A Simple Guy

In Search of Simplicity

The Blackest of Fridays?

Once a year, light and joy, which once burned so bright with hope and promise, dim to the frailest of embers, and are left in peril of being eternally snuffed. But so has it always been, and so shall it forever be. Let us pause so our hearts can reflect upon this, our blackest of weeks… Amen.

I’m not sure how you’re supposed to celebrate Black Friday. Am I doing it right? Are any of us doing it right? Regardless of how it’s nothing more than a corporation-birthed holiday – or “mall”-iday, Thank You! – the fact is that it’s here to stay, and we have to deal with it. This week you are bound to read a whole lot of items that boil down to one of two things:

  • Black Friday is great, and here are the deals you mustn’t miss!
  • Black Friday is pure evil, don’t you dare buy a single thing!

And you know what… they’re probably both partially right, unfortunately. Nothing generates quite as much word-fervor as Black Friday. For many in the minimalist camp – and I count myself among its numbers – this overhyped shopping holiday represents all that is wrong with unbridled consumerism and greed. And therefore it must be shunned, dismantled, overcome and reversed with many other descriptives and lists. The number of rants against Black Friday are already challenging the number of ads promoting Black Friday for supremacy. Think about that noise for just a moment (and then quickly ignore how I’m adding to it…).

On the other hand – and yes, there is always another hand nearby with something else on it – if there’s actually something you “need,” then Black Friday is generally a perfect time to save some money on that item, as nearly everything and everyone is in the middle of some kind of sale. We’ll get back to that word “need” in just a moment, but for right now let’s just be honest that most of us don’t live in dirt holes, and because of that, yes, there are some things we “need” from time to time.

For most households there are several and many of these needed things; some because things break and need to be replaced, some because much of what we buy consists of perishables, and others because people’s lives go in different stages with different requirements for certain items. We buy things, even the most frugal and minimal of us. We’re all adults here so let’s just admit that.

But many people take this buying of stuff much too far, let’s also admit that. And while we’re admitting things, most of us should also offer up the acknowledgement that we either have in the past, or currently still do, buy a bunch of stuff that we don’t need, simply because it’s a deal. It’s such an amazing deal we’d be fools not to get it. We’ll learn to need it for that price!

Another typical complaint against Black Friday is that its corporate nature detracts from the holiday it accompanies: Thanksgiving. It’s easy to feel like the buying frenzy of Black Friday was intended as the sick arch-nemesis of a day devoted to giving thanks, but actually I see it as one of the lesser holiday offenders. Almost without exception, American holidays (and I’m sure those in other countries can offer examples from their holidays as well) have become skewed by marketers into opportunities for sales. Fourth of July, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, Christmas… All of these holidays which have nothing at all to do with consumerism have been coopted by businesses as holidays which are truly intended for shopping. At least Black Friday originally had the courtesy to wait until after the main holiday.  Yes, it’s creeped ahead in recent years, but all holidays’ sales are pre-promoted, so I consider that a wash.

I used to get pretty bent out of shape about all of this until I realized that that’s what marketing does. Frankly that’s what it’s supposed to do, and let’s not pretend otherwise. Their job – these Scrooge McMarketers – is to make you want to buy what they’re selling; always and forever. But your job…

You have a much different job, which is to treat every single day how you treat both Thanksgiving and Black Friday. Thanksgiving should be no more sacred; we should all be continually grateful for what we have, and in turn for the many, many things for which we’re very fortunate not to need. How much different would our every day and week be if we focused on truly be thankful for what we have, even if it isn’t much?  And how might the little we do have actually become enough, reducing our list of needs if we lived that way? And Black Friday should be no more profane; sales happen all the time, pretty much with every holiday, and if you’re smart and plan (and wait) you can use their regularity to your advantage.

The minimalists are right, you shouldn’t be buying things you don’t need, and in fact you should always be taking pretty hard stock of the things you do consider needs. But at the same time, when you do need something, it’s a real need and you should buy it. Unnecessary deprivation isn’t a virtue. And if you’re able to wait for a magical time of sales like Black Friday to finally pull that trigger, I personally think that’s about the smartest possible time you could do it: when need meets opportunity.

Inauspicious Beginnings

Yes, this is yet another blog on minimalism, or downsizing, or any number of other terms focusing on doing – and being – more with less.  It’s my humble addition to the conversation, where I’ll share some of my own failures and successes, tips and finds, thoughts on the journey and downright killer chili recipes.  I’m under no delusions that this blog will change the world or dramatically shift the greater conversation of simplicity.  Rather, it’s a topic and lifestyle that has seized me during the past two years, and even if I just talk to myself, well there’s still some benefit there.

But success is rarely the best motivation for action.  Minimalism itself – paring back your possessions and lifestyle in order to focus on what’s truly important to you – has a multitude of benefits that often can’t be expressed with numbers (or views, to tie it back in with blogging).  Peace, focus, presence, contentment… These are actually much better reasons for pursuing a lifestyle cleanse than the hope of extra money; although you may end up with some of that as well.

So I start this blog with really only one simple goal: to continue getting back to basics.  I’ll work through some ideas here, probably fumble the English language and contradict myself, but hopefully also provide a different perspective through my own experiences that can help others in their journey as well.  You are welcome to join in the conversation!

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