At the end of last week, I hit a major milestone: I opened my Etsy shop.
That was one of the first dreams I admitted to myself and started working toward, back before this blog even existed. It’s amazing to stand here and look back toward the beginning.
But I don’t want to talk about my shop, or achieving dreams, or reflecting on progress today.
I want to talk about an issue I struggled with as I worked on my shop: Aligning what I wanted to do with my core values.
It might seem odd that someone as committed to paring down her stuff as I have become would also be in love with creating. In fact, though, the former urge is far newer than the latter. I have been making things since I was a little kid. I can’t remember a time when creating was not a part of my life.
As I’ve begun to simplfy, though, I’ve realized something. The problem with creating is, well, you produce stuff — another scarf, another blanket, another scrapbook. These physical things pile up, and there’s only so many handmade objects you (and your family and friends) can use. I have been forced to consider how I could continue to reduce my belongings while also continuing to create.
You might say that selling off the things I make on Etsy is a perfect solution: I get to create, and then the things I make leave my life! Voila!
But there are deeper questions I found myself considering as I sought to fulfill this pre-simplifying dream. And as I believe it is important to give such questions room to grow and find answers, I’ll share my thoughts.
Do I want to add more stuff to the world?
I do not necessarily believe the world needs less stuff. It certainly needs fewer things that are cheaply made, that fall apart quickly, the manufacturing of which makes a huge negative impact on our world.
But I also think the world could use more deliberate creation. It needs people who craft beautiful and useful things on purpose, as a way of adding value and energy to the world.
It’s a delicate balance, and I’m still struggling to grasp the location of my personal line. But I’m getting closer.
Do I feel comfortable asking people to buy more stuff?
I do not believe everyone needs to buy more simply for the sake of consuming. That’s not a great mindset for business, you might say. But the last thing I want is to convince people who do not love what I make to let it into their lives.
I believe we should surround ourselves with objects that bring us joy, not things we purchase out of guilt or because they are on sale or because everyone else has one. I want people to purchase my creations because the object they buy adds value or meaning to their lives — not clutter. And I believe it is ultimately up to the individual to make that call.
How can I create and sell in a way that feels right to me?
I set forth some guidelines based on the questions above and what felt right to me:
- I promised myself I would create only simple, useful objects. The things I made would be functional. They would serve a purpose while adding value to the lives they were a part of.
- If they could reduce the need for a disposable product at the same time, all the better.
- For materials, I would use clothing that had outlived its usefulness to create new things.
- I would be genuine, not pushy or false, with my shop text.
So what’s the lesson here?
Take the time to align what you’re doing with what you believe.
When you begin a project, consider whether it lines up with your core beliefs. You’ll know when it doesn’t because warning bells will go off when you think about the project. They may be quiet, but if you listen, you’ll hear them. You might procrastinate. You might make excuses. Something will feel wrong.
That doesn’t mean you have to abandon your project. See if you can identify what’s rubbing you the wrong way. Then figure out if you can change that aspect, tweak it somehow so that it works in harmony with your deepest principles. That’s the only way you’ll be able to pursue your project with all you’ve got.
What About You?
Have you ever tried to pursue a project that didn’t line up with what you’re all about? How did you deal with it?