The discount department store close to where I live is closing. It’s not so much a sign of economic times as it is a consequence of multi-national acquisitions and blah blah blah, who cares, it’s closing.
This means I have fewer options, and especially fewer cheap options, for groceries and toiletries. But from a myopic perspective it means FULL-STORE CLEARANCE!!! EVERYTHING ON SALE!!! EVEN THE MANNEQUINS! (Seriously, I was tempted to buy a male torso. It would go well with my gay-pirate themed decor.) That’s why today, when only going there to replace my seven year old laundry basket that’s being held together by duct tape, I ended up buying more. It’s the psychology behind sales to begin with. We’re trained to dive into deals whether they’re necessary or not; we “save” money by buying things for cheaper than the price they were when we never considered buying them at all.
We’re all familiar with the ongoing critique of today’s consumer culture, that everything is cheap and affordable because the quality is shoddy and it’s made in factories where environmental and labour laws are lax. I don’t live outside that habit of the developed world, but making this purchase today reminded me of how modestly I consume and acquire.
In TV shows about hoarders or home cleanliness we see people among us who have acquired and held onto so much stuff that it has severely compromised their lifestyle and their health. What I bought today on top of the laundry basket on the list was a bookcase, one that was 20% off and matches the colour of one I already have. I have very full bookcases already – reading and photography (to the old-fashioned extent of printing) are my most material of habits, so my need for shelf space will grow. But as it now stands that newly built shelving unit is near-empty.
I bought a dresser and night stands last month that have some drawers left empty. As part of ongoing reorganization I’m bringing empty boxes to my storage locker in the building’s basement, which empties cabinets and closet space that I don’t yet need to fill. In having helped multiple households move in the past few months I’ve seen what accumulates innocently, in houses that can still be tidied up for appearance’s sake. I see the things other people want to hang onto. I see the process other people go through in going through and getting rid of what they don’t need. That’s a regular process for me, which is the bulk of the difference in how much I have and how much other people have. With clearing out space for the sake of getting rid of things a standard habit, it’s intrinsically rewarding and has nothing to do with having bought more stuff. I’ve shaped myself to be proud of empty space. I’m quite satisfied that my impulsive splurge was on shelves that will remain empty. There were all sorts of things at bargain prices in the liquidation of this store. I chose to get what had the potential to be empty.