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I have thought long and hard about priorities. I used to think that a large, spacious house with a large, spacious garage and a large, spacious yard were my American dream. I used to think that having a lot of “stuff” like large TV’s, all the latest kitchen gadgets, new computers, new cars, new furniture, and anything else proclaimed as “the best” was what being modern and happy was all about. I bought into all those TV commercials that are constantly foisting cheap, foreign-made, new and necessary items. A machine that can chop an onion in one swift motion? Awesome! A new pre-packaged pancake mix that makes fluffier pancakes? Hell yeah! A chemical spray that takes all the work out of scrubbing the shower? Give it to me!

I still fall for consumerism every now and then. I still go the way of convenience every now and then. But I have started to become more conscious of what I put money into. As a result, we are leading a more spartan lifestyle now. I used to try decorating, matching the curtains to the furniture, buying fancy knick-knacks that looked nice when placed on shelves. But now I don’t stress too much about that. We’ve not purchased any new furniture in the past 3 years. I haven’t bought curtains, paintings, cutesy knick-knacks, or all the latest technology. Our house is I-Pod free. We have paid off one vehicle, and are working on paying off the other that we bought used a couple years ago.

In short, we have slowly begun the transformation from eager and willing consumers to experienced users of the used. I don’t mind shopping for clothes at Goodwill or a consignment store. I don’t mind waiting for a good sale to buy something that I can afford now but don’t necessarily need now. I still impulse buy on occasion, but not nearly as badly as I used to. And my impulse buys tend to be on the smart side now anyway. This past week: grapefruit. I don’t think impulse buying a healthy snack is too terrible considering I used to buy things like expensive scented candles, kitchen gadgets, movies, and junk food like cookies.

I’m in the middle of my consumer journey now, I believe. I still have a long way to go, though. I’d like to someday not have to depend on the grocery store for things like milk, eggs, cheese, bread, meat, fresh fruits, vegetables, and the like. I’d like to someday learn to fix things like fences, gates, holes in the driveway, loose shingles, broken screens, punched-through drywall, hostile toasters, broken furniture, and small issues with our vehicles. I’d like to someday learn how to make things like furniture, tools, utensils, dinnerware, smoked meats, chutneys, relishes, bee hives, cisterns, windmills, and fences. I’d like to be knowledgable enough to be able to scavenge things from junk yards, forests, and my own backyard.

I guess this is all part of creating and establishing the self-sufficient mindset. I realize it may be easier to just depend on the grocery store, depend on the city water and gas, depend on the work of skilled labor, and depend on the government. But easy isn’t always right. Breaking the ties that bond me and my family to the consumer lifestyle¬†is a tough job, but one that I think needs doing for us to be happy and healthy. We are taking baby steps. Slowly but surely we will unentangle ourselves from this business of keeping up with the Jones’.

I often find myself wondering what would so-and-so do if they were in my situation, but that’s not helping me to change. I am already so radically different from the people around me, that if I start comparing myself to them I often end up losing sight of what I want to become. I see a lot of bible-thumpers talking about WWJD (What would jesus do), and I’m just dumbstruck with awe and fright. Even if that person did exist, it was two millenia ago in a different part of the world where people had a completely different society and totally different way of life. In my opinion, that is expecting way too little of one’s self. So, stealing the idea of “what would [blank] do” I have decided to think up a superbly optimistic version of myself in the future. In the future, I am very knowledgable, self-sufficient, hard-working, dedicated, and full of hope. It’s not too far off from what I am now, anyway. I now find myself asking… well… myself what I would do as the future me.

As I go back and read this, it kind of looks like I’m turning into a crazy person. I swear I don’t talk to myself (when other people can hear me). I’m just trying to become the best person I can be, and in order to do that I’ve had to actually create that image in my mind. I’m trying to base my choices now on what will help me acheive my goal me in the future. Maybe it’s not as new and exciting to other people, but I’m sick of living my life by the standards chosen by other people. I am sick of comparing myself to those around me, when I am obviously an anomaly in the population. I am sick of listening to and seeing advertising for products that will only serve to make me more like all of the other consumerist clones in the country.

I no longer feel the need to “fit in” or do what is popular. I’m becoming less dependent on pop culture and media, more dependent on my own ideas. For me the question is no longer “what would they do,” but “what would I do?”

What would you do?

November 2009

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