A confession: I am not much of a shopper. I don't enjoy looking for new stuff, first of all, and second, well ... I find it silly. The truth is that I am something akin to those Zero Population Growth people, except I apply the theory to material possessions. Call me a Zero Possession Growth groupie. I just don't get the constant desire to buy something.
Do I own things? Of course I do. I have your standard 1,500 square foot house complete with two water hoses and a barbecue grill and curtains and a kitchen table. None of these items are made from recycled sustainably-harvested materials. I'm not an extremist. But I do know how to make do. If you ever doubt that, come and check out my couch. As my cousin will tell you, I have had the same black-patterned love seat in use since 1993. It was about twenty years old when I inherited it, so ... well, you do the math.
I hate shopping. Hate making big purchases. Hate making little purchases. Hate getting new stuff to fill my already stuffed home.
This works all well and good, except when I actually need, you know ... stuff. Things wear out, are outgrown or need to be supplemented. (The love seat is still in fine shape, though!) And of course, sometimes you just need to get something specific.
That is the season we are currently in. DH and I have been slowly transitioning the previously storage-space atmosphere of our garage into a homier little game room nook. We started the renovation a year and a half ago with the construction of a small school room out there. The vision for the project kept growing, and before we knew it, we were asking ourselves what was more useful for our family: 300 square feet of storage or an area to play board games, and hang out. Thus was born the idea of the game room.
We are nearing the end of the actual construction work, and are moving on to the next phase: the acquisition of furniture for the game room. This is where it gets sticky for me, because while I have no problem saving up to buy insulation or drywall--which seems fairly reasonably priced for the most part--I balk at the price of say, a floor lamp. Do we really need a floor lamp? I find myself asking. And the answer right now is, we do.
Yesterday, we gathered the crew and headed to Ikea, land of the cheap stuff. We've had mixed experiences with Ikea in the past. I have four plastic bins that I store bulk goods in that came from Ikea. They are undoubtedly worth every penny we spent for them. We also have some industrial metal shelving from Ikea that makes me nervous enough to avoid stacking glass canning jars on it, even though it's bolted to the wall. We've learned enough to be leery, but we've also learned that on a very tight budget , you can't beat Ikea for stuff.
Apparently, everyone else also knows that Ikea has mass quantities of cheap stuff, because just about every citizen of voting age in the state was there, pushing their little carts around and piling them high. There was a noticeable absence of children, but I'm not sure if that's because most parents prefer to park their children in the Enforced Containment Center prior to getting their shopping high or because the area I live in is somewhat notorious for its lack of breeding. At any rate, it was me, dh and the three children milling around the Ikea with about a million hipsters. Let the fun begin!
To be fair, I'll let you know in advance that we bought stuff--lots of stuff. We bought a huge shelving unit from the As-Is room, a floor lamp (yes, we need one), two table lamps, a set of curtain panels, a table top and legs, wall shelves and some food storage containers. (Think Tupperware. Now think Ikeaware. Same thing, only cheaper.) We'll be going back when we save up enough money for a sleeper sofa and some huge sisal throw rugs.
The experience, though, was less than satisfying. First off all, every item that went in the cart caused dollar signs to pop off in my head. We paid $12.99 for a set of two table lamps. I know for a fact that I could not have gotten those two lamps for less anywhere else. But that didn't make it any less painful to put them in the cart, know what I mean? All I could think was, $12.99 in Burma buys ....
All around us, folks were diving into their role as consumers with the kind of glee you normally reserve for a wedding, a birth, or your firstborn's first lost tooth. One well-dressed couple in particular--who seemed offended that our children were breathing the same air that they were--seemed consumed with an almost worshipful desire to have, have, have. The items mounted in their cart, and they kept exclaiming how "marvelous" they would be, how "fabulous," how "perfect." Maybe they were just excited to be buying for their very first home together. Who knows?
At the end of the day, I came home with some nice stuff. (None of it actually used before, which is a bit of a novelty for my children.) We'll put together the game room, and we'll enjoy it. We will play our favorite board games out there, and eat our popcorn, and have our family movie nights. Before too awful long, we'll forget what the garage was like before it became something else, and we will take it for granted. And therein lies the rub of stuff, folks. It is, in the end, just more stuff.