When Plumblossom was just a few months old, I bought an infant swing. I never thought I’d own such an item—but desperate to get my daughter to nap, I went online and discovered this “solution” to my problem. It promised to calm my little one with its gentle rocking, and send her off to sleep in no time flat; the Amazon reviews confirmed its efficacy (“My baby naps 3 hours in this!”). I couldn’t part with my money fast enough.
My enthusiasm to acquire this new thing made me think: what are our possessions, really, but a bunch of promises? That dress promises to make us look stylish; that smartphone promises to keep us tech-savvy and connected; that cookbook promises to make us a culinary whiz; that moisturizer promises to take years off our face; that heirloom china promises to help us remember our grandmother.
These promises to make our lives easier, better, chicer, or more productive are enticing. The problem: the products don’t always deliver. In our disappointment, we shove them to the back of the closet, up in the attic, or out in the garage—or we may just let them sit around in our living room, kitchen, or bedroom, unwilling to admit that they didn’t really live up to our expectations.
All too often, we end up with a pile of broken promises—or, in other words, clutter.
So what can you do about it?
For the stuff you currently own:
* Ask what “promise” each possession holds. It’s a great way to evaluate exactly why you own a particular item.
* Ask if it’s delivering on its promise. If not, pass it on to someone else; perhaps its true potential may be found in another home.
For stuff you’re considering acquiring:
* Identify any insecurities that may be behind the purchase. Are those stilettos calling your name because you’ve been feeling a bit frumpy?
* Consider non-stuff solutions to your problem. Could an aerobics class make you feel fitter and sexier than a new pair of shoes?
So back to my own story: when the swing arrived, my husband and I had it out of the box and set up in minutes. At her next naptime, I lowered Plumblossom into it with bated breath, waiting for her to close her eyes and drift off to dreamland. Instead, she looked up at me as if to say “you must be kidding,” and in about three minutes broke into a wail. Undeterred, I tried it again and again, almost always with the same result. She’d sometimes lounge in it for ten minutes while my husband and I ate dinner, but napping? Not a chance.
The swing clearly spoke to my insecurities as a new mom. In the process, I learned that for my daughter, a mechanical device is no substitute for the warmth and motion of my own arms, and that a softly-sung lullaby is much more soothing than an electronic one. A thing was not going to instantly make her a better napper. (Needless to say, it’s since been donated.)
I’ve used this example not because I’m becoming a mommy blogger, but to illustrate how these things can sneak up on us when we experience new situations in life. As a long-time, card-carrying minimalist, I thought I was long past falling for such promises. I’d become a minsumer extraordinaire, immune to the siren calls of miracle creams, designer handbags, and the latest-and-greatest gadgets. But in the past year, I’ve found that you don’t “perfect” minimalism and call it a day—you have to keep working on it as life throws new challenges your way.
Do you have any broken promises cluttering your home? Tell us about them in the Comments!