I don't hate shopping. I hate buying.
It's fun to shop—fun to have something to obsess over, something to anticipate, something to aspire to. It's fun deciding what defines me—what suits my tastes and requirements. Fun defining those requirements. Fun justifying my choices—if only to myself. Conversely, there is something hollow about not having anything to want. Frequently, for me, actually buying something is...a bit of a letdown.
I'm going to admit something very embarrassing here. A while back, there was something I really wanted. I loved to pore over the catalog, read reviews, look at pictures. Then I bought the item. After I bought it, I caught myself settling down in the...well, in the reading room, preparing to pore over the familiar item in the catalog yet again.
You got that? I was still "shopping" for something I already owned. Sheesh!
I think one of the reasons actually buying something can be a letdown is that we don't actually "own" a lot of the things we buy. I've truly owned a number of my cameras over the years, but there have also been cameras I bought that didn't "take." I just possessed them for a while. I've actually purchased cameras I didn't take a single picture with. Those cameras might have been my property for a while, but they weren't really mine. Not in any significant sense.
There are all sorts of problems with actually buying things. One is that it closes down the possibility of buying something else ("opportunity cost," in econ-speak). Some people like coming to a final decision; not me. I hate giving up possibilities. Another is that there's shopping, and there's shopping—by which I mean, there's shopping for the hypothetical Mike, who has enough money to buy what he wants and a place to put it—and a whole lifestyle to match the item in question—and then there's shopping for the real Mike, who has to be sensible and frugal and for whom every actual choice is a compromise, and whose lifestyle just doesn't suit objects that are too, er, elegant, or luxurious. A final problem is the frustration of buying something that doesn't live up to its promise—that is, making the wrong choice, despite all the effort.
I make up for these downsides, in part, by shopping for things I'm never going to actually buy.
Unlike Ctein, I do like cars. And over the decades, I've successfully shopped for dozens of cars. I just never bought any of them, is all. I'm great at shopping for them. I choose cars that are not impractical and not inappropriate (even in my daydreams I do not buy supercars—I dislike ostentation, actual or fanciful). I've done this many times over the years. I've owned some great cars, in my dreams.
Another thing I like to shop for is houses. I enjoy imagining the house I'd build, if I could build a house. I'm never going to. But I enjoy looking at floor plans, investigating building methods, collecting ideas (if I had another life to live, I'd be a builder of efficient but elegant lowish-income housing, I think).
I have strong opinions about imaginary houses. My house, were I to build one, would be engineered—not designed, engineered—to be as efficient as possible. What does that mean? I mean it would be as maintenance-free as possible, and cost as little to run as possible. I've got lots of ideas along these lines.
I've also discovered (this probably won't surprise you, given my opinions about cameras) that I'm against almost every current fashion.
For instance, I think the houses we build today are way too big. I like small houses. Less to heat, less costly to fill with furniture. More efficient all around. Studies have shown that most people do most of their living in just 640 square feet, regardless of how big their houses are.
Because I like small houses, I hate two-story rooms, which are all the rage right now—every new house has to have "open to below" on the second floor plan. They're a waste of space in my opinion. With rare exceptions, I also dislike their cavernous, barn-like feel. I have no idea why these so-called "cathedral ceilings" are popular. Pure fashion.
I don't like lots of windows. (An excess of window area has been reflexively popular for a long time now.) Why, you might ask, if I like light, would I not like windows? Because I'm a book collector and and photographer—I need interior wall space! Walls to put bookshelves against, and walls to display art on. The more walls, the better. Some well-placed windows are essential, but needless windows are complications—they cost lost heat, require expensive window treatments, and ruin the utility of interior walls. In my current (very small) house I have at least two windows I'd get rid of if I could.
I also dislike open-plan houses. Partly for the wall-space reason, partly for reasons of privacy and purposing: separate rooms are more luxurious in my book. Big rooms are no better than small ones—they just contain more wasted space, and are draftier, harder to heat, and harder to furnish. People have this fantasy that big "open plan" rooms equates to family togetherness—nonsense. Overly large rooms just makes it harder for different people to do different things without bothering each other, is all.
Finally, I detest huge bathrooms. A bathroom is not a place where I want to go hang out. A bathroom is a utility room. No reason for them to be tiny, but 8x10' is overkill, and the current fashion for bathrooms the size of living rooms is absurd.
Anyway, it's probably a good thing I'm not going to build a house—it would be so unfashionable that it would be hard to resell!
I don't spend a lot of time doing this. But it's been a source of recreation over the years. It's just shopping, really. But shopping the way it ought to be done—for fun. Without all the hassle and responsibility of actually buying.
Featured Comment by nic: "I'll never forget one of my grandfather's favorite sayings...'Wantin' is better than gettin'."
Featured Comment by Chuck Albertson: "I wish I had an 8x10' bathroom. I could convert it to a darkroom."