I’m currently reading (and scanning) through the letters my grandfather sent his parents as he went off to college and then enlisted in the military during the Second World War. One thing that strikes me is how little he had. He lost his one pen. He wants his brother to make him a lamp, as store bought ones are expensive. While it certainly sounds as though money was tight, it also points to the vast excess that our lives today.
Do I really need 50 some-odd pairs of shoes? How many pairs of jeans is really necessary? And why, when there is a big event, is my first thought “I have to buy something new?”
We recently shuffled around some rooms in our house. Nothing makes you aware of your excess as much as having to move it. Even though we regularly donate boxes upon boxes to the thrift store, we have more and more that we don’t use. And we shouldn’t pat ourselves on the back for “helping out the less fortunate by donating to charity” without acknowledging our own privilege of buying more than we need, and the simple truth that there is also a decent chance that our stuff may just be picked up by someone comfortably sitting in the middle class to add to their collection of things they probably don’t need either.
I’m wrestling with this idea of excess as we move into the Christmas season. I’m set to go Christmas shopping for the girls this weekend. Socks, a book, pyjamas, a small toy and a big toy from Santa. A gift from each other. A gift from us. The mind boggles at how much these two girls will be getting, especially so close to their birthdays where they were inundated with so much, as well.
I don’t have a plan or solution. It’s easier to crave “the simpler lifestyle” at 1:45 in the morning from a place of relative financial comfort than to actually cull our possessions, restrain our urge to purchase, and limit the generosity of holidays.