After getting rid of nearly all of our worldly possessions, however, this place seems to magnify the difference between the spartan lifestyle we have adopted and the magnificent excess of most everyone else.
It may be the area she lives in (wealthy), or it may be the sudden realization that I used to be exactly like these people (shopping til I dropped...repeatedly), or maybe I am just more aware of things that I need as opposed to things that I want. Whatever it is, I am supremely grateful for her generosity (free room and more food than we can ever eat) as we stick a toe into this new vagabonding lifestyle. Here's the things that "everyone" seems to have here (and the things that I am pretty happy I no longer have):
- A massive shoe collection (I hope she doesn't see this picture but I saw her shoes lining the entire garage--because one of her walk-in closets is already overflowing with shoes--and I had to take a picture). Currently I own five pairs of shoes. The shoes cover everything I need--from exercising to dancing to dressing "smart casual"--but I do love shoes and if I had more room I probably would have kept a few more pairs. Not this many pairs though.
- A continual outflow of money: for the yard guy, the pool guy, the bug guy, the housekeeper, not to mention house payments, credit card payments, a daily run to Costco. Yikes. Granted she can easily afford this but I am glad that our lifestyle has been drastically scaled back and I don't have to worry about the yard, cleaning the house, etc.
- Driveways full of cars. We used to have more than a half dozen cars...they seemed to multiply after the kids started driving. Now we have one paid-for car and a couple of bus passes. Note that there is absolutely NO public transportation system here so a car is more or less a necessity. I didn't realize how much money and effort it took to have a car until I got rid of mine. I figured that I saved about $800 a month on the car and at least five or six hours of effort each month (cleaning it, oil changes, etc).
- There is SO MUCH shopping here. Nearly every store you can think of is here either in the Mall of Georgia, as a stand-alone big box store, or in one of the many strip malls that have popped up everywhere. Fortunately for our finances, we haven't bought anything besides things to cook because we have no room to put any more stuff in our pretty small carry-on backpacks. Being a vagabond and carrying your stuff with you everywhere you go is the limiting factor that will stop shopping--and spending--in its tracks.
- More more more! This seems to be the siren call of American consumerism. Have a house? Why not get a bigger one? The houses here are literally 5,000 square-feet plus which is an insane amount of space for mom, dad, and two point three kids. Have two deck chairs? Why not have six? It seems to be an inborn need--having some stuff is good but having more is even better so we work and shop and work more to pay for the shopping then shop some more to make us happy after a hard day of work. I am happy we are off the consumer treadmill.
The bottom line: to each his own, of course. This is a free country and people can do what makes them happy but I just hope that people actually think about what would make them happy instead of buying into a consumer lifestyle of excess that really isn't necessary.