Having just read an article on the Guardian website about materialism (click here to view it), I did stop and think a while on the subject matter.
We do live in an increasingly material world, full of ‘stuff’. Granted, some of this ‘stuff’ is seen now as being a basic necessity to support existence, although that said there are still far too many people unable to access such things. At this time of year in particular, we are bombarded with advertising encouraging the acquisition of yet more ‘stuff’ whether for ourselves or to give to others. Many parents up and down the country will be racing to purchase the ‘must have’ item on their darling son or daughter’s wish list, sometimes putting themselves under huge financial pressures in doing so. Others will be more resistant to the wails and tantrums and be guided more by the bank balance, and perhaps the more ‘important’ message that simply being given ‘stuff’ doesn’t make for a better person or create long lasting happiness.
Before I go on, allow me to clarify things. This is my opinion, and you may or may not agree with me. I am also a mother to three young boys, and well aware of the challenges that endless advertising and social peer pressure can place upon them, and in turn me. Over the years, I have been, and at times still am, subject to and taken in by the desire to acquire the latest ‘must have’ item (yes I own an iPhone, a MacBook, a decent sized tv etc), but as I get older, possibly wiser, and my finances come under increasing pressure, I am, slowly but surely, rethinking my position on the whole idea of owning ‘stuff’.
There are reasons for this. The easy one first – I simply can’t afford it. It would be great to update my winter wardrobe, however I don’t actually NEED to, I already have serviceable warm clothes, and suitable items to wear to work. It would be lovely to treat the kids to a few more bits and pieces for Christmas, but realistically, they don’t need anything and they already have plenty of stuff that gets used or played with infrequently as it is.
All that said, there is more to it than just whether or not I can afford to add to the ‘stuff’ in the house. Various reports and studies referenced in George Monbiot‘s article indicate that those who are driven by the need to have ‘stuff’ having lower levels of general well being than those who aren’t. In the last couple of years I’ve learned a great deal about myself and the world around me, and come to realise and understand that there is indeed far more to life than just acquiring ‘stuff’. Whilst short term pleasure and gratification may well be gained from possessions, there is far more to be gained from taking part in activities that ‘nourish’ the mind and soul. An autumn walk with the boys a few weeks ago, searching for conkers and kicking up the leaves was enjoyable, fun and got us all out of the house and appreciating the beauty of the place we live in. Similarly a winter walk across the beach brings benefits to both physical and mental health, and for more personally one of my all time favourite ‘escapes’ is to wander across a windswept beach, watching angry waves topped with white foam crash onto the sand.
I am making a pledge to myself, starting now, into 2014 and beyond, that I will not be taken in by the continual societal pressure to acquire ‘stuff’ to prove my status, achievements or satisfy the demands of my boys. I will endeavour to spend more time doing things that make me and the children happy, improve our wellbeing and make us ‘wealthier’ in ways that will have a positive impact on our lives and those of the people around us. Compassion, understanding, humour and love for ourselves and each other cannot be bought, but can make us far healthier and happier than buying the latest iPad or computer game.