Several weeks ago I made the decision to clean out my home office.
I found things I haven’t used in years. I found things I would never admit I once liked. I found things I didn’t even know I owned.
After no fewer than 6 large black garbage bags were filled I stopped to assess my progress. It looked like I hadn’t even touched the room.
My cleaning efforts made me realize I was trying to live a good story by owning stuff.
The Stuff of our Stories
Our stories are full of stuff.
- Stuff that we think will make us happy.
- Stuff that we think we can’t possibly live without (even though we have for years.)
- Stuff we used to like but don’t now.
- Stuff we never liked.
- Stuff we bought because somebody told us to like it.
- Stuff that was once considered high tech.
- Stuff we can’t even explain.
We have so much stuff, we plan on cleaning it out every spring. Typically to make more room for more stuff.
It isn’t wrong to buy things. It isn’t wrong to own things. But it is fruitless to attempt to live a good story through possessions.
Credit Limits and Happiness and Stuff
Most of us have so much stuff because we are trying to buy something besides the object itself. We are trying to buy happiness.
We see something somebody else has and we have this overwhelming feeling, that if we could have it for ourselves, then life would be good.
Or we read about a product or a gadget on the internet. And we imagine that when it comes out, and we use it replace what we already have, then life will be better.
We see someone with a new outfit and imagine how much better we would look if we redid our wardrobe.
If we eat at a certain restaurant or if we travel to a certain place or if we drive a certain car, then our lives will be what we want them to be.
If this were true, then those with the biggest credit limits would be the happiest people in life.
But the opposite often seems to be true. The more we spend the more we want. The more we spend the less satisfying what we already have becomes.
The more we spend, the less happy we are.
I wouldn’t tell you to just stop buying stuff. The gospel of not doing never works. We resolve to do better and after a few weeks we find ourselves in the same patterns.
Getting rid of all of your stuff isn’t necessarily the right place to start either. Maybe you should, especially if your home is a mess, but just getting rid of things isn’t enough.
Instead you need to focus on developing good habits, and then over time, the bad ones will fade.
1. Spend more of your time and money on experiences instead of possessions.
2. Cultivate the current relationships in your life, especially your loved ones.
3. Develop new relationships by seeking out the good in others.
4. Be generous. Give away your time and money for the good of others.
5. Live for a purpose that matters.
By emphasizing the positive, you can learn that there are better things in life than owning new stuff. And then the decision to do without will be easier to make.
What was the dumbest thing (besides exercise equipment) you have ever bought?
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