Clearing My Inbox, Clearing My Mind

by Alison Gerber

bed with computer

Last night I unsubscribed from 101 product advertising mailing lists.

101. It sounds like a made up number, but I promise it isn’t. I actually get that much junk mail in my central email folder every single day. This morning when I woke up, there was just one email in my inbox – from my mother in law.

Occasionally as that thought passes through my mind: “I want to buy x”, I find myself wondering whether that impulse actually came from me or whether it was manufactured, constructed by advertising. But how do people advertise to me? I’ve been trying to figure that out. I don’t watch TV, read magazines or newspapers. It’s not like I live in a big city, surrounded by posters and billboards. I rarely go to the mall.

It must be the internet, right? And the internet is smart: it targets my taste better than TV or magazines ever did. Since I blogged about fashion last month, I swear my Facebook feed is 50% advertising for new clothing. When I blog about anything for Apartment Therapy, from tablecloths to wall hooks, you can bet the next week every side bar, every pop up ad is an ad for sales of household goods. And every time I buy something online I find myself unwillingly subscribed to their mailing lists. 101 mailing lists. 101.

And then here is the effect of all that: every morning, not too long after I get up, I check my email. Which means every morning I see about 20 new mailouts advertising new products or sales, from Urban Outfitters to the Scandinavian Design Center and everything in between. And the cumulative effect of all those emails is the following thought: “There is something to buy today.” Every morning one of my first thoughts is: “There is something to buy today.”

Imagine if every morning you had, not only your kids wanting breakfast at the dining table, but also 20 sales reps from companies sitting around telling you “Are you going to pop by our store this morning?”, “Have you seen this new sofa?”, “Are you interested in 15% off today?”. Argh! No! Get out! I want peace and quiet in the morning. And of all the things in the world, buying stuff is quite simply not what I want to be thinking about every single day! There’s so much more out there in the world besides buying stuff! Beautiful things, creative things, spiritual things. Things to do with my family, my friends, my home, my study, my writing, my faith. And I also despise other people telling me what I should want! Shouldn’t I be the one to come up with that all on my own?

So, 101 emails no longer come to my house. Sure, I’m going to miss some sales. So?? Up in my brain, it’s quiet this morning. There’s space to think about something else. Like…I’d better get back to my mother in law. And then, who knows? Perhaps I’ll have just a moment of peace.