Zen habits, part two

I’ve been pondering my consumerism lately.  The desire for new things seems constant.  Even after deciding that I don’t want to buy anything more, I purchased a camera backpack and a tripod.  I love them! Maybe I could just purchase fewer things and treasure them? I was just looking around our playroom… our daughter does not even realize her fortune in being surrounded by so many books, manipulative learning toys, blocks, dress up clothes, and art supplies.  I’m sure there are many kids who would be speechless at all that she has.  And yet, this is only about half of her toys because the rest is in storage right now. 

On his blog Zen Habits, Leo Babauta writes, “We spend our childhoods — precious years that are far too fleeting — in schools geared to give us the best chance at getting a job. We then graduate and are highly pressured to go to college (getting into large debt in the process) so we can have the best chance at getting a good paying job. Then we claw at each other for the coveted but limited good paying jobs, and the winners are rewarded with big homes and SUVs and nice clothes (and lots of debt to go with all that). The losers are stuck in menial jobs they hate, envious of others they see on TV with luxury lives, eating cheap fast food and consigned to shopping at bargain outlets.

“Either way, we find our path as consumers. And everything is solved by consumption — when we’re stressed, we shop. When we want to be entertained, we buy the entertainment. We buy our food in packages, we fix our failing health by buying exercise clothes and equipment. We fix our debt by buying personal finance books and taking out a second mortgage.” (Read the entire article here.)

My husband and I are fortunate in that we have zero debt (besides mortgage and cars) and are saving a good percentage of our income.  We know enough to plan for the unexpected and for our future while enjoying the now.  And yet, while house hunting, it’s difficult to get out of the consumerist mindset.  We could buy a simple home and be content, but practically speaking, we want/need more. 

We also deny our daughter instant purchases some of the time.  If she sees something and asks to “buy this,” we’d like her eventually to understand these lessons.  I know she is picking up every little thing I say and do.  (I just saw her walking around with her head sideways.  Looking closer, I saw her pretend phone snuggled between her shoulder and her ear.  Do I do that???) So my rationale is that she’ll most likely mimic our lifestyle.  If we buy everything we want, she’ll grow to do the same.  If we show restraint, talk with her about how we like to keep our things nice and value them, she’ll do the same.  It’s a good lesson for her, but more so for us.  Just as my husband has dramatically cut down on his soda drinking and his curse words since he realized he’s being watched, hopefully we’ll be more watchful consumers too.

(That said, I did just buy her a stuffed kitty she desperately wanted, a book about being a flower girl in a wedding, and some stickers.  Oh well.  She’s just so cute and sweet, it’s hard to say no!)

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6 thoughts on “Zen habits, part two

  1. When Hannah gets older teach her to save to buy toys that she wants. Addi keeps a list of things she wants. Sometimes I tell her we can’t buy that toy because we’re saving money for something else (vacation, a dinner out, a movie). At first I felt weird telling her that we couldn’t afford something (even if we could) but as she gets older she understands waiting and working for things. Of course when she was 2 I bought her everything she wanted 🙂

  2. I heard recently on an organizing-type TV show that just as we would not leave out a full box of candy for our children to pick and choose to eat all day as they wish, so too should we not leave out all their toys for their choosing. The organizer suggested that toys should be in bins that are brought out one at a time (the whole bin) for the child’s playtime. When another bin is needed, the first one is refilled and put away. It’s amazing how a bin of toys the child has not seen in a few days can provide fun experiences, and new toys are not needed nearly so often. That said, I plan to continue to buy my granddaughter (almost) any toy she wants……..:)

  3. I have always used mindfulness to become part of the moment of doing something and fully engaging. For instance, when drinking tea or coffee, fully become aware of all aspects of the preparation, pouring, and drinking without thinking of something else. Just be present, its a great exercise and then return to the breath when needed.

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