We are shopped out. For the first few weeks after the 2012 Charlotte Mink Creek Fire raged through our neighbor hood burning 66 homes and 30 barns and other structures we were too stunned to do more than the simplest shopping, some underwear, some socks, a few tee shirts, towels, dog soap, toothpaste and deodorant. We left the house when the fire was coming with a some clothes I packed for us like we were going on a trip. As I was packing I thought I was being melodramatic rounding up the family to leave. I did not realize within the hour our house would be eaten by the hungry fire.
For some reason replacing things lost to the fire made the fire loss concrete. As long as we did not get another pan like the one that burned in some parallel universe where trauma is the currency of exchange, the original pan was not gone. Acknowledging it was gone by replacing it had an un-retractable finality to it.
When we faced the un-retractable finality, I made my first shopping forays online at night. After several trials of putting things in my shopping basket and then not hitting the purchase button I told myself I had to do it and clicked purchase. The first major purchase was a small but complete wardrobe for my spouse. He was worried about clothes for his job and I thought if he had things in the closet it might make him feel less stressed. As a surprise I carefully shopped to get him a whole new wardrobe, albeit small, for under $500. In that purchase was everything from hiking shoes to a suit. I laid it all out on the hotel bed so that it looked like a magazine spread. When he came back to the hotel where we lived and I was eager and excited for him to see what I had done. He was interested and grateful but put a lot of the packages unopened into his hotel drawers. My spouse’s interest in piles of new clothes has never been over the top. His response was normal–for the situation and for him. My efforts to normalize our situation were not unappreciated but my level of expectation was so inflated it was be difficult not to be let down, especially in the emotionally charged weeks after the fire.
The weeks passed and the fog of the trauma lifted and we began to recognize that our house and our household goods were actually gone. I metaphorically pounded the e-stores looking for things to replace what we had. Early on we decided fewer things of high quality was better. We would not have two cutting boards but just one. I got one Boos cutting board. It as an extravagance but we use it every day so it has become a old friend. I finally got an All Clad non stick fry pan which I had wanted since 1996.
After we got started buying stuff we worked diligently to figure out what we needed to have a household that was similar to what we had before and what we wanted because we had it before and what we thought we wanted just because we were spending money and it seemed like we were falling for everything that went by. It was a strange lesson in economics. in the context of the Great Recession (2007-2009) an economist friend had taught us about pent up demand. Pent up demand describes a return to consumerism following a period of decreased spending. For weeks after the fire we bought things but usually a trickle and always with a worry about money. After we got the first part of our insurance settlement, moved into our first temporary house and we thought we would be returning to our old house location soon, the flood gates of pent up demand opened. We got boxes every day. We bought everything between a bed and a winter coat. We bought some furniture and a lot of curtains. We bought plumbing parts and we bought antique chandelier crystals. We have lots of sheets and more than a few towels. After the big stuff was procured, I started buying the things that go in a room to make it look lived in. I bought lamps and vases. I bought boxes and wall art. We bought more clothes.
We decided to retire and move to a new community and bought a new piece of land to build a house on. We have bought the wood and the walls and the stoves and the toilets and tubs, the flooring and the ceiling for this new house that is almost finished.
In all we have spent the insurance money on replacement of our structure and our personal property. We have spent a lot of money.
I am through spending money. I am through shopping. I just cannot face any more of it. Our charge cards look like we are irresponsible even though we pay them off each month. Imagine putting a mattress, a headboard and some sheets an pillows on your charge card and a few days latter by dishes and dishtowels soon to be followed by a dog bed and a camping tent and winter coats and you get the point. When we started building this house we are soon to live in I put things like $11,000 worth of wood on my charge card for a single purchase. Our credit ratings went down because we were suddenly spending three times what we earned. Of course, it was difficult to explain to Experion, Transunion and Equifax that we had tens of thousands of dollars in the bank from the insurance company to replace our home and household goods. To them it appeared that we made this much and spent three times that much.
The house is almost finished and sparsely furnished and I am shopped out. Shopping ceased to be anything but a response to the need to reestablish our home a long time ago. I guess in a couple of years I will want to go shopping for fun but for now I am done. I will buy some underwear, some socks, a few tee shirts, and some towels again because after two years some of them have begun to wear out. The Saturday after the fire I bought enough deodorant for two years. I just had to buy some more, I should be set for at least a year this time.