Because it happens over time, I don’t think we really realize how much stuff we collect. Most people would buy more stuff if they had more money. We dream of the stuff we would buy and how happy it would make us. The only problem is people with more stuff aren’t happier. Over my adult life I have accumulated a lot of nice stuff but to be honest I don’t think it has made me any happier. I’m pretty sure the 30 years of stress making the money to accumulate it has contributed to a lot of unhappiness at times.
If you go into debt, and most Americans do, in order to buy stuff then you essentially are a slave to your stuff. It owns you. Your stuff has a mortgage on your life.
You also have to manage your stuff once you have it. You have to organize it, store it, maintain it, dispose of it, etc. If we see a new version of something we already have we feel an almost irresistible urge to get it even though the version we have is performing its function adequately. In the 21st century the latest and greatest comes out so frequently it makes your head spin. This is by design. People who sell us this stuff know the most advanced scientific techniques to stoke our urges to “upgrade”.
A year ago I bought a very nice new car that replaced my perfectly nice existing car. I like my new car, but I also liked my previous car. Objectively it is more luxurious than my old car, but on a day to day basis that makes no difference. It only really matters when I think about it. I’m no happier, but I spent a lot of money getting no happier. Does that make any sense? I think we are suffering from a collective illness.
People go into debt to buy bigger homes to hold more stuff that puts them further in debt. It’s an endless cycle. We enslave ourselves to our stuff. I don’t really know what to do about it. I’m guilty of it but I’m getting better. Spending some time reflecting on it (like writing this article) helps when I have the urge to get something new. We’ve enslaved ourselves with the help of advertising and the media, but we can also choose to set ourselves free. Maybe you have enough stuff. It’s worth considering anyway.
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