Call it cocooning, hunkering down, being a homebody, or whatever. It is me. And it especially describes my life over the past ten years or so.
Now I’ve discovered it has yet another name: dwelling. From What consumers do in a downturn:
Roughly speaking, consumers have two modalities: surging and dwelling.
In the surging modality, consumers have momentum. We have a vivid sense of forward motion. Life is getting better. Each purchase is an improvement on the last one. Clothes change with fashion. The material world teems with new features, new things, new opportunities, new excitement. We look ahead constantly, keeping one foot in the present, putting one in the future. The good life is America is always a better life. That’s the fundamental promise of the consumer society.
In the dwelling modality, the consumer is not forward looking, but concentrated on the here and now. Now most of life’s pleasure comes from counting one’s blessings. This is a dwelling modality, because the individual is no longer in transit, racing towards a better tomorrow. Now the consumer is focused on what is good about what one has. The consumer stops anticipating and starts savoring.
My goodness! That summary of dwelling describes David and me very well!
How We Are Dwelling
When David and I started to take steps to simplify our lives, we knew we were not interested in trying to keep up with the Joneses or a lot of the consumer culture. To be sure we still enjoy a great deal of the blessings in this country. But we took a definite step away from chasing after every new advancement. We chose to evaluate things on their own merit and how they would fit in with our lives rather than racing to the next new and exciting thing. So we don’t have iPods, public cell phones, game systems, Blackberries, etc. Not because they are intrinsically evil, but because we really don’t see that they will improve our lives or our home. And so we have been living in the dwelling modality that McCracken talks about.
In a follow-up post, Finding joy in a joyless society, he writes:
Yesterday, I offered a couple of thoughts on what consumers do in a recession. They cease surging, I argued, and started dwelling. By “dwelling” I mean the metaphor, not the literal activity.
But in fact the pun is apt. When consumers slow down and begin to concentrate on the here and now, the what and the where of their activity is often the home. Dwelling is what consumers do instead of buying.
One of the things we especially savor is the home. Home, and hearth and heart, this becomes the new geographical center of our lives.
And, lastly, McCracken writes in the third of this series of related posts, Homeyness triumphant:
A couple of days ago, I argued consumers would respond to the present economic downturn by “dwelling” instead of “surging.” I argued that this change would be governed by cultural subroutine called “homeyness.”
Making the Choice of Homeyness
In recent days I’ve been reflecting on the current economic climate and our decision so many years ago to move toward a simpler, less frantic, less consuming-oriented lifestyle. I’m very thankful that we made the choice to alter our lifestyle. I’m thankful we made a choice and were not forced into something against our will. Many people are finding out what it means to make do with less and they are not going to see the joy in it because it is not where they want to be. Over time, some will discover the joy in appreciating the simple things. But some will not and for those folks this economic downturn will be made that much harder.
For me, the decision to change my lifestyle came about due to several different factors. I got married and wanted to be at home. I was tired of teaching. The non-event of Y2K played into it as it got me thinking about the potential fragility of our systems in this country. The events of 9-11 certainly impacted it. And little things like losing our water for a few days at our house due to a main break and losing our power for almost a week due to straight-line winds. Reading about the housing bubble and learning about the no-win financial situation in the US. Each one of these events (and many others) made me step back again and think – What is truly important?
So I am thankful that we have already moved in this direction. That is not to say we won’t be impacted by the economic conditions. We may at some point. But right now we are in the position of being able to say “This is enough” and already know in our hearts and minds that it is very true.