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Friday, October 12, 2012

Consumerism breeds discontent

Does money make people happy?

I have never had a disposable income or savings for emergencies. The most money I have ever had at one time was a $3000 tax refund that allowed me to buy new furniture for the first and only time in my life. My clothes are all second hand or from a discount store. I haven't paid full price for a pair of shoes in at least 18 years. I have a washing machine that I found for free on the side of the road, they had thrown it out because the water level knob had broken. I don't have a dryer. I hang dry all of our clothes, sheets, blankets, etc. I paid $12,900 over a 5 year period for my truck and have driven it for almost 17 years. My cowboy boots are 20 this year. If I need something and can't afford it I make it or I do without.

And you know what? I am damn happy and proud of my non consumeristic lifestyle.  Reduce, Reuse, Recycle is not a suggestion to me, it is a mantra, a mission, a belief system.

For a few months we had cable television coming into our apartment at no charge. So I hooked up our old 19 inch black box of a tube tv and took advantage of the luxury of something I have never and will never spend my hard earned money on. I let my son, then 7, watch nickelodeon, disney and cartoon network during his free time after chores and homework. Limited viewing and nothing inappropriate. I watched over a course of this time as my sweet, happy boy became more and more unhappy in general. There were no other changes to his routine or life other than the addition of COMMERCIALS. He watched all the same shows previously for over a year on DVD and online without any affect to his general disposition or behavior. All of a sudden the things in his room weren't good enough, his toys weren't new enough or shiny enough. He started wanting things that he had no real interest in and then was disappointed and angry when he could not have them. I kept all of our routines and daily decisions the same and watched him fall further into discontent bordering on depression. Then I shut off the tv.

Immediate discipline issues ensued. Talking back, arguing, demanding things. Lots of grounding and talks happened. About 3 weeks of withdrawal and then slowly going back to watching only commercial-free shows and movies. Then my sweet boy returned. He started to pull out those old, not shiny toys and remember how fun they were. His room became big enough and good enough again. He started thanking me for what I had already given him instead of asking for new things. His smile started to show up again easily at the beauty of nature and simplicity.

I have no idea how I learned the lessons of non-consumerism, they were just ingrained in me from birth. However, I know how my son is learning it and I am happy to help him find his center.

It has been almost 2 years now and my boy is happier than ever. He has a healthy respect for his belongings, within reason for a 9 year old, and is as adamant about Reduce, Reuse, Recycle as I am. Life is good.

I don't know if money makes anyone happy. I don't know if I would change the way I do things even if I had money. What I do know is that not having it doesn't take away my happiness in any way. Sometimes peace is as easy as remembering the old adage, 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it.' Ah, simplicity.