I used to love to shop. Anytime my wife and I would travel, we would often build our plans around awesome malls, downtown shopping districts, and local boutiques. An avid music collector, I would scour the phone books for the best independent record shops. Semi-annual trips to Atlanta would usually revolve around the assortment of big-city restaurants and stores on every corner. Often, we would even hit the outlets on the familiar exits of I-75 southbound on our way home.
I think I still have a few $5 books I haven’t read yet.
I also used to love shopping the men’s section of the department stores, a habit developed mostly because the girls would take forever in the shoe aisles. However, my boredom soon turned into serious interest. I learned thread counts, seam stitching, and designer brands, enough to recognize the steals among the sale racks.
Like that classic scene out of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby where he pulls shirts “with stripes and scrolls and plaids” into “a soft rich heap,” my closet looks eerily similar. I’m embarrassed to admit how many dress shirts I own. Some still have price tags dangling from their perfect sleeves.
But not anymore.
My attitude adjustment doesn’t have anything to do with the sour economy, just a general disinterest in all things that involve parking lots, display racks, and check-out lanes. It’s a discontent that’s been simmering for the last few years or so.
Now, if we have to get something from the stores, you’re more likely to see me with earbuds carefully in place, listening to a cool podcast or a classic Miles Davis tune. I might even bring a book and hang out in the café for an hour or so. I draw the line at the benches at the front, though. I figure I still have another few decades before shopping numbs me to the point of mindless staring or—worse yet—public napping.
Recently on a spontaneous trip to Target that left me unprepared, I even caught myself fantasizing about doing yardwork instead. The horror!
Personally, I think we all need to shop less. Most Americans have no savings, an unhealthy level of debt, and excessive clutter in their lives. And that was before the economy compounded the problem with higher prices, stagnant wages, and tightened credit.
Of course, the answer’s really much closer than some Washington-based bailout plan that will only go to large corporations. The average American will get little or no relief from our government anytime soon.
No, the answer is by finding joy within our own homes. Instead of filling your shopping bags this season with stuff that no one will remember next year, do something for the important people in your life. Go somewhere. Make something. Spend time, not money. Then, take what you’ll save and put it in the bank, or give the surplus to someone who needs it more.
Like many of you this year, we’re looking to simplify our Christmas. Instead of new toys, my daughter, Allyson, is more concerned with visiting her cousins who moved out-of-state this past summer and those in Georgia she gets to see only a couple times a year. The grown-ups are forgoing a gift exchange for a gathering. We’re going to spend some quality time at a nearby retreat in place of VISA cards, gag gifts, and restaurant certificates. Who knows? We may even make it an annual tradition.
To me, that seems closer to a genuine Christmas gift, like something that will endure. It’s beginning to sound like a real season’s greetings.
All my best,