excessively concerned with physical comforts or the acquisition of material things rather than spiritual, intellectual, moral, or cultural values.
A social and economic order and ideology that encourages the acquisition of goods and services in ever-greater amounts.”
There is something about shopping that can render it a most exhilarating experience. Maybe it’s the sense of achievement; perhaps of status? Walking away from a shopping centre with bags galore, you can’t help but feel somewhat elevated in mood, albeit a bit knackered of feet.
I own these things.
I earned these things.
These things have made me happy.
Or have they?
This elevation is only limited to time and mood. In the blink of an eye they both pass, and what you are left with is a mound of meaningless possessions and a depleted bank account. What does this consumerism really mean?
During my twenties I was in credit debt to the tune of around £33k at its peak. Ms Romford, my partner at the time, and I, were in over our heads and when I finally understood the trap we had fallen into and began working hard to control and repay our debts, she would still spend. It was the most depressing experience I have ever had; declaring all of our income and expenditure to a debt recovery agency, bi-annually; writing to creditors asking for them to accept token payments; receiving threats of bailiff action, of bankruptcy, of eviction. I think I have blocked out most of it as it was all such a long time ago; but when I do tap into those bad memories and negative emotions, I realise how incredibly grateful I am to have had the vocational opportunities over the last eight years, that have seen me become debt free.
We were reliant on my family and some friends to help us out on a constant basis. It was truly soul destroying. However, as with all things, there are positives in the negatives. Once our relationship ended I worked hard over the following five years, I took risks. I have sacrificed a lot in life, but the relief I felt when I made that final repayment, nearly four years ago…..there was no greater weight lifted from my shoulders, and those risks and sacrifices, as tough as they were, became totally worth it. I savoured the moment. I had cancelled the standing order so that I would be able to manually send the money. When the time came I logged into my online banking, set up the transfer, and hovered over the ‘make payment’ button for what felt like an eternity. It was like a rebirth. All those years of struggle, borrowing/repaying, borrowing/not repaying, were over. I had reached the light at the end of a tunnel that I thought never existed. Taking it all in, I sent the money. It was done. I owed nothing to anyone.
To this day I have never needed to borrow or partake in credit of any description, not even so much as an overdraft; I am not interested. I work hard to support myself, I never wish to be kept by anyone. I earn enough to save, shop, travel around the U.K. visiting friends/family. I have no need to saddle myself with the burden of credit again and neither will I. But shopping I love, even food shopping. I remember my first experience, in my early thirties, of going to a supermarket and not having to use my mobile’s calculator to add up my purchases so that I didn’t exceed my meagre budget. It felt incredible.
Most likely, my spending over the last few years is a direct rebellion against a decade of debilitating, life controlling debt. (Though, I completely appreciate that I, stupidly and naively, put myself in that position in the first place.) I have been making up for lost time. I am far more reserved with spending and able to save these days, (I have Ms Manchester to thank for that. She really did teach me the fine art of saving.) Yet I have been on two, or three, shopping sprees lately that have bordered on obsessive. (Though you should see what I’ve got, it’s all lush!!!) The reasons are, I’m afraid, far less jovial and quite sad to be truthful.
I fervently rebuke the notion that I am materialistic, I certainly don’t feel like I am, yet to anyone else, the accusation of such would seem justifiable. I live for the hope of love, knowledge, wisdom, emotional and spiritual release, not mere possessions. In reality, I need nothing. I like nice things, I enjoy giving myself a good lifestyle, I have truly earned the right to it, but the shopping simply attempts to fill a deeper void. It’s a comfort. A safety net. A blankee for a frivolous adult’s inner child. It’s what I can rely on to cheer me up, even if just for a moment, when I need it.
When I began writing this, I was travelling home from my recent familial visit, laden with stuff I had bought over the weekend, aware that it’ll probably just end up in my hope chest (which was another impulse buy whilst in Bristol in August.). So what does this consumerism mean to me? Absolutely sod all, of course. I am like a cleptomaniac, seduced by the sparkling wonderments in shop windows and with enough disposable income to bring them home. For the girl who’s life is filled with people, but with no-one actually at arms length, I seem to be making good use of my blankee.
My temporary home is quite symbolically poignant of having a life overflowing with unimportance. As I look around me, my eyes are drawn to a million different things adorning shelves, bookcases, a desk, a bedside cabinet, the bed, the chair; if it has a surface (including the floor) it has something on it; things I have accumulated over the years. Yet, none of it is essential to my life. All of it could go and it wouldn’t make a difference. The things that are important; my friendships, relationships, socialising, interacting; these are not present during each working week. (Apart from with my fabulous colleagues, whom I love dearly.) Possessions have replaced love. I have attempted to use shopping to fill a void. Just as I believe not every person you meet is meant to be a part of your life, so not everything you want is meant to be owned.
Although my eyes brighten as I look at the things around me, there is little, or no, emotion attached. I see them now, for what they are, and actually, they’re beginning to look ugly. My eyes have cheated my heart into believing love resides in these character reflective items; these extensions of me. Now I just feel cluttered, invaded by the high street. It’s time to bootsale my indulgences and the proceeds can go to charity. A good de-cluttering is in order and then a search for something real to love can begin.