The parable of Diderot’s Robe was one of the most impactful articles I read in 2015. Here’s the Cliffsnotes: After living his life in poverty, the French philosopher (pictured above) was awarded an ornate robe by the emperor of Russia. Suddenly, everything else he owned looked terrible by comparison. So he bought tons of brand new outfits and furniture to match the quality. Not long after buying it all, he realized he was really no happier or better off than before he had the robe.
On January 1st of 2016, I moved into an unfurnished studio apartment in Yaletown. Anyone who’s been to Yaletown knows it is just one giant Diderot’s Robe. The buildings have names like “The 501”, the grocery stores only sell organic, locally grown vegetables (shameless plug), and all the dogs have cute little high-fashioned doggie jackets.
When I furnished my last place with my roommates, we just took whatever old furniture and junk our parents had laying around and called it a home. The house looked like it could collapse into itself at any time anyways so it didn’t matter. But now that I’m in Yaletown in The 501, I’ve felt compelled to make sure my apartment is as nice as its surroundings. I started shopping for furniture at stores instead of Craigslist. I referenced Feng Shui principles. I spent an afternoon discussing my decor’s “theme” with my mom, going back and forth on whether my room would be best complemented by an “espresso” coloured desk.
Now that it’s furnished, I have to admit – I like how swaggy my furniture is. But it also cost me a little too much money and way too much headspace. I started to grow uncomfortable with how much I was caring about this stuff. At the end of the day, I’m not really passionate about furniture, so that time and money could’ve been better spent.
So how do I apply this to 2016? Furniture is one type of Diderot’s Robe, but clothing is another, arguably bigger one. I’m not passionate about clothing either, and I can see how easy it is to spend a ton of money and time on it. And realistically, I have enough clothes for any type of situation I might be in. So here’s my New Year’s Resolution: I will not buy any clothing in 2016.Some caveats: I won’t be a douche about it. If I run out of socks and underwear, I’ll buy new ones. If I lose or break something function-specific, like basketball shoes, I’ll get new ones. If someone gives me clothes as a gift, I’ll happily accept.
But that’s it. Other than the specific caveats above, I won’t have any new clothes in 2016. Now I’ve written it down, so I’m on the hook for this. Let’s see how it goes. Here’s to a philosophically sound 2016!