The next best thing


Imagine a day where most of it... 

Is spent mindlessly shopping and it may look something like this. Upon waking the first thing you reach for is a virtual store within your phone. Forget your partner or children laying beside you in sleepy slumber - there is no time to stare at them lovingly and wistfully as you've got things to buy. Things that will surely make you happier than you are now, just as soon as they are delivered to your door. You know that in reality you would be hard pressed to feel happier than you do right now - sat here beside your loved ones, but the want for such things and the added happiness they may bring, shouts a little louder into your ear, until you inadvertently listen.

You feed yourself and the children breakfast and dress hurriedly. There is no time for chubby fingers to fumble putting on their own shoes, or to slowly painstakingly do up the big shiny black buttons on their duffle coats. You do it all for them, even though you have been teaching them patiently for weeks to do it for themselves. You make promises of treats and one for yourself too because the local supermarket now holds clothes and toys, its 25% off day so you must be quick, you don't want to miss out on the goods. You walk there as fast as you can and marvel at how only a few short years ago, this shop wasn't even nearby. You spend so much of your time and money there (you only need to look at your bank statements to see how much, which is obviously why you don't look) that it's unthinkable to imagine it not always being a part of your weekly routine.

You forget much of the food you've come in for because you get sidetracked and soon enough your arms are laden down with bags full of goodies, goodies that aren't anything remotely to do with food. You blame baby brain or tiredness, and they could certainly be playing their part but more than likely, consumerism is the reason for forgoing half of your shopping list.

You get to mid afternoon and scroll social media, images are thrown at you thick and fast from every direction. You must have this, this, Oh and don't forget this. You are worried that you will forget these things and so you buy them, quickly, then and there from the device in your hand, with determination and sweaty palms. You feel slight guilt as the orders complete but you push it away with a bigger desire to have what others have - to feel a part of the crowd. You too will snap these items on social media once they arrive and maybe someone else will longingly covert the life that you have, just as you have done with them.

And as the evening falls with pink and purple watercolours painting the sky you feel content. Really content. At least you thought you did, until your pocket beeps again, jolting you out of the now. It informs you of an email from a favourite store, telling you how special and valued you are as a customer. They are giving you access to the pre-sale, how kind! Of course you feel flattered, maybe even obligated and so once again you rush the children to bed, only reading two stories this evening instead of your usual three. After all you don't want to miss out on a bargain and you are not silly enough to think that you are their only special customer. There will be hundreds of you jostling buttons on your phones for their half price wares.

Remember that popular fleece jumper that you left a little too late and it was gone? You know the one that you lusted after for ages ,willing it to go on sale as it was way out of your price range. You imagined the dreamy blue material matching your daughters eyes and thought how cute it would look. No? what do you mean no, it was all you thought about for months! You can't seem to recall it. I guess there’s been so many things like that, nethertheless you are sure it was very important, which is why you aren't making that mistake again.

You look up bleary eyed from the bright screen a little later on, how much time has passed? the children are now asleep, breathing steadily beside you and you realise that dusk has turned to night. The sky now thick with darkness, holding the look of regret - how did that even happen? You missed the beautiful painted sky. You feel a pang of sadness because you really wanted to lay and watch the colours merging, it felt so peaceful there. However you didn't miss out on the perfect side light and that was really important too. After all there will be other skies but there won't be other sidelights, will there? I think we all know the answer to that one.

This may all seem a little extreme, you may be thinking who is this shopaholic mother rushing her family from place to place, missing out on life, just to buy all of the things. Yet I think to some extent, many of us can admit to being there and can see a little of that woman inside of us too. I certainly could, I was stuck like her for a long time, much longer than I ever realised because thats just what people do - we shop. And it’s never been easier to buy from the comfort of our own home, so comfortable in fact that it can feel like we aren’t even spending at all.

We shop to celebrate and we shop to commiserate, we shop socially and we shop individually, we shop out of necessity and we shop for fun. We shop to stop our feelings and we shop to feel. It's no wonder then, that buying is so ingrained into our every day lives. We've been sold the lie that shopping is always the answer, and we mostly believe that it is, until maybe we realise that it's not.

I use to shop daily and often, when doing every day tasks I'm embarrassed to say shopping would be somewhere on my mind. It wasn’t always at the forefront of course but it was there. I was always waiting for the next endorphin hit that buying something new would bring. It would, of course, inevitably be followed by a crash when that new thing didn't bring me the lasting happiness it had promised. So I would shop again and the cycle would stay the same, until someone wanted out and one day that someone was me.

I never realised, until I really looked around my house, how much of my life had been spent shopping. How many hours had been wasted searching for things, buying things on a whim, because it was on sale or sometimes, even worse - I didn't recall buying it at all. Years worth of bad decisions had been taking up my time and my life and I hadn't even noticed. There were plenty of storage solutions to hide the hoards. There was always a cupboard or a cleverly designed sideboard to hide the truth, from others and even from myself. I was out of control yet society invited me to buy more, to stay on trend, to do as others do. To spend frivolously instead of sensibly, to line anyones pockets other than my own.

I use to have two major weak spending habits - my children and my home. I got into a habit early on in my motherhood of spoiling my children with things. It was one of our love languages, or so I thought. It went on for much longer than it should have done and it was ongoing. I dread to think how much money I spent on things that my children didn’t really need. All that they really needed, was me. That’s not to say that my children don’t still love stuff because they do, but what they really love is the extra time that I can give them, now that I have less things to look after.

The home buys were purely for myself, to keep my mind busy and to make me feel like I was good at something. I was always told when people came into my home that I had a knack for finding vintage and charity shop gems, I clung onto that statement for way too long and I didn’t know it at the time but I was so much more than the items in my home, yet I couldn’t separate the two. I spent so much time scouring markets and second hand shops, bringing home more and more items than our home would allow. The problem here was that I couldn’t just appreciate something and leave it, I had to buy it, display it and more often than not, store it when something bigger and better caught my eye. 

And there dear reader was my problem, there was always something bigger and better just around the corner. I was always searching for the next best thing - only I couldn't let the other stuff go and so I was trapped. In my own house, by the things that I had brought and by all of the things that I was yet to buy.

Thankfully, what I started to realise as I simplified all of all my stuff, was this...

Those people, conversations and bedtime stories that I rushed, just to have more minutes to shop. And those magical skies that I missed because I was too busy buying something, they are not just the next best things. They are the very best of things. that were right in front of me all along and Ironically they are not things at all.