On True Materialism

It might be assumed that I became an organizer because I hate “things” and want to eradicate them, leaving nothing but empty space behind. But something I have realized along the way is that I became an organizer partly because I love things. I want to take care of them, revere them, use them well, enjoy them – and help other people do the same. I was reminded of this by a quote I heard on an Alan Watts podcast (a recording of a lecture, since he passed away in the early ’70s). Watts was a British man who excelled at explaining Zen Buddhism to Westerners. I couldn’t find a date for this lecture, but it was probably from the ’50s or ’60s.

“True materialists are people who love material, who cherish wood, and stone, and wheat, and eggs, and animals, and above all, the earth, and treat it with a reverence that is due to one’s own body.”
—Alan Watts, Introduction to Zen

If you have fifteen children, you probably won’t be able to care for them very well. But if you have only, say, one to three children, you’ll be easily able to give them all the love and attention they need. I feel that way about belongings. We need to keep just as many belongings as we can adequately appreciate and enjoy, as well as care for – and lovingly give the rest up for adoption.

I also think materialism means owning fewer things of higher quality, rather than a large amount of cheap stuff. I’ve been working on this with my wardrobe. Even though Goodwill is fun in terms of the hunt, shopping in a regular clothing store (albeit, focusing on sale items) ensures that I’ll find clothing of higher quality with a much smaller time investment. And I have shuddered slightly at paying $50 for a pair of pants and then another $15 to have them hemmed, but I am doing so because I deserve to wear nice clothes that fit me well, without the stress of searching for three hours at Goodwill and coming up with nothing, or something that “will do” but I don’t love. I also like to keep my clothing supply to a modest level because it’s much easier to find things to wear if I’m not constantly skipping past the items that I don’t like much or don’t fit me right. It also makes it much easier to switch out my clothes for the seasons.

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