Wednesday, March 18, 2009


How does one reconcile the desire for material things with the understanding that the accumulation of things is a big part of what’s wrong with our society? I admit, it’s a bourgeois question to even ask. Many people in the world, especially in these brutal economic times, have no option to acquire things in the first place. Their main concern is how to feed themselves and their children today, tomorrow, next week. But if I go too far down that road, I end up nowhere except with a strong urge to put my head in the oven, and I have my own child to think about.

I read something once about only having in your home those things which you find really useful or really beautiful. I am both a designer and a modernist, and the idea appeals to me immensely. Today, while cruising the internet, I found this site and this site and they just made me sick with desire. I clicked through image after image on Flickr, wondering how I could not only acquire all those things but, more importantly, how to be the person who had such a sense of style and order to have collected them in the first place.

I promptly followed a link to one of the shops mentioned and ordered $50 worth of things I certainly don’t need, but which are pretty, and whimsical, and fun. Things that will make me happy to look at. But, in reality, I do think it’s part of the sickness of this culture. To always need to fill the empty spaces with stuff; be it food, or drugs, or “things”.

I fall victim to those desires, like most of us. But I also veer the other way. Constantly purging my home of things because the clutter overwhelms me, much like the way I can’t wear prints — there’s just too much visual noise. When I was a child I would lie on my bed with my head hanging off looking up at the ceiling. The only object in my reverse-room was a light fixture, growing out of the center of the floor. I loved the spareness of it.

I guess like everything it’s about finding balance — what the Buddhists call “The Middle Way”. One thing I am trying to do more of (previously mentioned impulse buy notwithstanding) is to buy more from local shops and artists. It supports the economy, puts money directly into the hands of the people who did the work, and cuts back on the environmental impact of shipping across the county or farther (man, talk about hypocritical — now I really feel crappy about my $50 splurge!).

So, now what? I guess I can consider this a lesson I’ve taught myself through you, my lovely readers. Desire isn’t the enemy here, but perhaps a little less impulsiveness would be beneficial. Will my home look like those featured in the other sites? Not likely. But maybe I can take a little more time to enjoy the things I do have, and to enjoy the feeling of supporting other local artists and designers (and farmers, merchants, etc.…while we’re at it) when I do acquire something new.

What about you? What do you do?

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