cluttered futonYou may be asking yourself “Okay, so what’s the point? Why are you doing this? And what is the deal with the Suburban Smackdown title?”

Well, for a very long time I, like many, equated some level of happiness with stuff: the right house in the right neighborhood, the right car, the right activities, the right…whatever.  I filled my kid’s rooms with toys and gadgets that very quickly collected dust.  I cared too much about the clothing labels I put on their bodies and mine. My husband was working so hard to pay for our lives that he barely had time to enjoy it.  We were pretty stressed out, unhappy way too often, and there was a pervasive feeling of dissatisfaction in our household.  I take responsibility for most of that.  Keeping up appearances and just plain keeping up seemed so important that I didn’t notice I was missing out on much of what really mattered.

My first real awakening came in the form of a pair of shoes. And no, I’m not copping to the label, but they were ones I believed I needed as part of the hip “uniform” of the day.  I obsessed over them. The price and the impracticality didn’t deter me, and eventually, I bought them.  When I finally put them on my feet, the satisfaction I thought I would feel was not there.  I realized I felt no joy in having them. They had occupied precious space in my mind and distracted me from who knows how many moments.  They were just one more thing that I didn’t need, one more thing adding to the clutter in my life and in my mind.  Since that day, I’ve had hundreds of tiny awakenings that have reinforced the notion that “the stuff of life isn’t stuff at all”. I still have those shoes, though. They taunt me a bit. I am going to find a homeless person and hand them over one day soon.

My next big “Aha” was when my little family moved to Florida just as the economy was collapsing in 2008.  We moved there not out of need but on a dreamy whim, risking our old way of life for a new one.  We rented a furnished ocean front condo, enrolled our kids in school, while Trent, my husband, happily telecommuted from a guest room walk-in closet.  For the next 4 years, we enjoyed a very simple and extremely satisfying existence.  Two years in, we bought a small house of our own just across the street from the condo.  During those brief years, I very rarely saw the inside of a mall and never missed that aspect of my old life.  I only missed the people that we’d left behind, the family and friends around whom we’d built our lives. But life in Florida was filled with outdoor exploits, sunshine, and adventures.  Our kids found novel things in nature to be amazed with all the time.  We planted a garden, learned to avoid fire ants and stinging nettle, met manatees face to face, camped, hiked, met wonderful new friends, indulgently enjoyed theme parks, and ate LOTS of fish tacos.

Fast forward to the next chapter, our current chapter, where a bold career move for my husband has landed us smack dab in the suburbs of Charlotte, NC. Once again, we’ve made lovely new friends whom I already cherish.  I’ve been given wonderful opportunities to grow personally and professionally and am grateful for each.  And, there are certainly many advantages to living near a big city.  We have access to museums, the arts, diverse cultures and lifestyles, and fabulous grocery stores. To be sure, Charlotte is a beautiful place with warm and welcoming people. What is hard to ignore, however, is that we find ourselves immersed in the “land of stuff”, where there seems to be a resounding focus on acquiring even more stuff.  Commonplace are pristine neighborhoods, with chemically maintained lawns, giant homes, giant cars, and a myriad of status symbols.  Yes, this very place was our choice. My initial desire to, instead, buy a small farm, got lost in translation, or more honestly, was quelled by the lure of coffered ceilings, large bedrooms, and shiny new hardwood floors.  Out with the simple and in with the traffic and over scheduled lives.

picmonkquotesmallSo, all of that has led me here. I love this beautiful earth of ours.  I love every creature roaming its surface and every root digging into its soils. (Okay, so maybe I don’t love mosquitos, but I appreciate their place in the food chain.) I want my children to cherish and protect this earth, too. I want them to know that their contribution to this world matters much more than the size of the house they live in or in having the latest greatest device, which keeps them planted on a couch inside and out of touch with our natural world. In the end, I know that I am not going to mourn the shoes I didn’t buy, the landscaping I didn’t invest in, or the brand my kids won’t be wearing.  But, I would mourn the time I wasted wanting more and not realizing I had more than enough.  I would mourn important relationships that I didn’t nurture, experiences that I missed because I was focused on my next acquisition, and I would mourn risks not taken, like this one, for fear I might step on toes or challenge the status quo. Mindless consumption in our throwaway society is harming our children as well as our planet, and setting in motion a path to our own demise. I know I have, at times, been a part of the problem. It is my hope that from this point forward, that myself and my family be a part the solution.


26 thoughts on “Confessions Of A Mostly Reformed Clothes Horse (Amy’s Smackdown Why)”

  1. Wow. Just wow. You are brave and I applaud you for going against “the mold”. I think we’ve sadly become a society who cares way too much what others think and way too much about our stuff. I hope I can be as brave as you!! 🙂

  2. Nicely written! Inspirational. Makes me ‘happy’ about some things I’m doing and very motivated, but not sad, to focus on other aspects of our life. Looking forward to more.

  3. Thanks Amy for your great insight of stuff we have and don’t need. Stuff has a way of cluttering our house and minds. I am good at purging things I don’t need and giving them away to others and Good Will. I keep a bag ready to go filled with things I do not want or cherish. I was just looking inside one of my closets and thought I have so much to get rid of. I am also a clothes horse, but love a simple barn to live in. Thanks again for your blog and wisdom. I always thought you were so cute and cool. Kim

  4. Amy, I wanted to respond to your initial message about the smack down, and so glad to have read this one too. Not only is it beautifully written, but I’m touched by the sincerity and purpose of your mission. Your words, particularly the last paragraph, reminded me of Montessori’s hope that children would recognize the interdependence of all things and respect their own place in the cosmos. It’s inspiration to get off the couch, get outside and live! I wish you, Trent and the boys well. Keep going…. I like this spunky avocado and enjoy what you have to say. 🙂

    1. Hi Stephanie! First off, I love looking at pictures of that beautiful little girl and I can tell you are over the moon for her! Enjoy every moment. They grow up so fast. I am so grateful that you took the time to read and comment. I am hopeful that our message will strike a chord. I really believe that we have no choice but to “wake up” and live more consciously. ~Amy

  5. I needed this. Thank you. My family and I are new to Charlotte, and are currently building this big new house. I have been going store to store, obsessing about what our house will look like, and what else we can fill it with. Every single insignificant detail, and It’s not even finished yet! I am ashamed, but am so blessed to have read your post. Thank you for reminding me what it important, and what we do it all for. I can’t wait to follow your journey, and will be doing my best to follow along as well. Again, thank you. We truly needed this.

    1. Hello Melanie. I was just in your position and fully feel your pain. That’s what brought me to this point, actually! 🙂 We are excited to have you follow along…and when you are ready to join us, just let us know. Only 2 more days for us…and I am panicking just a bit. ~Amy

  6. I love this. It is so true and so difficult to overcome. I hope you and yours are successful in this challenging endeavor.

    I might try something like this soon too. 🙂

  7. Amy,
    Wow, just love this Suburban Smackdown idea!!! Your story is so touching, I was close to tears several times. I love what you are doing in your family life, what a great gift you are giving them. Congratulations to your new life and new career!! I miss seeing you here in Florida! Best of luck and I will be following the blog. I missed the first month, but I’ll catch up.

    1. Thanks so much, Pam. Strange how life changes. We will be doing our best over the next 6 months to make it as positive an experience as possible. Sam had a little melt down last night because he realized the Fourth of July fell within this 6 months. We had to assure him that we have a hearty leftover stash of things that sparkle and explode. 🙂 We miss all you guys and our simple Florida lives a bunch.

  8. What a wonderfully written thought! I would love to follow the adventure and join along with you! My husband and I just bought a pop up camper for our family and It is honestly one of the beat purchases we have ever made for our little family. The children are in love with camping and we are making incredible memories together. .just us…without all of of the stuff. Thank you for your post and I’m super excited to see how your adventure goes!

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