Loneliness with “Stuff” and Connection with People


If it was suggested 200 years ago that, one day in the not so distant future, many people would need the help of a decluttering business, you might have seen blank stares of confusion. Even in 2018, it is a strange concept: ordinary folks hire someone to help them clear their home of possessions that they themselves purchased, or at the very least, accepted by someone else. Begging the question, why?

Why do we buy so much stuff?

Lots of reasons: sometimes we actually need the stuff, or we are fearful that we might need the stuff, the stuff might bring us happiness and help us fit in. Often we buy stuff because our brains grow weary of resisting the messages that scream “buy this stuff!”

There is another reason we shop: loneliness. Earlier this year I went through a period of painful loneliness. I have a loving husband, supportive parents, and some pretty neat friends. Plus two cute kids! On a day to day basis, I still felt lonely. Who was there to bear witness to my life, my thoughts, my struggles, my joys? I saw most friends only once a month if that. It didn’t help that at the time I had not found a way to fit enjoyable hobbies into my routine.  I felt desperate to fill the void and started making routine trips to the giant second-hand store a few miles away. The shopping helped a bit. It gave me a needed boost of happy feelings. 

I learned some things from my experience

  1. Having a victim mentality does not help. I don’t want to think of myself as a victim who feels taken advantage of by this stuff or buying habits and helpless to fix these inner feelings.
  2. I believe loneliness is part of the human condition, instead of always running from it I am slowly coming around to acknowledging it, and simply sitting with the feelings. Emphasis on slowly.
  3. I feel filled up when I have a connection with others. Finding hobbies (especially ones that are playful and involve lots of movement) is one way to connect. Branching out to make new friends helps me. Being vulnerable and open to others helps. Beautiful music, dancing, time in nature, and writing helps.

Consumption was not the thing that ultimately nourished me. From the past couple of years of running a decluttering business, I don’t believe consumption helps others feel deeply nourished either. Some clients even give me the feeling that they have hired me in part, to have a friendly face around for a few hours. I understand that.

What if, just today, or just this week, or this month we all paid attention to our desire to consume new stuff? Notice the feeling when it comes upon you, don’t run from it. For, if we can make it through the noticing and the not running then we can begin to untangle ourselves from our relationship with consumption. On the other side of consumption awaits connection, and it is life-giving.

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Brooke is a Maryland native and a stay home mom to two children, age three and five. She loves helping others learn the joy of living with less, through her declutter business Simplify with Brooke. She also spends a few hours each week doing international recrutiment for a local nonprofit. Brooke plays soccer every week with a bunch of dudes in her neighborhood, enjoys the rhythm and inspiration of being a Waldorf family, and has incredible gratitude for her husband and their non-traditional marriage. Likes: solo night time walks, nonviolent communication, new relationships, vegan food. Dislikes: spending time on computers, baby showers.