나심비 (nah-shim-bee): An abbreviation for “나의 심리를 만족시키는 비용”, which means “an unnecessary expense that satisfies you”.
During COVID, I can see my increased online purchases are rivaled by many of my neighbors. Our collective packages overwhelm the cracked marble floors of our pre-war lobby and mailroom; as farsighted me has to bend low and study each package label to see my name, I can’t help but make some quick judgements like “hey apt xx, do you really need a SHEIN package every single day? A few sweatpants should carry you through!” Little do they know, I use their packages as a barometer of my own spending. I CANNOT be the most gluttonous person in our building!
Our soft-spoken postman M. who usually keeps to himself, recently griped about the severity of packages that he, on his own accord, picks up and delivers to each of our doorsteps. He does this heroic task because we have an intermittent package thief, which is clear sometimes when I am met with a torn package, nothing inside. According to my nosy but seemingly informed neighbor, the police showed her video footage from our mailroom camera that revealed our package thief in his glory. At one or so in the morning, he was seen entering our building with a key, suggesting he’s a current resident or a devious former one. Once inside our mailroom, he opened our packages at a leisurely clip- probing the content with his fingers and no doubt, smiling beneath his masked face.
The other day in the elevator with M, I filled the elevator silence by sheepishly commenting that I must be one of the top package recipients in the building. Without hesitation, he shook his head. “Oh no. Apt 9A wins.” My worst fear actualized; he indeed judges our spending! (And I hate to break it to you, your postman probably does too.)
Or maybe I am paranoid. He probably has other things to consider. Having ADHD and being trapped indoors for the past year, I admit to getting a heightened thrill from package receipt. (Perhaps I should halt the online purchases and emulate my penny-wise five year old who derives great pleasure watching others open packages on YouTube.) Last year, my shopping propensity became scrutinized by my in-laws when I had the chance to live with them during the height of the pandemic. Living in suburban Atlanta with my husband’s family for almost six months without my own car and with limited excursions outside the house, my package flow increased under the critical eye of my father-in-law. Yes, without digressing too much, it was worse than the imagined critical eye of my postman! But perhaps I should forgive, as we all judge the spending habits of other people. (Even my husband, who is not particularly judgy about spending, was floored by the high cost of my Caesar salad without protein at an NYC diner, but when I told him of a wealthy record collector who built a separate listening house so he could blast his records, it made perfect sense to him.)
My immediate family is defiantly anti-minimalist. I probably shouldn’t admit this, but we like our collections- be it my drawing journals from museums and travels and art supplies or the shelves of books and records that surround my dining room table; we look like we’re Barnes and Nobles (it doesn’t help that I’ve found myself turning my favorite books face forward). Our stuffed apartment, like Alice in Wonderland’s house with her growing inside, teeters towards demolition. Though I have surges of embarrassment, particularly when minimalists visit, I stand by some of our purchases. Poor minimalists who vilify and gloss over the thrill of possession! These smug brethren know not the pleasure of playing librarian when friends visit and peruse my bookshelves. (Looking for a dystopian novel all written in a made up language? Have I got something for you!) This pandemic has made me grateful that I have a wealth of art supplies and grandma earrings of which to entertain my 5 year old. Notably, the Korean word nahshimbee is a joyful sounding word unlike the English equivalent, splurge. So I guess the Koreans understand.
So what if I derive real joy from collecting drawing journals and vintage clip on earrings? (See my photos below of some favorites). Judge me all you want, each journal has potential for me to write new stories and draw my heart out. Each pair of vintage clip on earrings, in my mind, transforms me to someone more storied and eccentric than I am. Sorry Marie, the hunt for these treasures at flea markets, museums, stationary stores definitely “spark joy.” As for my husband, he unwinds by listening to his record collection; the pursuit of records has given us an off-the-beaten-path purpose when we travel (e.g., finding an obscure record shop in Tokyo once lead to some winsome tales). Ladies and gentleman of my imagined jury, I challenge you to find frivolity watching this dear, hard-working man clean his vinyl with a soft cloth, tenderly encasing each in a paper sleeve and then carefully marking down when and where he found each record.
Of course, I understand how wanting an apartment that lives up to some imagined ideal of an UWS professor’s apartment with its bookshelves runneth over means we may one day be approaching Hoarder-ville. I’m not condoning hoarding. I’ve seen the real deal in person, particularly when I was a young attorney visiting clients with mental illnesses in their basement apartments stacked so high with papers and chotchkas that I had to interview them for hours on my feet. My friend recently told me of an elderly relative who had a home filled with her objects and when she outgrew that, filled two trailers with more. When there was no more room, she put her possessions in garbage bags on her front lawn. The bags lingered for so many years, trees grew through the bags.
With this disturbing image in mind, I corralled my kids to watch the Netflix documentary The Minimalists: Less Is Now. The two male friends (who are the main narrators) share their path to minimalism, one noting that when you are poor, you take everything offered to you. This comment made me think of my own issues living with my in-laws last year, one particular moment where I felt judged for not being as neat as they are and started to mumble that growing up without money made me messy. At the time, it felt like a disservice to the poor to make such a statement, so I was tentative. But I wonder if the narrator is onto something. Maybe my oft unstable childhood, in which I frequently crashed with family friends and sometimes people I barely knew, has shaped my love of nahshimbee. Or maybe I’m needlessly sullying the word nahshimbee (as it’s a positive word). Perhaps it’s the tyranny of the minimalists who pathologize the clutter-prone when it’s really their OCD selves that need treatment. (I tried this reversal on my mother-in-law by saying with some disdain in my voice “you are the neatest person I’ve ever met in my life” but she knowingly responded in her most cheerful tone “thank you for noticing!” so I failed.) Regardless, I will continue to enjoy my journals and art stuff and not feel guilty for the joy they bring but as it’s still the Lunar New Year, I hope to shed the things that do not give me pangs of joy. For the next two months, I will try to do the pact set forth on the Minimalists show–day one I’ll donate/trash one object, day two I will donate two, and so on. Who will join me?