Opening Up / A scarf-aholic in search of a support group
A wide yellow band with huge black letters blaring,"De-Clutter your Life!" slashes across the cover of the March issue of "O Magazine."
"O's" lifestyle guru, Martha Beck, tells us to "say goodbye to stuff that is weighing you down."
Good advice, especially in the winter -- especially this winter. What a perfect stuck-inside, snow-day activity: Burrowing into those cupboards and closets and jamming one thing after another into a Hefty bag and packing them off to the Good Will. That is, when you can get out again. My bags cluttered up the narrow hallway of my apartment for days.
Nevertheless, let the snow fall and the icicles form, or, in March, let the wind shriek and the rain blow sideways.When we are clearing out we're making the most of a terrible day.
The truth is that we are "weighed down" by having too much stuff. We all know that clearing clutter out of our lives also provides a kind a psychic cleansing, an inexplicable lifting of the spirit.
My problem is that once I've accomplished the closet/cupboard purge, a signal goes off in me that announces, "Now I can buy more!"
For instance, this winter I've been buying scarves. They seem particularly pretty this year as well as being warm and generally they don't cost too much. In stores everywhere, scarves just leap out at me, wrapping themselves around my neck and my wallet.
I think, "Oh, I love that!," and I come home with it. My scarf shelves are bursting, and I can hardly see what's in there. You must understand that some are for winter, and some for spring and some for summer. So there's that . . . I mean, I can't just randomly give a whole bunch of them away, can I?
Still, something about this excessive scarf-buying must be bothering me because recently, in the very early morning, I woke up from a half- asleep/half- awake dream in which I was knotting my scarves together lengthwise and they were able to circle the earth.
When I told a friend about my current scarf excess she laughed and wondered if there was a scarf-buying support group I could go to. Her thing, she said, was lightweight jackets.
"I buy them all the time," she told me, and then clear them out and buy more." A lightweight jacket and scarf support group? How are we going to stop this compulsive buying?
According to "O," we are not just self-indulgent, undisciplined women completely out of control. It turns out that we are victims of our own biology.
Get this: Current research reveals that men under stress either "fight or take flight." While women under stress create some of those same flight-or-fight hormones, we also produce some additional hormones that mix in, and that mix prompts us towards "tend-and-befriend" behaviors -- nesting, feeding and grooming."
That explains why, when we are faced with a big-deal social event, we go straight to "What shall I wear?" What I always thought was sheer vanity is, in fact, a stress response.
Still, soothing our anxieties with compulsive patterns isn't healthy, and "O" suggests a "Buying Diet."
We are urged to "think abundantly," and to "dive" into an overcrowded area of our homes and "wallow" for a while in our stuff -- whatever it is. I'm picturing all my scarves surrounding me in a colorful swirl on the floor of my bedroom while I pick them up one after the other to admire them. A plethora of scarves? Hopefully, a surfeit of scarves? A who-needs-more reaction?
A second suggestion for the successful "Buying Diet" is to "practice moderation." Curtailing my scarf compulsion does not mean that for the rest of my life I can never have another scarf. Forget that! That is impossible, like it's impossible to imagine that I can never have another chocolate-covered graham cracker -- we won't go there -- but you see what I mean
The idea that we can never again have something that we crave, catapults us right into scarcity thinking, a kind of thinking that is the jet engine for out-of-control buying.
Therefore, compulsively purchased objects, once we have "wallowed" in them sufficiently -- we might have to wallow more than once -- can become, instead, an occasional treat.
All this is worth thinking about. Still, it's snowing again for at least the 65th time this winter, and since I'm now on a scarf diet, I'm thinking of ramming my car into AWD and heading out for a chocolate-covered graham cracker.