What’s Wrong With Staying Home?

This week we had a snowstorm. To many areas of the country this is no big deal. However, where I live we don’t “do” snow. We don’t have bi snow removal operations, most of us natives don’t know how or care to drive in it, and everything pretty much shuts down until the melting happens. I like it that way. To me, a snowstorm is a chance to take a break from the hectic pace of life, to slow down, and just enjoy the view. But to hear many people around here cry about it, especially those from areas where snow is not a crippling event, you’d think that a snowstorm was tantamount to a life sentence in jail. They can’t stand it and they’re itching to get out and about.

Case in point: The local news featured a couple that had trekked three miles, on foot, to find an open Target. The reporter asked them if they were in desperate need of supplies. I’m sure he was thinking, “Why else would someone walk three miles through the snow to get to Target?”

I could see hiking three miles in the snow to enjoy the view or to check on family, but to get to Target? Not unless I was in desperate need of something. Well, this couple admitted that they didn’t need anything, they just didn’t want to stay home. They had cabin fever. Now, bear in mind that at this point we’d been snowed in for all of half a day. And this couple had cabin fever so bad that they had to hike to Target.

Of course, they didn’t hike there for the simple joy of it. They bought several bags of stuff while they were there. This couple that wasn’t in desperate need of anything had managed to find five bags of stuff that they had to have. The reporter asked them what they bought.

They had some DVD’s, junk food, a video game, tchotchkes that were on clearance, and some magazines. While you could argue that some of that would provide entertainment during the snowstorm, I’m willing to bet that they had DVD’s, magazines, video games, and junk food at home already. They probably had enough entertainment at home to keep them occupied even if we ended up snowed in for a week. They also admitted that they’d had lunch in the food area because they just didn’t want to eat what they had at home. Now, none of this is life saving stuff.

So why couldn’t they just stay home and enjoy their time off from work? Why couldn’t they be content with the stuff they already had and just enjoy a day when all spending comes to a grinding halt? Why not take the snow day to actually save money?

I think this couple represents a larger problem in our culture. We just don’t know what to do with ourselves if we’re not able to get out and run errands and shop. We can’t stand a day at home because we feel like we’re somehow missing something if we’re just at home. Never mind that most of us have enough stuff in our homes to open a small department store of our own and we have enough food to feed us for days. We still have to get out and get more, even if the weather is terrible. Never mind that most of us plead for more time at home, more time to relax, and more time to have fun with our families.

We obviously don’t mean it because when given just such a day, we can’t stand it and we have to rush out in the snow to shop. Somewhere along the line we’ve lost the ability to entertain ourselves without spending money. We’re not content with having enough; we have to have more, no matter what we have to endure to get it. We can’t just “be.”

I don’t really understand this mindset, personally. I relish my time at home. A good snow day gives me a chance to catch up on my reading, to do some organizing, to make a good meal, or to watch a DVD that I’ve been saving. It’s a day that I can just enjoy myself and my family without constant interruption from the outside world. It’s also a day that I know I don’t have to spend money because there’s nothing to spend it on. I’m not tempted by fast food or a trip to the mall. Even if I think of something I “need,” it’s never life threatening enough to justify running out on dangerous roads to get it. I can just wait for another day. It’s a liberating feeling to sit at home, safe, secure, and to know there’s nothing that I have to do or get.

But most people aren’t like that. Many rely on outside stimulation for their entertainment and comfort. They think that the newest thing will make them happy and content if only they can get out to buy it or see it. They’ve become addicted to that feeling of hunting and then acquiring the desired object. Of course, the desired object doesn’t bring happiness because it was never about the object. It was about the feeling of getting the object. People are addicted to that feeling and they have to have it, no matter the weather. The only places to get that feeling, of course, are at the centers of commerce. It means hanging out at the mall or Target. It means heading to the movie theater every Friday night. It means heading out with the flu or a nasty cold. It means trekking three miles to Target in a foot of snow. It means spending money needlessly on junk that will never be used.

Is there a cure? I honestly don’t know. I think the recession has helped some people overcome this addiction, simply because they haven’t had the money to keep fueling their addiction to outside stuff. They’ve had to learn to be content with what they already have. They’ve rediscovered the joy of staying home, in good weather and bad. They’ve realized that they can entertain themselves with stuff they already own. Other people, like this couple, are harder cases. If you told them that they had to stay home for a week they’d collapse. They just don’t know how to survive without outside stimulation and buying stuff. They can’t entertain themselves, despite a ton of entertainment at home. They have to be out in the thick of commerce to be happy.

If you have a good snow day this winter or if you get sick, try staying home for a change and not rushing out to spend money. Just for one day. You’ll find that it won’t kill you. You might even find that you like it. If you look around your home you can find plenty to keep you busy and entertained. You’ve probably wished that you had time to take care of some chores around the house or devote yourself to some
creative project that never gets done in busier times. Take the day to make that wish come true. Don’t give in to the urge to go out. Just spend one day enjoying what you have and the time with your family. There’s nothing wrong with just staying home, contrary to what our culture seems to demand.

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6 Responses to What’s Wrong With Staying Home?

  1. Hilary says:

    I agree with your assessment of the storm, but I felt like I had a more positive spin on it (maybe because I wasn’t watching the news!). On Saturday when I went outside, there were all these people just walking around, enjoying the snow and each others’ company. Even on Sunday night, when I trekked to my friend’s house to watch the Super Bowl, there were people walking in the middle of the street, out just for the walk walk or maybe go to a local bar for the company. I felt like most people were embracing the “in the moment” lifestyle that we so often forget. That’s not to say that everyone did, and on Sunday people seemed to have more shopping bags than on Saturday, but I felt like it was a refreshing change of pace for this area.

  2. This is an excellent point, and is exactly what our economy has conditioned us to do – buy. We are not a culture fueled by need anymore, we are a culture fueled by HABIT and WANT.

  3. Forest says:

    The more I become a Frugal person the more I enjoy the comforts of not doing anything…. The idea of going to the mall is a long gone thing in my mind and I only do it out of pure necessity…. Being snowed in, I absolutely love it! Although I may leave the house and trek 3 miles it’s likely to see whats going on in town as I like people watching, or just to see how nature is dealing with it…. Sadly I live in Cairo right now so the chances of being snowed in are a big fat 0…. However I have been told sand storms come in March!

  4. teresa says:

    I am from central South Dakota and think it is hilarious how people react to snow in places that don’t get it too much. We have had too many snow to count so far and around here there is no Target or any other “entertainment” store. We just hope that our little grocery store can gets its weekly delvery of milk!! I have to say last weekend I “needed” to get out of the house, school has been called off a lot lately and I can only handle so many days in my tiny house with 5 children. So I do understand the need to get out of the house, but it had been 2 weeks not 1 day!

  5. Jo/Gaelicwench says:

    Living in northwest PA where lake effect snows are the norm, I have no issue with staying home. There certainly isn’t anything wrong with going outside to take a temporary break from the pain of having cabin fever. I highly doubt, however, that going shopping is necessary just for the sake of doing that.

    You hit a pet peeve of mine spot on with the mention of how people will grouse because they wished they could have more time at home to get things done. When this does occur, out they go to do mindless things.

    Living out in a very rural area where the nearest Walmart is 13 miles away and the town I work in is 23 miles away, I always make sure to consolidate ALL my errands in one trip. I also go to Erie where all the major stores are [45 minutes away] once a month.

    I have enough books on my TBR list. I am also giving some serious thought to starting a home-based business that will have me outside the majority of the daylight hours.

    Who says I need to go shopping to keep myself entertained……

  6. Gail says:

    Writer #5 must be a near neighbor of mine! We have had a lot of snow this year, only thankfully not as bad as last year. but even so at one point I didn’t leave the house for 3 1/2 weeks in january. I will admit to some cabin fever at that point, but just getting caught up on groceries was enough outside time for me. I’m on disability and hubby is self-employed at home so we are here almost all the time and enjoy our home which is well stocked with things to do such as reading, watching a movie, sewing projects, woodworking projects, baking, etc.

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