Do you want to live a happy life? I’ve written before about being happy, but here I want to take a different angle and look at one important cause of unhappiness: loving stuff. Many people try to fill the void within them by buying more and more things they don’t need. When new gadgets come out, they buy them. When their friend has a new car, they want it too.
But why does it happen? Why do people love stuff? The reason is that they believe it will make them happy. They believe the more stuff they have, the happier they will be. Is that true?
The answer is no. Perhaps they think they are happy, but they can actually be much happier if they do it differently. This isn’t just my opinion; scientific research supports it. I will discuss it more thoroughly below, but first let’s see some disadvantages of loving stuff:
- It makes your life cluttered. Each thing you have consumes not only your physical space but also your mental space. Acquiring one more thing means having one more thing to worry about.
- It creates wasteful spending. Buying stuff you don’t need means spending your money unnecessarily. Wouldn’t it be better if you spend it on something that’s truly useful and meaningful?
- It promotes materialistic point of view. The more you love stuff, the more you send the wrong message to the world. The message you’re sending is that stuff can give you happiness. As a result, more and more people around you will fall into it.
- It isn’t a good way to make you happy. There are better ways for that. More about it below.
So what should we do? Here are some tips on how not to love stuff:
1. Realize the negative side of stuff
When you realize the negative side of stuff (as discussed above), you will think twice before introducing more clutter into your life.
2. Realize that experiences – not stuff – contribute more to happiness
Instead of buying stuff, use your money to buy experiences. Research shows that experiences contribute more to happiness:
Another theme that has emerged in similar research is that money spent on experiences – vacations or theater tickets or meals out – makes you happier than money spent on material goods… “We generally found very consistent evidence that experiences made people happier than material possessions they had invested in,” says Van Boven.
3. Avoid impulse buying
Impulse buying is one of the main causes of acquiring too much stuff. This is something I learn firsthand. Since I love reading, I used to buy a lot of books. And guess what? Many of them end up unread. Realizing this, in recent years I become more careful when it comes to buying books. I only buy books that I’m sure I will read.
The way I avoid impulse buying is by first putting the item I want to buy into a wish list. I then wait for at least one month and see if I still want to buy it. In many cases, an item could stay in my wish list for months before I buy it.
4. Think ROI
ROI (return on investment) is a useful concept to help you minimize the number of stuff in your life. When you buy something, think of it as an investment. The question is: can you get good return on your investment? The return here isn’t financial. It’s the overall value you get from the stuff. Will it make your life considerably better? Will it give you long-term happiness? Invest your money only on things that give you good ROI.
Giving is the ultimate way to both avoid loving stuff and make you happier. Research clearly shows the power of giving:
First, they surveyed 632 Americans on their general happiness, along with what they spent their money on, and found that higher “prosocial spending” – gifts for others and donations to charity – was indeed correlated with higher self-reported happiness. They followed this up with a more detailed look at 16 workers before and after they received a profit-sharing bonus from their company. They found that the only factor that reliably predicted which workers would be happy six to eight weeks after the bonus was their prosocial spending – the more money people spent on charity and gifts for others, the happier they were.
The conclusion of the research is clear:
Money makes you most happy if you don’t spend it on yourself.
Photo by striatic