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|To Buy or Not To Buy - Page 8|
In support of her resolve, she's designed alternatives tailored to meet the same needs, but not break the bank. Creating an at-home ceremony, she's bought different-flavored honey sticks to sweeten the non-Starbucks tea she's now making for herself. And two Sundays a month, she's begun cooking together with five friends. Here there's ritual and experiment and camaraderie and renewal—and they take home what's left for a delicious and readymade second meal. As for the fantasy of what that lime-green dress would do for her—remember Cathy and the $7.95 headband?—she's dealt with it from two angles. First, she's acknowledged its unlikeliness: "Either we're going to have a baby or we aren't. But shopping to postpone a day of reckoning isn't going to make it more likely. And things don't really create an identity for you. Who you are is what's inside you. I don't have to wear the latest style. It's not that style that people notice anyway, it's my style—and that's intrinsic to me, new clothes or not." But she's also located a safe place to dabble in fantasy, a monthly meeting where people gather to swap and refashion their clothing at minimal cost. Her first time there, she came away delighted with a dress, a sweater, and two potential new clients. With clear-sighted compassion as her pointer, Liliana is regaining her intuitive balance, her instinct for knowing that sometimes less is more.
The Bottom Line
Shopping isn't about buying: it's about being. It's a conscious act, an essential process of search, an experience of learning and living we engage in all the time. If, aided by the pressures of the recession, we can help our clients look at shopping this way, it's an opportunity that's too good to pass up. But we shouldn't underestimate the difficulty. Finding true wealth—leveraging our nonfinancial assets in ways that revitalize our neglected spiritual and emotional appetites—requires overcoming the powerful forces that breed luxury fever. Called on as never before to untie the knot that binds shopping and buying so closely together, we're only now starting to face the challenge of backing away from our culture's relentless pursuit of excess. The time is ripe for a cultural transformation in which emotionally driven shopping gives way to shopping-as-search-and-discovery.
But that change must come to us as individuals, each in our own way and at our own pace. To achieve the change, we must each find ways of countering the relentless hype, manipulation, and pressure to consume that rains on us, cradle to grave. This would be a good time to adopt a simple and profound mantra: you can never get enough of what you don't really need. If we can just grasp and hold on to that, there may still be time to learn that most traditional of life lessons: enough makes life rich; too much impoverishes.
April Benson, Ph.D., specializes in the treatment of compulsive buyer disorder. She’s the cofounder of the Center for the Study of Anorexia and Bulimia in New York City and the author of To Buy or Not to Buy: Why We Overshop and How to Stop (Trumpeter Books), a comprehensive look at compulsive buying and what to do about it. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters to the Editor about this article may be e-mailed to email@example.com.
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