What Really Happened in Istanbul
I came to Istanbul for many reasons.
First, I came to retrace memories of living here in the 80’s with my family after we had fled Iran. I truly long to go back to Iran naturally but the time for that has yet to come. Turkey, in the meanwhile, was where we first established our lives in a free country and I am forever grateful for the open and warm way in which the Turkish people welcomed us, and now, 25 years later, I came back and indeed found a treasure of memories to take back home.
But I also came to Istanbul for some serious heavy-duty shopping.
In fact, I specifically left plenty of room for shopping in my luggage. I remember how much I loved Turkish clothes when living here, and I could hardly afford anything then. Now, I could buy anything my heart desired.
The grand result of my “shopping spree”: In the 8 days I spent frolicking about Istanbul, I bought altogether a half dozen small things, two of them souvenirs for my yoga teachers!
I had planned on filling up a suitcase or two full of stuff and instead, I barely shopped. I had every intention to shop for the sake of shopping, for the love and joy of it, for the excitement of having new stuff to wear and enjoy and I have nothing to show for it. At least nothing tangible.
We went to the Grand Bazaar and several other bazaars, every mall, and countless street corners filled with merchants and their stalls. We walked into leather shops, clothing stores, hip modern places, small cheap strips full of good deals.
I walked into every store I wanted to see, looked at the lovely merchandise, asked to see how much it was, and then stood there wondering if I should buy it. Questioning the choice for spending some piddly 20 Turkish lira or less on something that I would have probably enjoyed.
I looked at shoes, hand bags, trinkets, and even my most favorite thing of all, silk hand-made gorgeous rugs, even if Persian style is my favorite the Turkish ones are nothing to sneeze at!
So what happened?
Funny thing about desires. One minute, you desire to buy, to exchange money for the merchandise, to own something new. And the next minute, the desire vanishes into thin air and you wonder why you should pay for something that you neither need nor desperately want anymore. And that’s what happened every time I came close to buying.
I have loved material things all my life, I admit. And I still do. I love Persian rugs, beautiful furniture, fine jewelry, and paintings that bring me to my knees from their beauty. I love LOVE love clothes and I adore shoes, and I am mad about make-up. The list is long and I won’t bore you with it but this new revelation is an interesting shift in desires.
I came to Istanbul and Izmir to fill my bags with material goods and instead, I filled my heart with unforgettable experiences and low and behold, I am beyond satisfied.
Tammy Strobel’s book “You Can Buy Happiness (and It’s Cheap)” first planted the seed of curiosity about this whole minimalism business. Soon after, my dear friends, Dan and Vanessa Hayes of Simple Life Together kicked it up a notch or two with their fabulous podcast.
The irony however is that while I really enjoyed Tammy’s story and being a part of Simple Life Together’s community to simplify my life, I had no intention to be affected on a subconscious level by the movement towards shopping less!
I wanted to shop. I wanted to spend the money. I wanted to buy stuff, and yet, I didn’t. I was bereft of any desire to buy *stuff* and I am leaving Turkey without any regrets.
So if you love shopping the way I do – or used to do anyway – and if you want to start planting the seeds of a simpler life without declaring yourself the next minimalist or anything like that, maybe this will help.
3 Questions to Ask Before You Buy
Before you make your next purchase, just ask yourself 3 simple questions:
1. In what way will my life be better off if I buy this thing?
If you have at least 2 good answers, go to the next question. If not, pause and think!
2. What is one good reason I should not buy this thing?
If you have at least one good reason, pause and think!
3. Do I really desire this thing enough to buy it and own it forever?
If you have at least one good honest reason, then go for it. If not, well, pause, think and perhaps walk away!
Understanding the Allure Behind Buying
So what is that allures us to buying and shopping and owning more STUFF? I believe it’s the idea of having what we don’t have and believing that in doing so, it brings us the sense of happiness that we are “missing”, that it completes us in some way, that it makes us better for owning it and for showing it off and telling others about it and on and on.
But that’s just ludicrous. Think about everything you already own. How much has it really contributed to your day-to-day happiness, past the honeymoon phase? And how much has your happiness depended on everything else BUT the stuff that you own in life?
Is it not truly the experiences in life that fill our heart? Even when you receive a gift, is it not the giving that fills you up rather than the thing that was given to you? Is happiness then not merely a decision of the heart, regardless of the possessions in the house?
I still love rugs, clothes, shoes, make-up – especially the expensive and exclusive ones – and I prefer the new to the old, but a part of me is moving gently towards a simpler lifestyle and it feels so surprisingly good that I invite you to taste it for yourself.
I am off to finish the last bit of my trip here in fabulous Turkey by making the long trek home. While I am on the road, tell me what you think about wealth of experience over wealth of material goods, and if you have ever lost the desire despite your every intention to shop, to buy and to accumulate more stuff. Share your thoughts in the comments below.