AUTHENTICITY VS CONSUMERISM

Last week upon returning home from a camping trip, we drove by a for-sale-sign staked in our neighbour’s lawn.  Believe me this does not sadden me as I’ve had trouble with this neighbour, not recent trouble, but trouble that has created a very necessary rift between us and I wrote about it in trouble in paradise.  I really haven’t had much to do with the family in a few years, but the mom can be so difficult to deal with that I’ve secretly been praying for a miracle that our fence that divides our properties, and thankfully our souls, would magically last forever.  I can’t even imagine what a pain it would be trying to work out an arrangement if the fence should break, or rot, with such a difficult person.  Having said that, for all I know the person who buys the house could be a nightmare, so even though I’m happy to watch her backside exit this neighbourhood, I’m not shouting with glee to the stars either.   Her house is perfect and I mean perfect as a few years ago they essentially gutted the bottom floor and put in all new flooring, kitchen etc, etc, essentially  remodelling their home and it looks fabulous.  In some ways I feel sorry for this family as they have fallen victim to the never-ending addiction of consumerism.   It is true you can tell a lot about people by studying their garbage and my neighbour’s garbage tells me she is a big consumer.  We have an organic program here in this city, we put all of our scraps, meat, grass cuttings, and weeds in a giant green bin and the city picks up the green bin once a week.  This family doesn’t use the organic program, however, their recycling bin and garbage bin is filled over the brim every week with mostly cardboard boxes and styrofoam that recently held the new items that they purchased that week.   When the boys were younger they would be riding bikes I found at thrift shops and second-hand stores and the clothes on their backs were always deals I found through thrifting or hand-me-downs.  The boys never really thought much of it until they talked to this neighbour’s children; everything her children wore had designer tabs and her children couldn’t wait to tell the boys what their mom paid for it.  Funny really because my boys were not even remotely impressed, they didn’t care and as a matter of fact at times they would say to me, “why would she pay $150.00 for a pair of boots that her daughter won’t be able to wear next year?”   The boys weren’t the only ones questioning this, in a neighbourhood where we all have regular jobs, mortgages, kids in sports; most everyone is doing what I’m doing, accounting for every dollar and trying to stay out of ridiculous debt.  No one really cares about designer labels in this hood.   Yet here is the crazy part and the reason why I am giving you a little bit of the history with this neighbour.   Even though she is everything I strive not to be I find myself watching the stream of people going through the house and worrying that we have not done enough work to the house or if we should spend more money updating bathrooms or kitchens making me crazy and feeling panicked that we won’t be able to sell the house at the price we want when the time comes.  The emotion of self-doubt and the act of questioning everything our family is doing is happening because even though we don’t buy into consumerism and perfection, I know most of the world does and watching the stream of people going through my neighbour’s house has added to this insecure feeling.  We have not reached perfection in this household and to be honest I wouldn’t even want to live with perfection.  I love my vintage and gently used furniture yet I am feeling like maybe I should have bought decent furniture or put the money into new carpets and so on and so on.  Then I remember to be authentic, I choose to live my life with authenticity and honesty.  I’m teaching my children to live their lives authentically as well, not be impressed by money, designer digs or fancy cars.  Of course they are – my son likes van runners and he has two pairs that he paid for by himself because I told him if he wants to pay $50.00 – $60.00 for a pair of canvas shoes then he could pay for them himself.  He did and he loves his shoes but ironically when we go thrifting one of the first things he does is look in the shoe department for van shoes.  Unfortunately, he hasn’t found his size but the price-tag of $7.00 for a perfectly good pair of “van” shoes has led him on a treasure hunt sort-a-speak for all things “van” without the $50.00 price tag.  I for one sit back and enjoy as I watch my lessons regarding money at play.   After spending $120.00 on canvas shoes he realizes he could of saved his money for other things he needs and wants.  Hopefully these lessons will come come in to help when he is a starving student, his first job or first apartment and he will use his thrifting and bargaining skills to help make ends meet!  Back to my neighbour’s house, I thought the house would have sold in two days so far all I see is “for sale” not “sold.”  With all the money they have spent and fixed it up to perfection, the house is missing something so desperately needed in this high cost of housing world; a basement.  There is no basement making it difficult for any young couple coming in looking for a basement that can be suited to be rented out giving them extra income to help with the mortgage.   Most people will eww and ahhh at the sheer beauty of the house but the reality is everyone is accounting for every dollar and trying to stay out of ridiculous debt making a basement suite essential to this plan.   Should I win money tomorrow, not a huge amount of money, but just enough to cover some renovations in this house, I would invest in solar power.  I wouldn’t bother with a new kitchen or new flooring, I would invest in getting this house off the grid.  The amount of money invested upfront to install solar panels pays for itself after several years off the grid and I think between our basement suite, solar power and the raised vegetable beds I plan to plant in our yard, would go a along way in terms of the money I would get back should I sell the house.   My brother’s nick-name for me is tree-hugger, ironically I found this article in tree hugger about how Germany is leading the pack in a solar-powered nation leaving me wondering when North America will start leading with authenticity.   As for my neighbour, I wish her only the best and I hope that she sells  her house for what she wants and finds happiness in her new hood.  I’m sure she is looking forward to a new neighbour who is not a pain in her ass!

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