I had a recent meltdown that caused me to ask whether Americans [including myself] are spoiled and take for granted all that we have.
Upon arriving at my hotel after an eight-hour drive to Northern Wisconsin, I was shocked, SHOCKED to find I had left my overnight bag at home.
The overnight bag that contained everything I need to make myself presentable each day!
I’m usually very cool, calm and collected, but this was a catastrophe of a high order for me.
But here’s the irony: Within half an hour, I was able to replace all my makeup and hair supplies at the Walmart next to the hotel.
I had the means and opportunity and I was still upset. How’s that for spoiled?
It was a good reality check as to how far I still have to go in my spiritual growth. And I know I’m not alone.
A large portion of the world believes that Americans, as a nation, are spoiled. Is that reputation deserved?
There are countries where people are not likely to have access to the things we take for granted every day: toothpaste and toothbrushes, makeup, curling irons, soap, not to mention food and clothing.
Flora and the Giant Stapler
Years ago I worked in a law firm with Flora, a Russian immigrant who had two Ph.D’s earned in the Soviet Union, but was unable to get work in the U.S. using those degrees.
So she worked in our firm doing the photocopying and ordering supplies. Our office supply/photocopy room was never so well organized as when it was under Flora’s care.
One day she shared with me that one of the secretaries had complained about the location of the giant stapler in the copy room – the complaint was that it’s location “wasn’t convenient.”
Now, keep in mind Flora came from the Soviet Union where she had to beg co-workers for staples and paperclips and stand in line for hours to buy food. So her reaction to the complaint about the giant stapler was:
“I don’t understand what is inconvenient! It’s there, it works, you can use it. What is inconvenient?”
She immediately had me on her side in the giant stapler wars.
Flora also shared with me that on her trips back to Russia to visit family and friends, she was as popular as a stand-up comedian when she told them stories about her co-workers. We apparently would make a great situation comedy in the Soviet Union.
Are you listening, America? BE GRATEFUL for all we have!
Some Startling Statistics
I’m a believer in prosperity consciousness, so I’m not saying we shouldn’t have possessions we have worked for. But perhaps we need to draw the line in a new place so we don’t fall into the wasteful category.
Here are some startling statistics from Baylor University marketing professor James Roberts, author of “Shiny Objects; Why We Spend Money We Don’t Have on Things We Don’t Need.”
- Americans throw away 140 million cell phones each year and discard 2 million plastic bottles every five minutes.
- The self-storage industry is primarily based in the U.S.: of 58,000 storage facilities wordwide in 2009, 48,000 were located in the U.S. So this is stuff we’re not using, but are not willing to get rid of. Interesting.
- The possessions of the average US family of four stuff can fill a cul de sac, while in some countries all household possessions can be held on a table top.
I personally know a number of people who keep their expensive American cars in the driveway because there’s no room in their garages – they’re too full of “stuff.”
TV advertisements try to make us believe we need a bigger house, fancier clothes and sleeker cars to be happy. Don’t fall for it! Who’s in charge of your life? You or a television commercial?
When I go camping, I have everything I need to be comfortable; which invariably leads me to ask myself, “what’s all that stuff back in my house?”
Solutions to help us spend less and appreciate more
- Establish a daily gratitude practice. Appreciating what we have may just well help us to be satisfied.
- Tithe 10% of your income to whatever person or group spiritually uplifts you. What goes around comes around.
- Spend less than you make. You will never regret living by this maxim.
- Instead of buying gifts, give experiences: a home cooked meal, a game night, a day at the beach, a massage, sky diving. Let your imagination run wild.
- When you do buy a gift, be certain it’s something the recipient will want and use, not just something you would want and use.
- Never compare yourself to others. So what if the neighbor has a new car? Yours still gets you where you need to go. Take good care of it and it will serve you for a long time.
- Is impulse shopping your weakness? Shop without your credit card or checkbook. If you see something you want, think about it overnight. If you really need/want it, get it the next day. This one works well for me.
- Are you buying “stuff” to fill an emotional void? Take some time to answer that question. What inexpensive experience might eliminate the void.
- Can’t afford to host a dinner party? Host a pot luck – it’s the social interaction people want, not just a free meal.
- Borrow instead of buy. Take books out of the library instead of buying them to read once. Only going to use a power washer once a year? See if you have a friend who will loan you one.
Give some of these a try and let me know how it goes. Simplifying our lives can lead to great freedom.