All we need is life, not things

WE’VE been bombarded with fantasy images of John Lewis and Morrisons at Christmas, well here’s Sainsburys…….

The image is from downtown Arnold in Nottinghamshire and, unlike all the clips of glamorous young people having the most wonderful of times, it’s 100 per cent real.

Clearly this is an image of the ‘unwanted’ side of the festive giving season – the wrapping paper and boxes etc that contain the glitzy gifts and are now just inconvenience.

What a very useful insight into what Christmas and our lives in general in the western world are really like.

Christmas, we are told, is for children. What price can you put on the wide eyes of a child when they open that ‘special’ present? Problem is they can’t wait another 365 days for the same feeling. The attention span of a young human being is very short and the present they so desperately wanted just a few days ago very soon becomes ‘unwanted’.

But children are not alone. Adults aren’t so very different. Driving a sparkling new car off the forecourt is a great thrill. Here’s something to show all our friends! But what about 12 months or even six months later when it’s failed to start a couple of times and in need of an MoT? Very soon the most sought-after possession becomes just another ‘thing’.

A car gets you from A to B – well, usually! A bigger, more luxurious model may tickle your fancy initially but can do very little to improve your mood during the journey, let alone ensure that trip is worthwhile.

A friend told me last night an interesting story about a watch that cost £73,000.  A watch, whether it costs £5 or £500,000, tells the time. It can’t make time go faster or slower or become more enjoyable. Let’s face it, very few of us even need a watch to tell the time.

Those of us who aren’t rich – around 99 per cent – wonder sometimes what it would be like to have a multitude of possessions.

Wouldn’t it be great to live in a palace and have access to everything you want?

Yet even then the excitement soon wanes. Do you think The Queen makes up every day in awe at her surroundings? Of course, she doesn’t. The greatest of riches are her version of normal. No more, no less.

It’s very human to want more. I’m not criticising anyone for that.

But what I’m saying is the ‘more’ never satisfies – not for long.

The richest people in the world are often the hardest workers. Rarely do they reach a point of contentment when they sell their businesses, put their feet up and take a breath. For some insane reason, they go on and on and on. Maybe an extra million will reach Nirvana – or billion? or trillion?

We are constantly being reminded in this country about the rainbow around the corner.

It may be the perfect relationship, a luxurious around the world cruise, the house that’s bigger and better than anything you have previously imagined.

That is the mission of marketing. A salesman or an advertisement aims to create a need for something when that doesn’t exist.

You may already have a functioning vacuum cleaner. But clever marketing will focus your mind on the attributes of one machine and invite you to ask questions you don’t need to ask.

Can you fault or better this product? Is it very favourably priced? What could this do for you and your household?

Multiplied a thousand times and we find we have collected a large number of items – almost all of which will be ‘unwanted’ well before the end of their shelf life.

I watched a really interesting TV reality show just before Christmas.

Three households literally had all their earthly possessions taken away – yes, all of them. They were left stark naked in their homes with not even a mattress to lay on. Of course, this is very extreme.

But the fascinating thing was how quickly they were able to function despite their possessions being returned at a rate of just one per day.

By the end of 21 days, two households only wanted a proportion of their possessions returning – and the third gave some of theirs to charity.

We don’t need most of our possessions.

I know this full well as my partner and I have been clearing a house ready for a move in a few weeks.

When you set eyes again on items you haven’t seen for years, the message slowly seeps through.

If we haven’t needed something for that long – we don’t need it full stop.

Possessions trap and limit us. I know one lovely woman finding it very difficult to move on because she is literally surrounded by too many things.

They take our energy, ensnare, even suffocate us. You don’t have to be an expert in Feng Shui to know what that feels like.

In contrast, those who have very little enjoy a strange kind of freedom.

When literally all my worldly possessions – bar a car – were bundled in one bedsit room, I felt liberated.

I had fewer worries than at any time in my lifetime. All I concerned myself with was my health and bringing in enough money to eat – seeing friend was a bonus. The smaller your world, the easier it is to fill.

So, as we re-emerge from the deluge of marketing coercing us to buy, buy and buy again, perhaps it is time for self-reflection.

The trees are bare, but they are alive and ready to thrive again once the weather becomes warmer.

And, if we have the basics in our life, the same applies to us.

I’ll be taking more of my possessions to the tip in a few days, but not with a heavy heart.

For I am like that bare tree. I don’t need ‘things’ to rekindle me, all I need is life itself – the life I have inside me and the life I see and feel in others.

There truly is a great deal for all of us to celebrate – but none of it comes wrapped up in paper or boxes.

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