Letting go is a very popular topic. Just Google those two words and there are untold articles on letting go—of stress, personal baggage, toxic relationships, negative thoughts, bad behavior—and the list goes on.
Often the Buddha is mentioned in these missives. Generally speaking, “letting go” refers to letting go of attachment to all of the above. We do get attached.
But I have come to the conclusion that the hardest attachment of all to let go of is the attachment to stuff, and to buying stuff. This is the time of year when we are encouraged to buy more and more stuff to get attached too. And it seems no amount of meditation and spiritual awareness can offset the heavy bombardment of advertising we are all subjected to.
How do we let go of the habit of buying more stuff for people and ourselves, in a world with too much stuff already?
I admit that each year, I have come to dislike the Christmas (yes, Christmas) season more and more, since the reason for the season—shopping—starts earlier and earlier every year. It started well before Halloween this year.
The urge to buy more stuff for children, spouses, significant others, mothers, fathers, friends, and ourselves, often leaves us emotionally drained, disappointed, feeling inadequate, and often no happier, or genuinely unhappy.
So what compels us to continue our quest to buy and have more stuff? Well, for one thing, Americans now see more advertisements in one year than people 50 or 60 years ago saw in an entire lifetime! We are manipulated into buying more and more things we don’t need.
Then we hold onto them long after they have fulfilled whatever momentary delight or function they had. But holding on to them doesn’t mean we actually use them. In fact, according to some studies, only 5 percent of material purchases are still in use 6 months later.
Making a conscious decision to let go of stuff is leads to a strong desire to buy or acquire less stuff. This is not of course what the manufacturers, retailers, marketers, advertisers, or even our government want. So they will redouble their efforts to seduce us out of our self-proclaimed austerity.
And what about the stuff you buy? What do you know about it? Where did it come from? What about the people involved in its production—how are their lives impacted? What natural resources are used to produce the stuff? What is the environmental impact of producing the things we run out to big box stores to buy?
Every year for at least the last five years I have posted and reposted this wonderful twenty-one minute video called The Story of Stuff on Facebook hoping my FB friends will watch. I start posting it just before Thanksgiving and keep posting it periodically until just before Christmas. If you haven’t seen it, do watch it and if you have, watch again. This little cartoon video should give you the impetus you need to withstand the bombardment of advertising and guilt tripping you are undoubtedly being subjected to right now.
So what to do to avoid running around in a frenzy trying to buy just the right gift, and the anxiety of not being sure what right actually is? Well first this old adage is true, if somewhat trite—it’s the thought that counts. So what is the thought? Is it one centered on your own fear and angst about what to get someone, or the cost of the thing you want to buy them but really can’t afford, or wanting to be praised for the wonderful gift you bought? Be honest.
Or, do you honestly want to give a meaningful gift to someone you genuinely care about? Here are some ideas:
*Cook friends or family members a wonderful gourmet meal.
*Offer to cook a meal once a month for a year.
*Hire a chef for the night to cook a meal for you and your significant other.
*Bake something wonderful –cookies, cakes, pastries, etc.
*Make homemade soap or lotion bars.
*Make something out of recycled materials.
*Tickets to a game for someone who loves a particular team.
*Tickets to a concert for someone who loves a particular artist.
*Offer to babysit once a month so friends or family members can have a date night.
*Plant a tree in the name of someone.
*Buy farm animals through Heifer International to support a family in the third world.
Here are some more suggestions. We don’t need more stuff.
But we do need more time for each other. We do need to offer more of ourselves to our friends and families. And that can’t be bought in a big box store.
Author: Gayle Fleming
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: armydre2008 at Flickr