How much is too much?
This week, I decided to organize my scarf collection. As I looked down the rainbow of silk stretching across the living room floor, I couldn’t help think about some of the discussion we had last week when I wrote about 100 things for your wardrobe.
In the comments, many of you said that 100 items seemed excessive. Looking at my closet, and particularly my collection of scarves, I have to admit I felt a bit ashamed.
You see, I agree with those of you that believe in simplicity. The fact is, most of us reading this live in a highly consumerist society. We’re inundated with constant messages to buy, which I personally believe are unhealthy both for ourselves and for the planet we live on. To a large degree, they distract us from more important values, like family, community, education, creative life, and giving.
Shopping is fun, but it’s like a drug. It promises happiness, but can never deliver on that promise. At most, it’s a short, fleeting pleasure.
I’d like to say that recognizing these simple facts makes me immune to the siren song of accumulation. The fact is, I like pretty things.
Take my scarves, for instance. When some of you said you don’t own 100 items of clothing, I felt like blushing because I probably own 20 or 30 scarves alone. I like them because they’re colorful and cheery. I wear them with almost anything. They keep me warm in the rather chilly climate I live in. They remind me of my grandmother. Vintage ones are easy to find and very inexpensive (I usually pay a few dollars). They’re just so easy to collect! They seem like the definition of harmless fun.
But do I need all these scarves? Or all my vintage costume jewelry? Or all the shoes I own? I think the problem isn’t so much that these cost a lot in money or time or energy, because they don’t. It’s more the mindset of accumulation, of feeling that having more is better.
The fact is, despite the fact that I know that this is all just “stuff,” I’m attached to it. I have to force myself to clean out my closets, and it’s very hard for me to part with things. Sometimes I wonder if we humans don’t suffer from some primitive hoarding instinct that, in our modern society, has been misplaced onto things like gadgets, clothes, makeup. How else to explain the fact that I resist throwing out a single scarf, even if I never wear it and it’s completely threadbare?
In theory, it seems the key is moderation. Enjoy your things, but don’t let them rule your life. Allow yourself some extravagances, but don’t spend all your energy thinking about them. Have fun, but be willing to let go.
But this is easier said than done. How do you know when you’ve crossed the line? How much is too much?
By the way, I am particularly fond of vintage souvenir scarves, like this one. I can’t pass them up if they’re pretty.