You know that creeping feeling of emptiness, the kind that washes over you at around two o’clock in the morning, when you’ve just polished off that last jar of peanut butter? The vacant space that emerges when you’ve decided your current pair of shoes are too worn, or that your latest tank top isn’t quite as “fresh” as this year’s fashionable installment? The guttural calm before the storm that happens when you’ve watched every episode in your “Family Guy” DVD boxed set? Something inside you asks, “What do I do now?” This feeling of emptiness, that burning question in your soul, can be answered in only one way:
I gotta buy more shit.
Now don’t get me wrong. I love the feeling of new shit. I don’t care if it’s from a thrift store, the feeling of a owning something new is close to my heart. It’s as American as apple pie. But that pie is pumped full of artificial flavors, fatty preservatives, and is covered in layers of non-biodegradable wrapping. Materialism and waste are hurting our culture and the world around us, but most importantly, as outlined in the previous features, it’s a headache.
The freedom to own more things, to buy more shit, is compounded by the equally universal American sentiment: getting bored of that shit, and finding the quickest way to store it and keep it out of other people’s hands. In addition to public storage, there are entire professions and industries dedicated to helping other people keep track of what they have and don’t have. Time is a valuable asset, and it seems like every modern gadget is in some way dedicated to helping you save that precious resource. But with every time saving innovation, why do we seem to have less of it at our disposal?
As college students, there is the understood goal to get “the good job,” so as to get a better career, and allow us to buy the important things in life: the fancier DVD collection, the more fashionable ladies undergarments, the fly kicks, and even that really big jar of peanut butter.
But have we lost sight of a great virtue? The joy of simplicity, of not having to worry about managing your things as if they were remote extensions of your body. Perhaps I’ve watched too many disaster movies, but there is something terribly sexy about being able to pick up all of your belongings, grabbing the family, and hopping in a car bound for who-knows-where before the aliens come.
I’m not saying we need to adopt some radical, bare bones style of living, where the only thing we own is the shirt on our back. What I am saying is that we could be a bit more thoughtful the next time we are roaming the aisles at Wal-Mart. Asking yourself, to borrow a question from “Fight Club’s” Tyler Durden: “Is this essential to our survival, in the hunter-gatherer sense of the word?” If the answer is, “No,” then perhaps you could find some better use of your time. Grow your own garden. It’s a lot more productive than playing Farmville, and you probably won’t feel embarrassed to admit you have one. Read that girly romance novel you have hidden under your bed. It’s no Shakespeare, but it might be steamier than watching a re-run of Jersey Shore with your partner. Go fishing for an afternoon. The pain suffered by animals smaller than yourself will make you stronger.
After maximizing your time differentials, reorganizing your filing systems, and reassigning priorities to ensure efficient goal accomplishment, you might want to consider the most efficient organizer of all: the trash can. This is not to say we need to deposit all of our belongings in the nearest landfill. Craigslist is a great place to give stuff to people who need it for little or no cost. Consider a church or local thrift charity, which can unload your things on people who haven’t learned your secret yet.
Balance is the key word to remember here. No one is advocating jettisoning your possessions, because the aliens aren’t coming for at least another 50 years. What needs to be jettisoned is the frame of mind that is more attached to organizing, watching and touching things as if they were people.