Thursday, January 6, 2011

Keeping up with the Joneses

About 5 years ago I was struggling with the world as I knew it.  I felt like I didn’t fit the ‘norm’ – what society (media?) determined I should aspire to and for.  I didn’t want the big screen, high definition, plasma tv.  Heck, we didn’t even own a dvd player at the time and our tv was a cheapo from Kmart!  I certainly didn’t want to go into major debt to buy a fancy new car with shiny wheels just because everyone else in the street had one (just like I wouldn’t jump off a cliff if that was what everyone else was doing!).  And I was quite happy to not wear brand name clothes – give me generic K-mart (K-mare) or Target (Tar-jay) any day.  I also loved the little post-war house we were renovating (and I mean that literally – re-sheeting walls, painting and landscaping ourselves – not paying someone to do all the dirty work) even if it was a long, hard slog.  I didn't want a 4 bedroom, 2 bathroom McMansion with a posh postcode and no backyard.  Keeping up with the Joneses just wasn’t (and still isn’t) for me.  I’d much rather drag them down to my level – certainly much cheaper!.

So I started to rebel against those people in my life who had that mindset – the ‘more, more, more’ mentality.  There wasn’t that many of them – mainly people I worked with – but I took great satisfaction in telling them I didn’t want ['must have' item] after they had professed its wonderful-ness and immediate desire to buy it because it would enrich their lives in soooo many ways (yeah right.  I smell a marketing success story).  In the end I think I was just written off as a little bit eccentric and odd because I didn’t want to play that game.  Whatever.  Suited me just fine.

And then I read a few books that gave name to the changes I had started to make in my way of thinking and the decisions I was making in my day-to-day life.  One book made me think about how the never-ending quest for happiness has seen us get to the point where we now work longer hours than ever before to pay off the increasing debt we accumulate by buying stuff we don’t need to impress people we don’t like – and still we’re not happy.  It certainly rang a bell in my mind and crystallised what I had been thinking but didn’t yet know how to put into words.  The book was Affluenza: when too much is never enough by Clive Hamilton and Richard Denniss and I still read it at least once a year to remind me that I’m not alone in thinking this way.

So those people are no longer in my life and I feel great.  I feel less cluttered and constricted.  I don’t go without and I don’t deprive myself of ‘things’ but I am more aware of why I want something.  If I still want it after a couple of days or weeks, then most times I buy it.  But I’m more immune than ever before to impulse shopping.  And you know what?  I’m happier now with less ‘things’ than I ever was when I had loads of stuff.  And that's what makes it all worthwhile. J

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