I bought a shower curtain this week. It occurred to me one day while I was having a moment to myself and looking at our old white shower curtain. “I want a new shower curtain,” I said to myself. “I deserve a new shower curtain. A new shower curtain would make our home feel so much cozier. This white one is dingy and has clay stains and we only have so many opportunities to decorate—the shower curtain could make a better statement.”
In our small town, there aren’t many choices for shower curtain shopping, which I like. But, I made my way into Dollar General one morning before school to check out the shower curtain stock. When I told Papa I was going to buy a shower curtain at Dollar General, he smiled and said, “Do they have those there?” “They should, they have some bathroom stuff.” I said.
Walking into the store, I feel a bit defeated since I try to stay out of stores where most items are made in factories with low low wages and unsustainable materials. I just want a shower curtain, I think justifying the fact that I am in Dollar General. I look through the surprising wide variety of shower curtains and pick one. It has a print I can deal with and even some hooks (we already have hooks, but I like the pattern the best, so I pay the extra money for the hooks). There’s no way around it; I don’t need this stuff.
I get home and hang up the curtain right away. It looks flimsy and plastic and lifeless. There is a stark contrast between our hand-built home and this shower curtain. I leave it up for a little while and tell Papa not to shower with it up, while I decide what to do. I think about just keeping it, remembering the days when I’d shop for fun and buy things because they were cute and on sale. Many of my purchases would never get used ending up in a yard sale or donation pile. I peeked in the bathroom again, and decided to take it down, pack it up, and take it back.
I had slipped away from my mission, although briefly and not completely, it happened. It happened because I am American. I was raised in a culture and time where we shop to fill voids. We find it exciting to bring home something new as if it will bring new life. For a moment this week, I fell back into the mindless pattern of walking into a store and buying a packaged product to fill a need. BUT-This time I caught myself. I saw how out-of-place it looked hanging there and realized that I forgot I could make do, that the white shower curtain could be washed, that I could paint it or make something I really like. I washed the white one and hung it back up. Tiny House deserves something beautiful and handmade, so I made a curtain to hang over the white one. It is perfect and adds beauty to our home.
Stripping away the mindless matter—the stuff that doesn’t belong, has had a noticeable effect on my personality. I have become clear about what I want my space to feel like. Since it is so small, every single thing has to be just right. I see myself doing this in other areas of my life as well. If a situation doesn’t feel right, I turn away, create a boundary and find another way to feel good. I see with a clarity I haven’t seen before. There is a parallel in creating a simple, organized home to an inner simplicity, clarity and mindful way of being. I highly recommend scaling down as a way to free you from the burden of mindless matter.
What stories do you have to share about the relationship between stuff and happiness?