Stuff - developing a healthy relationship with material things
From an article on Word on the Streets
The video below of Stuff, as the name suggests, is a conversation with seven couples from different countries living different realities but sharing one concern: that in the middle of so much stuff, their children learn to have healthy relationships with material things. This is a reflection on living a ‘spirit of poverty’ in the middle of the world which can shape a free and joyful lifestyle.
Terms like ‘slow life’, ‘detox’, and ‘mindfulness’, the demand for organic food and contact with nature, the rise of minimalism, all of these things have become dominant topics in our conversations. What they all seem to suggest is that there is a need to break with the vicious cycle of stress. A stress which is full of people rushing around burying themselves deeper and deeper in an excess of technology and products.
Is it possible to maintain a healthy relationship with our things, and more importantly, are we preparing our children to be happy and free adults as we immerse them in a society where image is king and wild consumerism seems to control us?
To explore this the video features interviews with 7 couples from 5 different countries - people from all around the world, with different backgrounds, with different situations.
They started by asking parents about how they had been raised, specifically with regards to money or material possessions. They intuited that in this area of life as well as in many others, we owe a lot to our parents and at the same time, we project many of our own desires, insecurities and struggles onto the upbringing that we give our children.
"My dad would leave the house with a jacket and come back without it, because he had given it to someone who needed it." Isabel Costabel, Chile
"Material things were always a bit limited. Having everything… Well, you didn’t." María Alonso, London
"Dad always says that we got richer with each kid who came along." Tamara Rajakariar, Australia
But what about how they were now trying to approach their own relationships with their possessions and raising their children?
"These material things distract you from the more important things. Or they occupy your mind so much, that you can’t do other things well. One thing I’ve been trying to work on since the kids have been born is talking less about things because that gives less importance for them. Talk about things that are important." Nadim and Tamara, Australia
"To help our children have healthy relationship with material things, we try not to satisfy all their desires or give them things before they desire them.
They need to understand, ask, wait for it, long for it, and then achieve it. Perhaps I’m the one who wants to see them having fun and I am the one who’s creating a need in them. I think it’s fair to say that." Mauricio and Paola, Mexico
"The other day one of our sons won a prize for academic excellence and he asked, what are we going to buy? (We said) wait, because in three or four years you could use this money to buy a laptop for university. Linking usefulness and waiting." Maxi and Anita, Chile
"I guess essentially we want them to be able to have opportunities like we had. But now I think mainly about how can they be more resilient or how can they be more loving, more generous. We talk about how to try to aim towards those kind of virtues and parts of their character we want to develop." Raul and Johanna, Australia
"I think the foundation stone is to know how to love the others and to be loved by the others. It’s based on virtues, confidence in themselves and the values we received from our parents and even that they are receiving. We’re transmitting it to our kids." Zaina and Fuad, Lebanon
"Simplicity is really important. Not overdoing things. That's what they remember most, the little things." Isabel and Sebastián, Chile
The parents then talk about some virtues and activities they encourage:
Taking care of each other
Encouraging activities together
Admitting mistakes, being humble
Showing them other realities e.g. visiting elderly people
Freeing them from the need to have
Self-control - work towards what they want
Leaving space for goals - not having everything at once
Preparing them for real life - not bubble-wrapping
Choose the important battles
The importance of saying 'No'
Building up resilience
Watch this 14 min reflection: