Our house is not what one would call nice. It’s old. It’s run down. The quality of pretty much everything inside it is shoddy. The pipes are loud. There is one electrical outlet in each room (and some of them don’t work). The garage is a glorified cement hole. The garage door has to be opened manually and one of its windows is covered by a wooden board.
We do not own one quality piece of furniture. The few pieces that weren’t purchased at IKEA were donated by our parents or bought used. Our computers are old and shitty. Our iPads are hand-me downs. Our car is the most common, boring utilitarian vehicle you can get (silver, four-door Honda Accord) and can only be distinguished by its myriad dents, dings and scrapes.
Everything in our walls was created by me and framed for the lowest possible price.
I don’t own one piece of jewelry priced in the four figures. Our wedding rings cost just under a grand each. I don’t even have an engagement ring. My jewelry collection consists of two necklaces my husband got me as gifts and some cheap pieces my mom has gifted me over the years.
Most of my clothes are purchased at Old Navy, H&M or Uniqlo. Some at the more expensive stores like Gap. I have a few pieces bought on clearance at Anthropologie and two pairs of designer jeans (though I just discovered one has a whole in the ass!) Most of my shoes are (warehouse sale) Toms or were purchased on sale at Macy’s.
The point is, I don’t have Nice Things. I have useful things, comfortable things, maybe even some interesting things, but no Nice Things. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about that, the lack of Nice Things in my life.
I notice it most when I visit someone’s nice house. A house with a stylish exterior, an interesting, antique piece of furniture, a recently remodeled kitchen. I notice it when someone gives me a ride in their nice car, or when they hand me something and my eye catches on their beautiful diamond ring. I don’t have anything of these things, and sometimes it kind of bothers me. I have no idea why.
I’m trying to figure out why it vexes me. I mean, I could have Nice Things, if I wanted to, right? I could make Nice Things a part of my life. Clearly it’s not a priority for me. And yet, sometimes the absence of their nice-ness (exacerbated by the not nice-ness of everything I own) feels so glaring, I can’t see past it.
What do Nice Things means to me? Do they signal something? Success? Style? Something more subtle? I’m honestly not sure. It’s almost as if nice things validate the person who owns them, an assurance that they have arrived, that they are legit. But arrived where? Are legitimately what? It’s all so slippery, so hard to pin down. It dances in my periphery, a glimpse here or there, but never the whole idea still and unwavering, so I can study it.
I do know that when I’m with someone who has nice things than me I feel different. I feel like something separates us, like I’m not quite at their level. Like maybe adults have Nice Things, and evidently I’m not an adult, not really, because I don’t.
I tried to have a conversation about this with my husband but he absolutely could not relate. He’s not interested in material things. He never has been and never will be. Nice Things don’t mean anything to him.
The thing is, I don’t want them to mean anything to me either. I don’t want to be interested in material things. I don’t want to be dazzled by the shiny allure of Nice Things. And yet, I clearly am. The idea has been there, vague and half-formed but a shadowy presence none the less: maybe if I have fewer things, some of them can be Nice Things. Maybe if I spend less money on dumb, unnecessary things, I can finally prioritize Nice Things.
But are Nice Things what I really want to prioritize? Is resurfacing my kitchen really my ultimate dream? When it comes down to it, are Nice Things that important to me? Or do I just like to admire them from afar, allowing jealousy and envy bestow vague and misunderstood significance to them because it’s easy and I’m human and our consumer culture is so convincing. Is my desire to have Nice Things nothing more than me falling for the siren song of consumerism? Are a quality set of cultural ear plugs all I need?
I guess I’m not going to tie this one up in a neat little bow, but I wanted to put it out there, because it’s something I’ve been thinking about here and there. I’d love to figure this out so that the Nice Things in other people’s lives don’t keep me in a comparison loop that siphons my appreciation, gratitude and joy.
I wish I could really believe, once and for all, that Nice Things aren’t necessarily Important Things, and that I have all the really Important Things that I need.