Starting with David Marlow’s question: neither of my children had to buy towels when they moved out.
I don’t feel particularly guilty about that; one reason being that, naturally, a family of two needs fewer towels than a family of four – please have some. The other reason was that our oldest kid establishing their first home coincided with some friends asking if we would empty a storage room for them – and the content basically moved into the post-dorm rental – towels and all. The friends were paid a fraction of what Ikea would have charged for new items. They just hoped to get rid of rent for storing things they didn’t need for the foreseeable future, so they were overjoyed to be paid at all. The upside from getting their used stuff – apart from the price – was that if and when our design-conscious offspring decides to exchange the stuff for something else, nobody feels neither guilty nor offended.
I am a great believer in using what is available. Particularly if you are young and establishing your first home. Not only because it is cheaper and allows you to prioritize buying what you really want gradually, but also because it is good for the planet. And who knows, the old table that you found at somebody’s garage sale or in your parents’ attic may be beautiful once it is stripped of old varnish and gets a fresh coat of oil.
Which brings us to Sarah’s acquaintance who was always talking about expensive things he had bought or important people he knew. Somehow, I doubt garage sales or hand-me-downs were part of the way he rolled. (Or perhaps that was exactly the way he usually rolled to be able to afford the “good stuff” – but he never talked about the hand-me-downs; talking about the expensive stuff was a smoke screen?)
What kind of needs are we filling with expensive stuff or namedropping?
Sarah mentioned her neighbor might have needed to feel important. Why stuff and namedropping had been the ways he thought this need could be met, nobody knows. But modeling often plays a part in what we think of as important. Perhaps this method paid off with people other than Sarah? Or in other places than Montana?
What makes you feel important?
What makes you feel that another person is important?
Or he might have needed to impress. Who might his imaginary audience that needed to be impressed be? Was he acting subconsciously to meet a parental approval?
What is it really, to impress, anyway? Is it to prove that I am better than you? Does “impress” implicitly carry an element of surprise – which means that people are impressed because they didn’t expect something of us? If used that way, it is a little condescending to my ears.
Or is impressed just not to disappoint +10%?
Do you ever feel the need to impress or are you content not to disappoint?
Do you feel a need to be impressed?
When do you impress or disappoint yourself?
When were you last impressed and by what?
Less I give the impression (pun intended) that this is a mental exercise for your, the reader’s, benefit only, let me be clear that I am truly interested in your answers.
You see, I have four throw pillows resting against the headboard of our bed. They are or no use what-so-ever, on the contrary. Every evening I move them aside before turning down the bedspread – every morning they get back on the bed. I never had four annoying pillows on my bed in the old country. Why are they there?!! Because it is customary. They look nice – nobody sees them but us, but still…
What does it signal to have things that, not only are they not needed; they are even in the way? Are we signaling that “we have made it”? Have we subconsciously inherited some forefathers’ desire to signal that they had made it? Against the odds, on a new continent, arriving with only what one could carry, I can see how one might wish to signal success – not necessarily just to the surroundings but also to one’s own nervous system.
I can’t claim that we, as immigrants, arrived with only what we could carry. We arrived with a 40-foot container of stuff. Looking from my old desk at old stuff we have inherited from parents and grandparents, have been given, or bought decades ago on another continent allows me a feeling of continuity and soothes my nervous system. I don’t care if it signals success or the opposite to you.
But those throw pillows puzzle me…
Does credibility hinge on signaling success? Is that what Sarah’s neighbor is conflating about: that being able to afford stuff signals that he is successful and in being so, he is more credible? Does it work that way? Or does credibility come from showing up consistently with clear values and a non-hostile demeanor?