Friday, February 10, 2017

Should I buy this thing?

Ever since I really committed to minimalism about a year and a half ago, I've been trying to figure out how to cope with the constant pressure to buy more. I do my best to stay away from the Youtube ads, the radio spots, and the billboards and signs all around me, but I am not immune. There are times when I impulsively think, "Yeah, I should really buy that new pair of jeans or fancy-smelling soap or book from the library that I started reading but didn't finish before I had to return it."

I'm getting better at figuring out when that voice is a reasonable one because I legitimately do need something and when the voice is tempting me to purchase something I'll later regret. But it's a battle. Constantly.

Of course this isn't a minimalists-only dilemma. I think it's something we're all familiar with to some degree. Most people I know don't make enough money to buy everything on their want lists and some people I know can't even afford everything on their need lists. But being a minimalist does mean that I tend to argue longer with that voice that says "you should just buy it."

Me: Hey, I just ran out of this thing. We should probably buy some more.
Also Me: Hm. Is it food?
M: Yes.
AM: Is it in your budget?
M: Uh . . . maybe?
AM: Whatever, let's just buy it. 
M: Really?
AM: Shrug. It'll be gone soon anyway.

(Now you know why my food budget is always the first financial casualty of the budgeting month.)

M: Hey. Now I ran out of this other thing. We should probably buy more.
AM: Is this thing food?
M: No. This is a non-food thing.
AM: Oh. Bummer. Are you sure we need it?
M: Well . . .
AM: Is it toilet paper?
M: Yeah. 
AM: . . . Are we out of Kleenex too?
M: . . . I'll check.

M: Hey, so we're out of this other thing.
AM: Is it food?
M: No. It's not food.
AM: And you're sure we need it?
M: Pretty sure.
AM: Have you tried living without it for a week?
M: . . . 
AM: And how did that week go?
M: Um. Fine? I guess?
AM: Great! Call me back in like six months if you still think we need the thing.

M: So about this thing that we're out of . . . ?
AM: Right. If it's not in the budget, I think you're just going to have to find it for free somewhere. Or can you make it yourself or something? I really don't want to buy the thing.
M: I know you don't, but it would be so much easier! And that would make me happy.
AM: Happier than a vacation? Happier than getting out of debt? Happier than paying off your tiny house?
M: You're right. We don't need the thing.

M: I think we might need to buy a thing.
AM: What now?
M: You know your favorite book? Well, I dropped it in a mud puddle and I had to throw it out. It was a mess.
AM: What?!!???!? We can't live without that! Quick! Grab the debit card! Find the Amazon page!! Buy the thing!!!!
M: Great! And while we're here on Amazon can I show you this other thing?
AM: Wait, did you murder one of my books just to get me on Amazon so you could try to trick me into buying another thing??
M: No comment.

These kinds of conversations swirl around in my brain at least once or twice a day. Frankly I'm used to them now. They're almost comforting. Especially when I compare them to this unsettling paradox:

M: You know you're a minimalist, right?
AM: Obviously.
M: Well, then why do you still write books and hope people will buy them?
AM: What are you talking about?
M: Well, books are things.
AM: So?
M: I'm just saying, you're all anti-things now. "The endless production and consumption of pointless things is only hastening the impending demise of our planet." That's what you're always telling me.
AM: Yes. Right.
M: So . . . doesn't that mean you should stop producing your books?
AM: But I like writing my books!
M: But the books you write turn into things. That's what publishing is. Books get turned into things and a lot of those books are things that people don't want and don't need.
AM: I'm not listening to this! I don't want to stop writing books! It makes me happy.
M: But what if someone gives your book to some sweet unsuspecting person who doesn't want it and then your book just takes up room on a shelf somewhere and gets in the way of making that lovely person's life as simple and as minimalist as she might like it to be?
AM: Stop it! The guilt! It pains me!
M: . . . So are we like done writing books now? Because I can think of a lot of other things we could be doing with our time.
AM: No. We're not done. I still like writing books.
M: Fine. I'll just go talk to your friend Writer's Block.
AM: I wish you wouldn't do that. 
M: Isn't that Writer's Block over there sitting next to Procrastination?
AM: No. That's Laziness. Writer's Block is the one hanging out with Netflix over there by Facebook and Instagram.
M: Oh yeah. I like those guys.
AM: Sigh. So much for that new novella I was plotting.

In case you didn't follow all that, I'm still going to keep writing. In fact, I just got my contract for another year of Tiny Talks, so that's exciting! And in related news, this book arrived in my publisher's warehouse last week! I love my board books! They're so cute and happy. I can't wait to see these illustrations in person!

I don't have my author copies yet because I've been too lazy/busy to call my publisher and ask for them, but when I do get my copies, I'll probably give as many as I can away to my blog readers. I think I'll be doing a lot more of that from now on—giving my books away to people who genuinely want them. It's what some other minimalist writers I know do, and it will help me resolve the cognitive dissonance I feel whenever I start to think of my books as things.

I know it might sound extreme that I'm worrying about this, but to me it's a little like being a vegetarian who works in a meat-packing factory. The vegetarian doesn't believe that people should eat meat, but if everyone stopped eating meat, the vegetarian would be out of a job. So while I'd like people to stop buying things they don't need, if people stop buying my books, I won't get to publish them anymore, and that would be sad for me.

If any of you have thoughts on how to resolve this inner conflict (preferably thoughts that don't involve giving up on minimalism or my book writing), I'd be happy to hear them. For now, I'm just going to try not to think about it too much. And there's nothing better than a Netflix binge to help you stop thinking! I'm so glad Netflix is not a thing and that it doesn't have ads to pressure you into buying more things. If anyone needs me, I'll be watching the rest of Call the Midwife.

Oh, and do check back soon if you want a free copy of Jesus Was Just Like Me! I should have some to give away in the next couple of weeks.