There, it’s out there. I’m nearly 6 foot 4, weigh just shy of 350 pounds, and excess is slowly killing me.
But I’m far from alone.
Excess is killing millions of Americans. And I’m not just talking about diet here. Well, not in the traditional sense, anyway. Our gluttonous feast of excess extends beyond the plate. We also buy too much, own too much and owe too much. In short, we consume too much.
Whether it be a desire to keep up with the Joneses or our attempts to buy happiness in the form of Stuff, many of us overextend ourselves beyond what we can afford. We live in a consumer culture where we are bombarded with messages to consume.
“Are you unhappy? Buy this!”
“Can’t afford it? No problem.”
Credit card companies and banks made it painfully easy to buy more Stuff – whether we can afford it or not.
People who consume in excess, whether it be of food or ‘stuff’, share a common trait. They are attempting to fill a void in their lives. It should come as little surprise that many people who over consume in one area also over consume in others. We are caught up chasing temporary pleasures with little regard for long-term pain. Whether it be crushing debt or deadly obesity-related illnesses, what we enjoy has its price if we overindulge. Yet, so many continue, living in denial.
We can’t get enough. And it is killing us.
There is a great line in the movie The Fight Club which goes, “The things you own end up owning you.” One can easily substitute the word ‘own’ with ‘consume’.
I have only recently realized how closely the two areas of consumption in my life were connected.
Before I married a frugal woman six years ago, I wasted a lot of money in attempt to fill a void in my life. I grew up in a middle class family, struggling to get by. While many kids around me had all the latest toys, clothes, and goodies, my brother and I made do with less. For one, we couldn’t afford the excesses of other families. For two, my parents are frugal, and know how to spend within their limits. I was miserable. A “poor” (comparatively) kid living among wealthy families. I hated not being able to get the things I wanted. I hated not being able to go out and eat or do things that all the other kids did.
And then I started making my own money…
Suddenly, I was able to go out and eat with friends. I began to surround myself with the things I grew up without. I bought videos, games, CD’s, and tons of books and magazines. I looked forward to payday each week so I could go out and buy more stuff. It made me happy. But that happiness was short lived. There was always something else to buy or another place to go.
Looking back, It pains me that I wasted so much money on ‘stuff’ in attempts to find happiness. And while I was able to stop spending (for the most part), I never lost the taste for it. And the taste, without the ability to spend, left me miserable at times. And what did I do to get past that misery? I ate more food. And like going further into debt, overeating only exacerbates the problem, making the void larger and larger. Until it consumes you.
Without a job, my spending decisions are even more crucial. It’s coming to the point where every purchase I make has to be weighed carefully. The same is holding true for food. While my wife and I used to dine out frequently, my jobless situation, coupled with the expense of having a child, has cut that to a rarity. And as far as eating to fill the void, it’s no longer an option if I want to be around to see my son grow up.
I’m starting to live like my parents did when they raised me. And I’m not completely happy to be back in this position.
Happiness without ‘Stuff’
So, now I HAVE to find happiness in other areas. I’m learning to appreciate simplicity and smaller portions of food. I’m not thinking about what I lack, but rather what I have.
With the gloomy economic scene, I imagine a lot of you are already learning to make do with less and looking at ways to cut your expenses. For those that were caught up in consumption and never really appreciated what you have, I urge you to take the time now. Take joy in your family and friends. Enjoy the simple things as our grandparents (children of the Great Depression) did. It seems a shame that their lessons were lost on so many of us. They knew how to get by on less. They lived below their means. They put their families first. If only we’d all done the same. There is no doubt that we’d be in better shape (physical and financial) than we are today.
Hopefully, we can learn these lessons before we are undone by our excess.
Have you struggled with excess? If so, how did you conquer it?
If you’d like to learn more about Stuff, check out the Story of Stuff.
As always, thanks for reading. See you Monday.
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