Friday, May 2, 2014

When Too Much Feels Like Not Enough

Let me set the scene: it's your child's fifth birthday. Streamers hang from the ceilings, balloons abound, and the smell of a (unicorn or Star Wars) cake fills the air.
Kids start to arrive. Each with a pretty wrapped box or gift bag.

“Where should I put this?” Little Sarah asks. “Right over there honey.” You reply as you point Sarah in the direction of a pile of gifts the size of a Toyota Camry.

After the fun and games little Bobby sits down to open his gifts. It takes almost an hour.

By the time the guests leave Bobby is half way into his sugar coma, and gifts are everywhere (if you haven't hosted a birthday party recently, just replace the word birthday with Christmas). 

Then, a month later, this happens:
“I'm bored.” Or, better yet, “Can we go to the store and get <insert toy item here>?” As you sigh in polite disgust over the excess.  “Go play with one of your toys from your birthday” you suggest. Crickets.

Not quite a year later as you are going through Bobby's toys for a garage sale you see many things that he's never played with, or many things that were played with only once or twice. The toys are overwhelming the room and he seems relieved as he graciously gives them up to the garage sale (with the money he can buy new exciting toys that he will never tire of, cough cough).

Now let’s look at you and I and our version of toys: clothes, or make-up or whatever it is that gives you that little post shopping buzz. But for the sake of discussion, we’ll focus on clothes. My guess is that most of us have a minimum of 20 shirts. Some, but not all, necessary.

We have an “I’m bored, there’s nothing to play with” equivalent. It’s called: I have nothing to wear.

At what point does too much stuff make us feel like we don't have enough? Are we attracted to the acquisition? The little high we get when we make a purchase or receive a toy. Or maybe it's something else. Maybe we can't even tell what we have when we have too many options. What do I choose to wear or play with when I have pretty much everything? It’s so easy to be overwhelmed when we have so much stuff we can’t even see what we have.

Now this is not a criticism of birthday parties or shopping, but rather an examination of the byproducts of Western affluence.  Sometimes it’s important to look at it and question, what really makes me happy? How much is enough? And when does too much make it seem like “not enough?”

And this is part of why I’ve chosen to take steps to simplify. Not out of moral superiority or jumping on a bandwagon, but like many of you, I have found that when I have less to choose from, I see things more clearly. I am less likely overwhelmed with choice (Which has become somewhat of a modern day illness in my opinion). I'm calmer. I'm happier. I'm less cranky. And that's "enough" of a reason.