more more more. There’s no end to it. I hope to expose myself to as many different cultures as possible too. The more we all learn about each other across the globe, the better this world will be I think.

    1. Hi Jay. Thanks very much for the awesome feedback! I’ve been asked that a couple of times and I’m not. I’m not sure I could handle that level of rejection from publishers lol. But it’s definitely something that I’m thinking about now that so many people have asked 🙂

  4. Hi Jackie!
    I have been reading through your blog and have appreciated everything you have posted! I am a student at Loma Linda University studying occupational therapy! Although, I am responding to a blog where you have not discussed MD, I wanted to say that I appreciate your advocacy and agree that the world needs to gain a better understanding of disabilities.
    In regards to this post, I was actually thinking about this the other day. I go into a store now (even Target) and see how much prices have gone up. It’s ridiculous! The more you research about different products, even the high end ones, you can see they are made of the same material! The part that was profound to me was the inner happiness. Things only get us so far before that happiness is gone. It’s up to the individual to sustain happiness through what they define as happiness; more than likely outside of material things. You might find the documentary “Happy” intriguing on Netflix if you have not seen it yet! Thank you for your time!!
    Heather

    1. Hi Heather. I think you’re exactly right. Material things only get us so far but inner happiness can take us anywhere really. Someone else recommended “Happy” to me too but I didn’t know it was on Netflix so thanks for the tip! I’m going to add that to my weekend watching. I’m really glad this post and my blog resonated with you. Have a great week!

  5. So very true! Ahhh, the void. Yes, Haiti was life changing. I hope you enjoy the book. I love stuff like that and documentaries too. Ooh! Have you seen the movie Happy? They interviewed people from all over the world, very thought provoking. Habits, yes! Maybe I should tell Anthropologie to quit emailing me, that might be a start. Baby steps. Do you ever find that when you think about these types of things that they eclipse or change how you see the negative clouds you might be feeling at the time or maybe even in a season of your life? Almost like a reset button? Thanks for responding btw!

    1. You’re actually the third person who’s mentioned Happy this week so I definitely have to check it out! Removing myself from a lot of those email lists really helped too! I would start justifying my purchases because whatever store sent me a coupon or was having free shipping. When I took away the temptation, it definitely helped me not buy as much. I absolutely think these kinds of things are like a reset button! That was a great way of putting it. I don’t know what it is about working towards bettering myself and making a difference but it’s completely like resetting. The shift in focus makes all the difference. Thanks for the comments 🙂

  6. Hi Jackie, I’m so glad you opened up a discussion on this subject because it reminded me of a personal commitment that I made to myself: to live a more simplistic lifestyle. Reflecting on whether I have succeeded in attaining my commitment, I realize that I still have much work to do. There are a few things that are hard for me to let go, like old pictures. And there are a few things that I have purchased and are now collecting in my living room and bedroom (books). Ultimately, what I’ve been successful at is regulating my desire. I’ve become quicker in asking myself “Why do I want that?” “Do I really need it?” “How much happier will it really make me?” “After I get it, will that happiness fade quickly like it always seems to?” As a Buddhist, we are constantly taught to contemplate on our death because it is the inevitable fate that awaits us all, so we train ourselves to prepare psychologically for it right now, regardless of age or status of health. We learn to soften our hearts for all other beings who will also have to part from this life, their loved ones and friends, and their history of experiences. Thank you for fertilizing the seedling of simplicity that I have sown in my mind a year ago. You have strengthened my convictions.

    1. Hi JL. Thank you for contributing to the discussion. After watching “Living on One Dollar” I’ve been doing the same thing. Before every purchase, I ask myself “Do I need this?” It’s such a simple thing but it’s really helped. I’m so glad to hear I’ve helped strengthen your convictions. Your comment has done the same for me.

  7. Hi Jackie !!

    I am an OT student from LLU. Thank you for your post. This one in particular caught my attention because i can relate to it. As a grad student living on a strict budget, i have learned to appreciate the little things that i have. This budget living experience is teaching me that i don’t need anything expensive to be happy. To me, the moments lived are more valuable than an abject that will eventually deteriorate. Keep strong jackie and thanks again for your post!

    Daniel

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