Changing Focus from Stuff to Substance

Changing Focus from Stuff to Substance:
For the next week (or two), we’ll be sharing “audition” pieces from folks interested in being new staff writers at Get Rich Slowly. Your job is to let us know what you think of each of these writers. Pay attention, give feedback, and after a couple of weeks we’ll ask which writers you prefer. This article is from Ashley Kipp.
Sometimes it seems like the U.S. can be described by just one word: SUPERSIZED.
It’s true. Just about everything about our country and our culture reeks of size: the Big Gulp, the Super Size meals, the 24oz. steaks and ½ lb. hamburgers served at restaurants. And don’t forget the 5-gallon tub of catsup and mayonnaise, along with the 50 pack of toilet paper that we’re all guilty of purchasing during our monthly trek to Costco.
Do most of us really need all of that? Perhaps if you’re buying to supply tacos for the church picnic you may need 10 pounds of cheddar cheese and 250 tortillas, but the majority of us who fill the cart to the brim are truly only piling the products into the cart “because”.
Because we suffer from stuffitis. We already have too much Stuff, but we want more.
I’m definitely guilty of stuffitis. I can’t recall how many times I’ve walked into a Target store just to browse, only to walk out with another white t-shirt. I already have four white t-shirts from Target that I don’t wear, but I see it there, and I want it and I can buy it!
Or, wow, that revolving lampstand with a fluorescent green lampshade is on sale. I don’t need it, but it’s on sale, so certainly this is a deal I can’t pass up. I just have to have it! Of course, I’m exaggerating a bit. I’ve really never made such a hideous purchase, but you get the point. Most of America, myself included, suffers from stuffitis.
A Life Change
My husband and I recently made a life changing decision together. When I say life changing, I mean it both literally and figuratively. We took a gigantic leap of faith.
After a lifetime of living in Colorado, we put our house on the market during one of the worst housing crises to date, sold 80% of our Stuff (including one car), packed the back of the remaining car with as much as it could possibly hold, and drove across the country to begin to plant new roots in the Pacific Northwest.
Most of those around us thought we were (and still are) completely crazy. Granted, one of us had a job secured already, but the change for us was akin to jumping off the edge of a cliff and trusting that everything was going to be okay financially, practically, and in every other way.
I have to be honest: The change and transition has been rocky. It took over six months for the house to sell — at $75,000 less than the original asking price — and a compromise of living in a space roughly 1/6th the size of our comfort zone. Having to pay a mortgage back in Colorado, in addition to rent in our new city, without the two incomes we’d always enjoyed, really and truly forced a change not only physically, but mentally as well. We had no choice but to give up our symptoms of stuffitis.
No more trips to Costco or Target. There simply wasn’t the money nor the space for the impulse buys. Sharing a teeny tiny closet in a 500-square-foot apartment, with a kitchen large enough to hold just one bowl each, one cup, and a fork, knife, and spoon for each of us has taught us a lot. The experience has taught us that we absolutely love it!
Loving Life
Purging the Stuff and having no choice but to abstain from new purchases is amazingly freeing. Who needs a couch and two chairs or a closet the size of a small house? Not us. In fact, instead of wasting our time feeding our old habit of acquiring Stuff, we’ve discovered that we’re actually capable of filling our time with activities of substance.
  • We walk to the library, or the nearby park.
  • Browsing the Farmer’s Market on the weekend, listening to local musicians and watching local artists at their craft has become one of our favorite activities.
  • Together, we’ve created a habit of strolling the neighborhood each evening, with or without any agenda or purpose.
We’re out and about more, walking more vs. driving to strip malls for more Stuff and we couldn’t be happier.
And it’s all worked out just fine financially, physically, and in every other way. No more Stuff equals a lot more money (or just enough, in our case). We’ve survived! In fact, we’ve become so thrilled with a lifestyle of substance — now that our home in Colorado has finally sold — we’ve decided to purchase a tiny little place here.
We’ve abandoned the ailment and lifestyle of Stuff. We’re now committed to enjoying life, enjoying each other, and enjoying the substance of our surroundings.

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