In this month's post I hope to talk again about putting what you "need" ahead of the things you "think you need or want." For this though it is important for me to preface and establish that I am in no way telling you not to buy those things that bring you happiness. It is okay to want things and it is okay to own things. I am however suggesting a mindfulness and caution not to get caught up in consumerism of things you don’t need or that don’t fulfill your personal happiness.
< I carry all I really need in a single Mountain Hardware bag that I picked up at a garage sale. The bag has room in it for water bottle, stove and more. I keep my waders, shoes and other essentials like snacks, lunch stove pots and coffee for tailgate brewing.
Make no mistake, this isn't just for tenkara gear.
This post while written for your tenkara gear also applies to the rest of your life and possessions too. Having a relationship with our things and seeing if those are rewarding relationships or burdens is what it all boils down to. Then there is also an element of vanity ownership and consumption that we also should check ourselves on. The more we practice this, the more money we will actually have to spend on experiences rather than stuff.
I'm guilty and you are guilty.
Every one of us is susceptible to adding things when we don’t need to. There is a feeling of requirement when we get something new that it is almost like permission to expand our possessions even further. When we get new waders we think about our old boots. “Do these boots look shoddy on the new waders?” This is just one small example. It also applies to rods and packs, cars, boats, camping gear, etc, etc. I am a sucker for garage sales, camping gear, bags and boxes.
We want things that we don't need.
There is a very real phenomenon that plagues us as a consumer society. It is called the “Diderot Effect”. The basic premise is that when we get something nice it seems to overwhelm or make the less nice things we own seem shoddy. This idea then enforces the idea that we need an upgrade across the board. Diderot is an interesting story that I found very familiar and could see in many parts of my own consumerism.
Avoiding Status Image Purchasing
We all have seen how Western fly fishing can be a “status” sport. I could only chuckle to myself at a recent Orvis fly fishing 101 event that I dropped in on the other day. The instructor was giving a solid presentation on keeping things simple. He then killed it for me by pointing out the vests and other accoutrements that they could later aspire to purchase and fill with things he openly stated they would never need. I restrained myself but wanted to shout out “....OR YOU COULD LOOK AT TENKARA AND SAVE YOURSELF A HELL OF A LOT OF MONEY!”
Tenkara runs a risk of slipping into this realm as well as commercialism hits it. My fingers are crossed this doesn’t happen. However, recently there have been some incredibly expensive tenkara rods released… I am of the mindset of spending my money more on experiences than on things, so these rods will likely never be in my possession for use.
Use Cautionary Consumerism
Consumerism is so normalized here in the U.S.A. and other developed countries. Consumption and purchasing of things we don’t need is now almost expected at times. If there is a buck to be made someone will make that thing and try and convince you that you can’t live without it.
There are people who make a living as creative marketers who are working hard to convince us that we need even more still. Certainly we have products that actually do help or that are innovations and improvements. I would suggest though that we should examine cautiously to avoid the fads and impulse purchases of “the next greatest thing”. There is nothing wrong with waiting out and purchasing something later once it has been developed and to see firsthand if that item is right for you.
Our money goes out of our bank accounts fast enough without us spontaneously and addictively spending it on things that will just be put in a closet, drawer, box or garage.
The Exercise of Enough
One of the best exercises you can do to keep yourself from falling into Diderot effect is to just take stock and value what we do have. Look at your current equipment and assess its condition. Go ahead and lay it all out. How leaky are those waders? Can they be patched or resealed? How many rods do you own but never use? Why are you keeping them? How many more years do you think you can get out of your pack or boots? How many packs and boots do you own? Can you justify owning two of the same kind of item that serves the same purpose?
Once we can look at our gear this way, we can start to appreciate what we already have and begin to realistically assess what we really have compared to what we NEED instead of WANT and we can identify what we really need to replace.
Why do I own this and what does it add to my comfort or experience?
Are you a fashionista? How important are name brands to you? Why? Much of this boil down to the investment of your hard-earned money on equipment that may not actually be any better than the less expensive products available. Certainly, there are product that do outperform others. Does their quality outweigh their cost of investment? What hidden costs do they have? I used to purchase wading boots that had interchangeable soles. Then as I matured (in my fishing and outlook?) I decided that I was happier with less expensive water shoes with good tread that could fit over my waders instead.
This comes down I suppose to your own wants for your experience. I love keeping things simple and utility in nature. We can find that balance when we slow down to look at the stuff we are buying and why we are buying it.
Get yourself to where you don’t need to add anything.
To simplify everything above, look at your stuff and decide if you own it or it owns you. Is your relationship with your things one that you don’t have to feel embarrassed about or that you can look at without regrets for spending money on? Keep what you really need, decide what if those things you are keeping as a luxury are the kinds of things that add to or improve your experience or if they are just weight and stuff you feel compelled to carry. I will admit that I am not 100% on this process myself but it is a big part of my mindset. I ask myself regularly if things that I have with me are needs or wants? I ask myself if items are practical to have to the point that they make my life easier than carrying them along in the first place? You can always test yourself by leaving the item behind once and seeing how much you really do “need” it or just “want” it. Just remind yourself once you are at a comfortable place and zone for yourself to not add anything.
Dennis Vander Houwen lives in Colorado with his patient and supportive wife, talented artist son, a smart older dog, a new river puppy, and a very lucky cat.