It was a rough day in Tel Aviv. I missed the bus, spent too long at the bank, forgot to eat, and cried on four street corners for no apparent reason. The craving had kicked in and I knew just what I needed. I ducked into a shop, scoured the shelves, picked something up and pulled out my credit card to make a purchase, convinced that I needed this bright green pillow to complete my home. In that moment, I felt the purchased pleasure that rides along with retail therapy.
I rushed to what was my ninth apartment in Israel, excited to place my new pillow on the couch – finally, my new home was complete! All I had wanted for the past 8 years was my own safe, comfortable space, and as I situated my recently acquired comfort on the couch, I realized…that I didn’t even like this pillow. I had fallen victim once again to my traditional Western upbringing of mindlessly spending money on things I didn’t need to momentarily make myself feel better.
Growing up in America and still today, consumerism is the culture. Living day to day and sale to sale, shopping is a central activity, and I was caught in the all consuming wave of the ‘more, more, more’ mentality.
When I moved to Israel in 2010, I arrived with only two suitcases, and my ‘more, more, more’ mentality was forced to shift. For the first time in my life, I didn’t want more things. I didn’t have room for more things and I couldn’t afford them anyway. As the years and apartments passed, my two suitcases somehow morphed into a moving truck, and I was uncertain how this accumulation occurred. And the green pillow was the straw that broke this American Israeli camel’s back.
Did I think this green pillow would change my life, or was it my ingrained and immediate need for gratification? How mindless, and stressed, must I have been to buy something I don’t like, need, or even want? As these questions unraveled in my mind, I was suddenly surveying every item in my house differently. Did I like this? Did I need this? Did I want this? No, no, and no – and so the spring-cleaning sweeps and the clothing swaps began. I had always kept mementos for their sentimental value, yet now, my sentiments pushed me to let them all go.
As I cleared out my things, my past, my space, I felt a new sense of clarity. I might have collected enough things to place inside a home the last eight years, but did I like them? Did I need them? Did I want them? What I wanted was my own home, and it wasn’t until I cleared the unconsciously collected clutter that I began feeling content in my own space.
Shifting my space physically allowed me to shift mentally too. Today, I am no longer a mindless consumer, but a conscious customer. I buy only what I love or need – and that’s not much. I released my need for more things, and my life feels lighter, a liberation of sorts. My sense of home no longer belongs with things. It belongs with the space I create around me – not how I fill the walls of my home, but the home in my mind.