In America, we gauge success and happiness in life according to what possessions one has, and how much money one makes. The more money, the higher one’s socio-economic status, and the more privilege one has earned in society. On the flip side, those who lack money and the ability to make significant proportions of money consequently have less in life, as well as fewer opportunities afforded.
While staying in Copenhagen, I was afforded the opportunity to gain first-hand knowledge of what it was like to live as a Dane in a relatively small apartment (according to American standards). From this short-lived opportunity, I experienced just how much “stuff” can be crammed into such a small space so efficiently! Clothes were hung from a rack on the ceiling in the master bedroom, shelving was full of folded clothes, and a baby crib stood on the side of the space close to the bed. In the bathroom, a small shower took up the corner of the room complete with a squeegee to shush the water on the floor back down the drain. A small-clothes washer took up the opposite corner as well as a couple of carts with drawers for storage.
Each nook and cranny of this apartment were utilized to its fullest with no space left vacant. I did not experience the feeling of being closed in or of having too much ‘stuff.’ Rather, I felt completely at home. What surprised me the most was the thought of just how much “stuff” I have in my ordinary home in Florida that would probably shock the standard Dane!
In my opinion, Americans have way too much “stuff.” And what we do have, we take for granted. Americans are wasteful and not very attune to the environment and being “green” as the Danes are. Americans live with the expectation that we are ‘entitled’ to our possessions and live for getting bigger and better things. After all, how many people in your own neighborhood have more than 1 television in their home? Or how many have a cell phone for each family member? How many Americans do you know that have more than one vehicle? What is even more despicable is that some parents at my children’s school purchase their teenagers a new BMW or other expensive car when they turn 16! What happened to the days of simplicity and having a kid earn his own car by working?
I am just as guilty as the next American. Each one of my children has their own cell phones. I find it out of necessity more than convenience. My children have a different life than I did. I could always be found in my own neighborhood with other peers my age. Today, our children are just as busy as adults are trying to make it in this crazy world. Technology has sped up the process and made our children more attuned to what is out there in life. With this added knowledge comes a sense of entitlement to these “millennials” as they are referred. They ‘expect’ to have all the luxuries of home, at school, in their car and elsewhere. It seems to be a given that parents will give their children what they want. I do not find I am “that” parent all the time. I do feel my children “should have” some of the “stuff” others their age have, however, I do not think they are better off being given everything I have.
I am also guilty of having all the ‘comforts of home.’ I have a medium-sized house with a swimming pool and a ginormous refrigerator! I also have a vehicle for almost every member of this household. I have been guilty also of acquiring the American state of mind of ‘bigger is better’ and ‘more stuff’ means I am “a better person.”
With knowledge comes a liberty to change what I know. I now know that just because I have been brought up the American way does not mean I have to conform. I know that I can change my mind-set gradually to incorporate the good elements I learned of the Danish simplistic ways and eliminate the negative mindset of the American ways. I can also begin to appreciate what I do have and not feel that it is an expectation to have what I have. I can also begin to let go of the “stuff” I do not necessarily need just to give myself a false perception of happiness by acquiring said “stuff.”
I would like to end by saying that what I have written is only MY opinion. It is not fact, nor is it fiction. It is simply my thoughts in black and white. Finally, I do not intend in any way to offend anyone with my opinions.
What “stuff” do you have that you would be willing to get rid of?