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Doing Vs Having

A Lesson I Learned From Covid 19

By Anie HomanPublished 3 years ago 4 min read

When I started writing for Vocal, my first article “Accidentally Minimalist” received a quite positive response. Throughout my personal quarantine journey, Minimalism is something I’ve become quite invested in, for a variety of reasons. So, I’ve decided that today, I’m going to share a little lesson about minimalism that the lockdown has taught me; the huge difference in value between having things, and doing things.

So, this might seem obvious to you - of course there’s a clear distinction between owning things and doing things, but hear me out.

I went through two phases during the lockdown; The first, I like to refer to as the “Holy shit I have money now and can actually buy things” phase. The second, I call the “Ugh, I’m so bored it hurts” phase. I’m sure anyone stuck inside their home for weeks on end can understand if not both, then at least one of these scenarios.

I feel like, when faced with difficulty, stress, and the like, many of us often turn to retail therapy, which we rationalise as “treating ourselves”, and although that can sometimes be the case, it’s not often the truth. How often do you look at that item of clothing you’ve purchased, or those new shoes, or that new throw pillow, and think “Awh, gee, this makes me really happy”? Or, let me phrase it another way: When you’re feeling down, how often do you go through your wardrobe? Do you hold that pair of heels close to your chest and think, “Ah, yes. I feel better now”? My guess is, you don’t turn to those things repeatedly to feel better - the one time that they did give your mood a boost was most likely when you bought them!

So, I think we can all admit that retail therapy is a very temporary, instant gratification solution to negative feelings that might not be so temporary. This moves us onto the next part of our quarantine journey - the painful, mind-numbing boredom that came with not being able to do the things that we usually do when we don’t have to stay at home all day. I know that the introverts out there probably thrived - you guys had all of the tools to deal with a pandemic inside of your bedroom - but for those of us who enjoy a bit of nightlife, a lot of socialising, and a busy routine of going places and doing things, well, we got a pretty big shock to our system.

Let’s be honest - we all spent the first week, or two, or even three binge eating, binge-watching Netflix, and online shopping. But then… it got old. I’m sure you can remember the first walk you took, or researching a hobby you could take up with what was available to you at the time. Some people learned how to cook for the first time in their lives. Some people learned how to sew, or knit, or paint. I remember, about three weeks into quarantine, I remembered that my mum had a pair of quad roller skates that she had bought to use in the local roller disco, which not too long after the fact, closed down. So, I asked her if I could borrow them, and I started learning how to roller skate from youtube tutorials. Two of my sisters and my best friend ordered roller skates online, and we went out skating together every day where possible.

When it became possible to see people outside again, many of us went on walks, or sat outside in the green areas, because nowhere that we were used to socialising before - like cafes, bars, and restaurants - was open. We now had to do something in order to socialise that, to most of us, was new. For me, it was skates or walks with my friends. For others, it was long bicycle rides, or jogs, or outdoor yoga classes, or hikes up the mountains. The long days that had once been filled with doing nothing, were now filled with doing something, and it felt kind of nice. I didn’t feel as empty, or as restless, and my daily skate made me feel a lot better than the ridiculously expensive Victoria’s Secret lingerie I bought just because I could.

I’m not saying that all purchases are overindulgent and useless - don’t get me wrong! There is often an overlap where having facilitates doing. For example, I bought a keyboard so I could learn how to play the piano, but this is something I now regularly do. I’m talking about things that have little to no necessity or functionality that we tend to buy on impulse rather than after some rational decision making.

By now, you probably know exactly where I’m going with this; when I talk about having vs doing, I’m talking about the value of the two, on a personal level. It’s the short-lived satisfaction of mindless purchasing, weighed against the long term benefits of actively deciding to do something that positively impacts your life - and you don’t have to be a minimalist to do that.

I’ll leave you with this - Now that we’re slowly returning to life as we used to know it, reflect on your time in lockdown. Have a think about the things you bought, and the things you did, and what experiences were the most valuable to you. Don’t take my word for it - the proof is always in the pudding!


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