Saturday, March 23, 2013

It's Not the Money, It's the Stuff

I find material abundance emotionally reassuring, and I have since I was a child. I hesitate to say I was poor, in that I had access to three meals a day and a small home that was comfortable enough, but compared to many of my peers I was at something of a disadvantage. Now, in my 50s, I am trying to develop a healthy relationship with money and stuff in the same way that I am trying to develop a healthy relationship with food.

I remember being wheeled in a shopping cart by my Aunt Leona, who took care of me during the week when my mom was working. Her kids were big cereal eaters, and although I was not, I loved the rows of colorful, waxy boxes in the cereal aisle; they made me feel happy and calm.

Later, in my 20s, I machine-printed  sale and information signs in a JCPenney store. My work room was right next to the stock room, and seeing the shelves piled high with merchandise for sale gave me the same feeling of happiness and peace.

In between those two times, though , in high school, I was at a friend’s house. I happened to see her ENTIRE drawer full of adorable, neatly folded pajama sets. It filled me with admiration and envy. I had nightwear, of course. My mom would make nice flannel nightgowns for me, and I would freely steal nightgowns from my mom and sister. I remember being too hot one night and getting a pair of scissors and lopping the arms off of the gown I was wearing. What my friend, had, though, was a wardrobe of sleepwear. I thought she must have felt like a princess.

Now I have everything I need, and a good deal of what I want. I don’t think I’m going to be featured on an episode of a hoarding show any time soon, but it does get a bit messy. I find keeping my things clean and orderly time-consuming and somewhat oppressive. I also think more and more about the social and political implications of my stuff. Who made it and other what conditions? Where does it go when I’m done with it and what is the impact on the environment? On the other hand, if people don’t buy stuff, how does everyone stay employed?

In addition, I'm thinking about how I want to live in my retirement years. Clearly, I can't hold on to all these things and live  how I think I want to live

What I hope to do in this blog is to explore my own relationship with money and stuff in a personal, sociocultural, political and economic context. I hope you will join me in that conversation.

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