Feeling guilt upon buying something


Like someone who’s swallowed a sponge, this gets a bit self-absorbed. You know when you transcribe an awesome phrase from your head, and it really isn’t that good?

With apologies to Sir Issac Newton, I’ve succumbed to his Third Law of Consumerism: every purchase results in equal and opposite guilt. It might not look it given how I rave about vintage Hi-Fi gear and computers here, but even things I’ve spent years researching and saving for are delivered with equal parts joy and buyers remorse.

Certain charitable Buddhists and Minimalists may (mis!)interpret that as a sign of maturity; that I place people and experiences above material possessions. The fiscally-minded may approve of my aversion to credit, and hoarding of either savings/investments over trifling endeavours like hobbies and interests. I’d be flattered to think there are elements of these, but the truth lies elsewhere. The truth lies?

I’ve mentioned before my weird recurring nightmares that I only have a short time to pack things up to move house, and I feel overwhelmed with all my possessions. I’ve known for years that I prefer clean, simple spaces over ones filled with clutter. Even if that clutter is stuff I like; at least with clutter I hate it’s easy to recycle, donate, or sell because you feel no attachment. There’s definitely something to the idea that you should be careful with what you bring into your home, because of the future opportunity cost for space, money, and eventually landfill.

Maybe it’s a reminder of past family events where we almost lost everything, financially and otherwise. Maybe I feel indulgent or disconnected from the rest of the world that’s doing it tough now. Or it could be that I’ve gone so far down the over-analysis rabbit hole of justifications and doubt that I see fun itself as unproductive. Which it often is, but that’s not the point!

I suppose, rationally, it’s an infinitely better problem than compulsive buying. I couldn’t begin to relate to the feelings of self-hatred, low self-esteem, and financial pressure that would exert on people. At least I’m not parting with money with what I have, let alone money that’s borrowed or not mine.

Curiously I’m able to partially short-circuit these feelings when I write about stuff I’ve bought. Maybe in my mind that transforms it from a trinket—however useful it may otherwise be—into being part of a review? Not sure.

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Ruben Schade is a technical writer and infrastructure architect in Sydney, Australia who refers to himself in the third person. Hi!

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