Simplicity Is Best: Why Materialism Is Only Going To Screw Up Your Life

Over at the US News & World Report Alpha Consumer blog there’s an interview with Tim Kasser, author of The High Price of Materialism, about why and how materialism will not make you happy. In fact, it very well might make you sad.

Here’s why:

We propose four psychological needs. The first is safety/security, which is the need to feel like you’ll survive, like you are not in danger, like you will have enough food and water and shelter to make it another day. The second is competence or efficacy, which is the need to feel like you are skillful and able to do the things that you set out to do: I need to feel like a good psychologist, you might need to feel like a good journalist, etc. The third is connection or relatedness, which concerns having close, intimate relationships with other people. The fourth need is for freedom or autonomy, which is feeling like you do what you do because you choose it and want to do it rather than feeling compelled or forced to do it.

As I lay out in my book, The High Price of Materialism, people who put a strong focus on materialism in their lives tend to have poor satisfaction of each of these four needs. In part this is because of their development, but it also is because materialism creates a lifestyle that does a poor job of satisfying these needs. That is, a materialistic lifestyle tends to perpetuate feelings of insecurity, to lead people to hinge their competence on pretty fleeting, external sources, to damage relationships, and to distract people from the more fun, more meaningful, and freer ways of living life.

Kimberly Palmer, who writes the Alpha Consumer blog, says that Kasser lives “a lifestyle known as “voluntary simplicity,” which essentially means opting for a less materialistic life. Instead of spending the evening in front of a plasma-screen television, a voluntary simplifier might cook a meal with the vegetables he grew in his garden. Instead of splurging on two lattes a day, he might bring his home-brewed beverage of choice to work in a reusable mug.” Personally, we live a modified version of this lifestyle. Ours includes the flat screen tv. Hey, football won’t watch itself.

Actually, Kasser addresses that issue too:

There is a story about a man who approached Gandhi and said that he’d been thinking about living a simpler life, but he didn’t feel like he could give up his collection of books. Gandhi is said to have replied, “As long as you derive inner help and comfort from anything, you should keep it. If you were to give it up in a mood of self-sacrifice or out of a stern sense of duty, you would continue to want it back, and that unsatisfied want would make trouble for you. Only give up a thing when you want some other condition so much that the thing no longer has any attraction for you.”

My take on this, and on your question, is that simplicity is not an endstate that is achieved but a path that one is walking.

What do you think? Are you happier when you strive for simplicity…?

How to Live the Simple Life [Alpha Consumer]
(Photo: Getty)

Comments

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  1. Burgandy says:

    I take more joy from picking my fruits and veggies in my garden than I ever have from a pair of shoes. Never thought I would, but I do. Never thought I would actually *enjoy* hanging my laundry up on a line in the backyard to dry, but I do.

  2. PunditGuy says:

    I think that, unless he’s giving away the book, he should shut the hell up.

  3. Jonbo298 says:

    Credit cards destroyed the concept of being frugal/less materialistic. Only now are people realizing you don’t need the best or really damn good stuff around to be “normal”, with the whole credit crisis unfolding.

  4. legwork says:

    Good stuff.

    “Things I wish I’d learned in kindergarten.”

  5. PsychicPsycho3 says:

    I just moved out of my college apartment and into post-graduate limbo a few months ago. The best feeling in the world was getting rid of all the silly little unnecessary things I’d been carting around for years. Things like 4 of the same kind of USB cable, books and video games I no longer read or played, clothes I actually kind of hated, etc.

    It’s incredibly freeing for your life not to be bogged down by things you don’t use or need but keep for some reason.

  6. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @PsychicPsycho3: Hmm, I find it incredibly freeing and empowering to know that, “Yeah, I’ve gone one around here somewhere, and if I don’t I’ve got something that will work almost as well.”

  7. atypicalxian says:

    I don’t know if being happy would describe it; more like being content with what I have. The problem with materialism is looks at things to complete or fulfill oneself; ultimately things/objects can never do that. Once the shiny new toy isn’t shiny anymore, it loses its appeal and the quest for the new shiny thing begins afresh (that’s what Apple banks on with its almost yearly new releases of variations of iPods). It doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate the new shiny thing, and you won’t say no to it if you got it, but it’s being content without it, or being willing to live with the not-so-shiny thing until it dies and you have a reason to get a new one.

  8. TCameron says:

    I NEED that book!

  9. Canino says:

    Don’t believe anything Gandhi says. He still owes me $20 and keeps promising to bring it “next time”.

    I tried simplifying. I went through the house and threw away a bunch of stuff and set aside a lot more to sell. Then I had to try to eBay it all and that’s a huge hassle. Take a picture, type it all out, get the money, pack it, ship it, email the buyer, keep an eye on feedback…I gave up. Now I have a simpler house and one less usable room because there’s a HUGE PILE OF CRAP IN THERE. Thanks a lot, doc.

  10. timmus says:

    I see a disconnect with:

    A: [Freedom is] feeling like you do what you do because you choose it and want to do it rather than feeling compelled or forced to do it.

    and

    B: Instead of spending the evening in front of a plasma-screen television, a voluntary simplifier might cook a meal with the vegetables he grew in his garden.

    Unless you have a big spread, quite possibly you are having to make a meal with a limited selection of offerings from the garden, so in a sense, you are compelled to use what comes from there. Whereas you have a choice of restaurants, a choice of items from menus, endless possibilities. Just saying that voluntary simplicity might not be completely congruent with “freedom”.

  11. Canino says:

    @timmus: Plus, what if “spending the evening in front of a plasma-screen television” is what you want and choose to do?

    The author makes it sound like watching TV is bad compared to eating home-grown veggies. Quite a disconnect there. If you eat your veggies in front of the TV do those things cancel each other out?

  12. I recently outfitted my apartment with minimalism in mind. It’s a one-room studio, no TV, an old laptop, small pair of speakers, couple of bookshelves, kitchen, two chairs (one for me and one for my cat), table, and a bed.

    So far I seem to miss having copious amounts of stuff, but the jury is still deliberating. Some days I just want to come home, turn on the TV, and drown my sorrows in useless 24-hour news. But nope. After simplifying, there’s no such thing as mindless entertainment. I have to do crazy things like read.

    Maybe my point is that if you do get rid of your stuff, you gotta replace the technostimulation with something. I haven’t done that yet and it’s been rough.

  13. @Canino: Then I had to try to eBay it all and that’s a huge hassle. … Now I have a simpler house and one less usable room because there’s a HUGE PILE OF CRAP IN THERE. Thanks a lot, doc.

    If you don’t know what’s in that room, I propose you pay somebody a couple bucks to throw it all away. Chances are you won’t miss anything.

    One thing I’m about to do is unload my boxes of useless cables at work. That way, I know where the are, but that’s one more shelf open at home. And when I move on, I doubt I’ll think twice about leaving the cables behind. (I’m pretty sure having the 13W3 cable, VGA-BNC cable, DB-9/DB-25 null modem cable, or 4 GB SCSI hard drive will never be a life or death matter.)

  14. Robobagins says:

    @Michael Belisle:
    Reading is just just like watching TV for me, except it requires one hand every now and then, though the tv does too. So waitaminute. They’re the same! Gah! The cruel conspiracy is at last revealed!

  15. Orv says:

    @Canino: People who don’t watch TV are always smug about it. It’s best to just ignore them.

  16. Norislolz says:

    BUY THAT BOOK!

    ;)

    Anyway, people need to buy better stuff. Stuff is pretty awesome as long as you’re not buying crap or a million of the same thing. I watch Blu Rays on my plasma TV that I bought while walking around in Diesel shoes. I like everything I buy and the products bring me joy in making my life great.

  17. El_Feo says:

    Does Consumerist have some new advertising deal? Was this post paid for in part by “The High Price of Materialism”? If it is I recommend caution as it may undermine our considerable trust in your blog.

  18. modenastradale says:

    This is an age-old truth, and it’s precisely what is meant by the notion that money can’t buy happiness. A certain standard of material consumption may enable happiness depending on one’s circumstances, but no amount of consumption can guarantee a sustained sense of fulfillment.

    I don’t think this philosophy should be confused with asceticism, though. There is nothing wrong with enjoying material things, even very extravagant things, per se. The problem is really a lack of self-understanding. Most people don’t know what makes them happy, and so they adopt a “more is better” approach to all aspects of consumption. To support that kind of lifestyle, of course, they must often make severe compromises in other areas of their lives that are ultimately much more important.

    The trick is to assess your needs thoroughly and honestly. How much value do you really get out of living in a prestigious neighborhood or luxury apartment? Are designer threads necessary for you to feel great about yourself, or do you just buy them because everyone around you does as well? What if you could have an extra 15 hours a week to spend with your family? Or what if you never again had to deal with the boss you despise? What material things would you trade for that?

  19. DriverB says:

    No need to buy the book – how’s that for simplifying?

    Just check out Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, a basic tenet of psychology, which is THE SAME THING – self-actualization, not stuff, is happiness.

  20. iMe2 says:

    There are really two versions of happiness:

    1) Hedonism, or the moment-to-moment “affect” (feeling) as the result of specific events, and
    2) Eudaimonism, or the cognitive assessment of overall life satisfaction.

    Research generally suggests that a positive overall eudaimonic perspective will necessarily lead to hedonic enjoyment, but not all such enjoyment is derived from eudaimonic living.

    In other words, the key to understanding material happiness is that without eudaimonia, or the general feeling of living well and a sense of actualizing one’s potentials, positive hedonic feelings stemming from material things are usually short-lived.

    Interestingly, the level of autonomy/self-determination is probably the strongest predictor of both categories of happiness. So the motivating factors behind what we do can be more important than the “objective” happiness we obtain brought on from the activity itself.

    While this may seem like common sense, I think it’s false to paint it in such black-and-white terms that buying stuff won’t make you happy, working for your stuff will. That’s a very personal enjoyment that not everyone will share. They key is do enable yourself to do what you want, just don’t be a slave to some external measure of worth. “Know thyself.” I like the Gandhi quote.

  21. eelmonger says:

    @DriverB: I was thinking the same thing when I read the quotes above, the guy just renamed all the parts of Maslow’s Hierarchy.

    @Michael Belisle: So you want to watch TV but you’ve forced yourself to sacrifice and do something else. Sounds like you’d be happier with a TV, however “mindless” you pretend the activity is.

  22. Marshfield says:

    I don’t have to strive for simplicity. I can’t afford anything else with two teenage girls in the house.

    Fortunately, I’m old enough to realize that the joy of buying new stuff is very fleeting, and then you have that stuff to deal with for a long time. So I don’t get very excited shopping, unless I’m saving at least 50% off retail on something I’ve been wanting for a while.

  23. RabbitDinner says:

    Why is Consumerist putting up an anti-materialism article? If people don’t buy buy buy crap, what will become of this blog?

  24. floraposte says:

    It’s not always an either/or. My splurge sheets are a material acquisition, but there’s a very simple pleasure in enjoying their touch on my skin. I love cooking and baking, but I enjoy them much more now that I’ve got decent tools. The pleasures of gardening vary from the simple (oh, it’s a beautiful day and I just caught the perfume of the roses wafting across the yard) to the complicated (my construction has indeed perfected my design strategy!).

    But I do ultimately agree with him that the mere pleasure of acquisition is never enough, because acquiring is a fleeting state, and there’s always going to be more you don’t have than you have, which is going to depress you if you’re trying to gain happiness by extent of possession. I’m just not prepared to demean all object-connected happiness, or even all ephemeral joys.

  25. astrochimp says:

    All that historical materialism in those sociology courses really screwed up my life, too.

    Stupid Marx.

  26. hotrodmetal says:

    I would rather cry on a big bag of money & know i can buy and own what I want, as opposed to acting so smug like this author seems to be.

    What a typical holier-than-thou mentality that Says “I’m better than you and happier because I don’t consume like you”

    Going somewhere and buying things for cash is a great experience & does make people happy and empowered.

    Financing your lifestyle is not the same.

  27. humphrmi says:

    Hmm, I don’t know what I think of this. In theory, I agree with the very broad idea: get rid of those things that don’t make you happy, and stop buying stuff that doesn’t make you happy (or where the side effects of buying them makes your life more miserable).

    But at the same time I’m usually driven away from any self-help advice that suggests that I should be a potato sack wearing home farmer and goatherder in order to make my life “simple”.

  28. Ikky says:

    In the process of ending a 30 year marriage, I took the stuff I loved into my new home. I still have a ton of stuff, but now, it is things I value. Every picture in the photo albums, every picture on the wall have meaning to me. While I miss my old life (especially the hot tub!) I like having a more streamlined life.

    However, I had a great time when I was rich and spent money like crazy.

  29. Acd says:

    The wonderful thing about freedom is that he can live his life the way he wants, sell his book and I can completely ignore him while I live my life the way I want.

  30. ShariC says:

    Some people seem to believe it’s either minimalism or materialism. The balance is somewhere in the continuum between the extremes. The point where materialism is bad is where the act of consumption is gratifying but the items themselves bring little or not utility or pleasure.

    If you buy something and use it and enjoy it regularly, that is good consumerism. If you buy it because you get satisfaction from the acquisition of a new item but then don’t use it, that’s bad.

    About 8 years ago, I started simplifying my life and that included tossing out a lot of junk I wasted money on and never or rarely used. The act of tossing away those things helped me develop a mindset where I analyze every potential purchase (of all sizes) and carefully consider how much I need the item, how much use I’ll get out of it, and whether the purchase can be put off. I still buy stuff, but only when it’s going to make a meaningful contribution to my quality of life.

  31. RST1123 says:
  32. snowburnt says:

    I feel like most of the commenters missed the point. It’s the mentality of needing things, or rather needing a thing you don’t have drives materialism. It’s fine to have things, so long as those things aren’t who you are.

    To go a little Tyler Durden on y’all: You are not your starbucks latte. You are not a flat screen TV.

    In my case, I am a computer guy that simplifies people’s lives through making processes more efficient. I have a family that I love and I community that I contribute to.

  33. nrwfos says:

    To me, coming from a seemingly genetic pack-rat/hoarder family background – I find that I hate finding myself with all this stuff. I’m imprisoned by it. But I feel so guilty at getting rid of it (parental tapes in my head). To this day my mom sends me stuff in triplicate to save for my kids and grandchild! It never ends. I only like to buy things of the best quality at the lowest possible price. Problem is I can’t get rid of stuff that really needs to go. I see that if a (God forbid it happens) fire burned it all up…I’d be okay with it. I just can’t figure out a good way of getting rid of it that doesn’t mean it all ends up in a landfill or doesn’t benefit someone somewhere. I really would just like the basics (excellent basics but basics just the same). My house doesn’t need to be a mansion – I’d prefer a good quality house that covers the basics (with AC and central heat and indoor plumbing). If I could only get over the guilt of getting rid of things and had a good way of finding them other homes. I will not do eBay…too much work and endless hassle.

  34. RST1123 says:

    The things you own, own you.

  35. katylostherart says:

    involuntary simplicity blows a bit though.

  36. katylostherart says:

    @Michael Belisle: donate them to me. i will strip them and knit them into something.

  37. nrwfos says:

    I forgot to mention – the “things” or stuff that seems to make me happy is/are the ones that involve creativity on my part. If I make it, if I encourage it’s coming into being (like gardening) then that’s where happiness happens. I do like TV… but I dislike owning or renting DVDs. So at least I’m not bogged down by that. TV watching is transitory and doesn’t take up space or give me grief. Getting rid of it only involves turning it off. I would like to be at a place that the only THINGS that I buy are those that contribute to a creative endeavor. Having high quality basics for living comfortably at the lowest possible cost seems like it would be very freeing – no need to get MORE and MORE.

  38. katylostherart says:

    @nrwfos: um dude… goodwill. guaranteed it will go to use.

  39. madanthony says:

    @Canino:

    When I hear people tell me that TV is bad for me and exercise is good, I wonder where watching TV while on the elliptical fits in.

  40. TheRealAbsurdist says:

    WHAT?!?!?!

    Abandon materialism? And have the American economy collapse overnight? You don’t want us to think you’re a Communist, do you, citizen?

    Now get out there and consume!!

  41. @katylostherart:
    Q: Knitting cables into cool shit?
    A: To-tally awesome.

  42. katylostherart says:

    @Michael Belisle: and just think, if you give them clothing laced with copper wiring, you can always have fun with a little electricity.

  43. bdgw7 says:

    Due to a series of very sad events two years ago, I spent a year living out of 3 suitcases and EVERYTHING else I owned was in storage. As that year went by, do you know that I missed nothing! Well not completely true, I longed for my rice cooker that plays twinkle twinkle little star when the rice is done, but truly, I didn’t miss much else. When I finally got all that stuff back I was overwhelmed by the sheer amount. And the clothes – OMG the amount of clothing I had was insane (yes, I’m a girl). Goodwill made out like a bandit because they got 2/3 of the clothing and at least half of the other stuff. And now that things have improved, my desire to buy stuff is just gone. It isn’t that I don’t see stuff I want, it’s just that when it comes to actually acquiring it, something inside me balks. So far this feeling has lasted a year, I’ve no idea if it’s a permanent phenomenon or not though. It’ll be interesting to see.

  44. @katylostherart: That’s certainly one way to don an electrifying appearance.

  45. bohemian says:

    Does this mean that people will stop treating me like an impoverished street person for not buying $500 purses?

    Moving will make you confront the relevance of your possessions more than anything else.

  46. edrebber says:

    This guy is an idiot. I’ll bet he’s really homeless.

  47. dragonfire81 says:

    Blame advertisers and marketers. The economy thrives on their ability to create a want for the newest, flashiest stuff.

    You’ll notice how in commercials people are always smiling, happy and excited about whatever is being offered. That’s because the company wants you to assume you can find emotional fulfillment from consumer products.

    Of course you can’t and reality is different from the world in the commercial, but in creating the idea that you NEED THIS NOW or you suck (which is basically the message they send), they create a society based around wants, not needs.

  48. P_Smith says:

    “You can never really own more than you can carry with two hands while running at full speed.”

    – Robert A. Heinlein

    You may not have to run to keep it, but ask yourself honestly: do you really need more “things” than you can carry by hand? How many of the things you own were bought for novelty, accessory, redundancy, or luxury? Odds are, most of it. Go read about people like Mongolian or African tribesmen today or native North Americans of the past who only kept what they could carry easily and could not replace easily.

    Besides, it makes packing and moving easier and cheaper. I find that most things I want nowadays I can have and carry in electronic form – books, pictures, movies – and keep on hard drives.

  49. Norislolz says:

    @dragonfire81: Advertisers and marketers are doing a job. Their job is to make the money. If consumers stopped falling for their dumb crap advertisements, I guess they won’t make any money.

  50. JayDeEm says:

    The wife and I are always on the lookout for stuff we no longer need or use. About 3 times a year we take a load of stuff to the goodwill and sell the more valuable bits on ebay. The 2 exceptions to this rule are her books, and my stash of computer parts (I love them so).

    Now I’m off to go check my PowerBall numbers…

  51. xman31 says:

    Nope, I love materialism, and it loves me! :)

  52. forgottenpassword says:

    I’m never happy, but at least when I strive for simplicity…. I save a shitload of money. You can never have enough money.

  53. Trencher93 says:

    You have to BUY his book to learn about the evils of materialism and benefits of simplicity?

  54. DaWezl says:

    What’s that quote about wanting what you have rather than trying to get what you want?

    I have been on a gigantic purge campaign for about two years now. If you could have seen my place before, you’d be amazed at where I’ve gotten to, and I still have a ways to go. I find that the biggest hurdle for me was getting over the emotional fear of “not having stuff”, both in a utilitarian sense–I might need that!–and in a relationship sense–How will they know I love them if I don’t cherish all 85 doodads they’ve given me over the years???!!!

    The way I’ve cut down is that I really look at how I use something and what I want to gain out of it. For example, I have boxes of photos cluttering up my basement and closets. I realized that I just want one or two albums of carefully selected favorite photos–not a wall of albums containing every single photo I’ve ever printed out. I will be sorting through all of my pictures, and only picking out the very best ones. I will dispose of all the rest. Drastically reducing the number will allow me to do things like back the photos up on a CD, so that they will be protected from loss, and will make it easier for me to share my photos with other people. I will get more use out of the photos I like best, rather than having to take care of a bunch of photos I don’t really want.

  55. peter_in_paris says:

    Materialism is not a cause or affliction, but a symptom. Figure out what it is a symptom of and you’ll figure out what you need to change (if you want to, of course!).

  56. MorrisseyTheCat says:

    @Michael Belisle: So…you’ve replaced your “technostimulation” with internet surfing? This doesn’t LOOK like a book…hmmmmm

  57. anatak says:

    “Are you happier when you strive for simplicity…?”

    a resounding YES.

  58. SadSam says:

    The problem with more stuff is there is always more stuff, more, more, more, and better stuff. Its a never ending rat race of stuff. Taking joy in experiences, in your family and friends, is so much better. I’ve been of the materialism rat race since 01/01/07 and its wonderful. Do I still buy stuff?? Yes, stuff that I need and once in a while stuff that I really, really want (I delay 99% of purchases to make sure I really want, use the $100 rule). But I no longer enjoy random shopping or going to the mall or browsing and a trip to the mall actually bums me out. The upside of getting out of the materialism rat race, $55,000 in debt paid off, $20,000 emergency fund.

  59. LionelEHutz says:

    I think I’m going to go out and buy some crap I don’t need with money I don’t have.

  60. cerbie says:

    The way I’ve cut down is that I really look at how I use something and what I want to gain out of it.

    That’s how us pack-rats make excuses to keep the crap, too :).

  61. hipersons says:

    @SadSam: Dave Ramsey much?

    I’ve found that by not buying crap I don’t need, I’m able to put the money most people put towards clothes, gadgets, coffee, movies, books (yay library), etc, towards a really awesome vacation every year where I broaden my mind. It’s simply wonderful; I forgo the instant gratification for my ultimate gratification. Last year was Oslo, Stockholm, Finland. This year it’s a week in France.

    At the same time, I’ve been able to pay off $12,000 on my car since January making about $50,000 a year. I still have a ways to go with my student loans, but at least I can say that I’m better than I deserve.

  62. bdsakx says:

    I don’t quite agree with this topic all the way. I actually feel more happy having better things than I ever did when I didn’t. I grew up not having much so when I finally graduated from college and got my full-time job I’ve filled this long-time void, bought a bunch of stuff, and I don’t feel so down anymore. I am happy to have better things, especially the things that appeal to my interests. At least I don’t buy random crap.

  63. GilloD says:

    There’s good wisdom here, but owning a flat-screen doesn’t make you a TERRIBLE PERSON. I like my flat screen. I like my XBox360. But I also like garden, I cook my own meals every night, I brew my own coffee and I roast my own beans. I only buy used books. I make sure to learn new skills (Pottery is AWESOME!), but I appreciate the chance to veg in front of 42 inches of hi-def glory.

    I think it’s about following what makes you feel good, not what you THINK will make you feel good.

  64. bishophicks says:

    Why do people confuse “live simply” with “live like a pauper”? No is suggesting that we give up the material things that bring us real happiness. Rather, they are suggesting that stop buying and/or get rid of, or otherwise stop chasing after those things that DON’T make us happy.

    I own over 1,000 books that I hardly ever look at. I enjoy reading books, but having them has lost it’s luster. I use the library now and haven’t bought a new book in years. Likewise with DVDs. I would buy new releases, watch them once and put them on the shelf. Now I just buy one or two a year and use Netflix. I rarely buy music, but when I do buy, I get it used off of Amazon. I haven’t given up books, movies or music, I just gave up acquiring them. I keep other things like clothes, shoes, etc. to a minimum and I drive a basic Corolla because clothes, shoes and cars don’t make me happy.

    I enjoy cooking, so I buy good food, and I hate house cleaning and yard work, so we have someone clean the house every two weeks and someone else who cuts the grass (paying to avoid things that make you unhappy works, too). I also enjoy movies and video games and have a really nice home theater setup with a projector. I put it all together myself (saving a bundle) and painted/decorated the room. Using the system makes me happy not only because I enjoy the entertainment, but because the room itself is an accomplishment I’m still proud of four years later.

    Keep the stuff that makes you happy, get rid of the stuff that doesn’t. Spend money and time on experiences. Create something for you and your family to enjoy – even if it’s just dinner.

  65. SigmundTheSeaMonster says:

    Buy this book. Buy this book. Buy this book. NO. I don’t need your book. I am happier without your book. Buy my book! That’s all I got out of this.
    (we will all have that moment when we realize, we can’t take it with us)

  66. pandroid says:

    I bought a couch in May, and it made me very happy, but that’s because it’s very comfortable to nap on.

    I don’t, however, get the flat TV craze, because I have a regular TV that someone gave me, and it works just fine. I haven’t ever seen anyone actually save space with a flat TV either- everyone just buys the same old tv stands anyway. Very strange.

    I buy things when it’s a need, or it is something I know I will get long term use out of. Otherwise it’ll just fill up space.

  67. thesepretzels says:

    “I have learned the secret to being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”

  68. HogwartsAlum says:

    I have to agree with everyone who said keep what you love and get rid of anything that is weighing you down. This has been hard for me, but I’m getting better at it.

    The TV I used to have was not big enough to play my widescreen movies so that I could see them (nearsighted), so I splurged on a larger, digital one. I don’t regret it and never will, nor do I regret buying movies that I love and collecting enough so that I have a choice for every mood. Same with books. I have a tiny house, but I make room for that stuff.

    What does bring me down sometimes is the random crap I pick up browsing, and all the stuff I’ve been dragging around for years. I’m working on getting rid of that, either by pitching it or donating it. And I’m trying to persuade my family to quit giving me useless knicknacks or kitchen stuff I don’t need. I don’t have the room. It’s about making my house more comfortable and liveable for me.

  69. stefbakes says:

    Ok, I happen to know him. And he is not all about “buy this book”

    Go to the library and check it out…

  70. savvy999 says:

    I get what the author is saying, but in the end, it still takes money (and increasingly, a lot more of it) to satisfy even the basics. Even minimum shelter/heat/food all cost a lot; doing what I want (and feeling wanted for it) all cost a lot in college degrees; being loved is free, but cultivating a relationship and family actual requires spending at least a little bit of money actually going on dates and doing things; and at least in my life, I have found that the choices (=’freedom’) which one is presented is largely dependent upon your financial means.

    When I was a dirt-poor grad student, my ‘freedoms’ consisted of having all the time in the world to… do anything that was cheap or free– nap, study, read, drink cheap beer. Now that I have at least a little bit of dough, things like travel, collect interesting things, afford the equipment to actually make interesting things, drink expensive micro-brews… my options are greater.

    Just my two pence about it.

  71. harvey_birdman_attorney_at_law says:

    What a bunch of crap. Anybody who seriously tells you that you don’t need money to be happy DOESN’T FUCKING HAVE ANY.

  72. bbagdan says:

    My qualifications for buying objects/experiences are:

    Will this help to make me physically and mentally healthier?
    Will this create a wonderful memory?
    Will this make me smarter and/or more interesting?
    Will this help to make me wealthier monetarily?

    If something doesn’t pass at least one of the above, I usually won’t buy it.

  73. temporaryerror says:

    @Canino: Use an ebay store type of business. They do all the work for you in exchange for 30% of the selling price. I think that it’s worth it when you would otherwise just have a big pile o’ junk sitting around that you would probably just throw out or give away eventually.

  74. Ubik2501 says:

    @ShariC: Exactly. I’m not going to blow every dime I make on useless junk, but at the same time I’m not going to live in a hut tending to my vegetables and reading Proust novels printed on recycled napkins. Balance is the key to so many aspects of life, and so many people ignore that in favor of “swinging the pendulum as far in the other direction as possible,” to paraphrase a Pynchon character.

    For instance, I spent $750 on a good hybrid bicycle and the necessary accessories recently, but I ride it all the time and get a good deal of exercise and relaxation (not to mention money saved on gas and stress/time reduced by not having to deal with street parking) out of it. It’s a material item, but one that accomplishes a purpose and contributes a great deal to my personal well-being. Likewise, having an MP3 player is extremely beneficial to my happiness because of my passion for music. If I buy a dozen new gadgets and gewgaws with every paycheck and never use them, though, that’s wasteful consumerism that doesn’t contribute to personal happiness.

    In short, figure out what you need not only to satisfy the basic conditions of life, but also what you need to feel relaxed, happy and fulfilled. Don’t indulge in wasteful excess, but don’t deprive yourself of the things that make you happy either.

  75. Rock79 says:

    Not bad advice… Wish I’d have the willpower to follow it ;)

  76. ltlbbynthn says:

    I just moved and got rid of a lot of furniture and clutter. Most of my stuff is still in storage, including all our TVs, and I noticed last night that even though I was at home alone with nothing really to entertain me, save hanging out with my pets and watching an online documentary (about the rise of consumerism, no less), I felt very happy.

    Actually in the documentary (it’s called Century of Self), someone said that the US is the country with the most images of happiness, like in ads and such, but we are in fact a very sad populace.

  77. supesguy says:

    @Michael Belisle: That is a brilliant idea. I’m going to round up all my cables at home this weekend and take them into work on Monday. Our office has a storage room (a.k.a. junk room) that already has a box of old cables in it.

  78. Jeri Dansky says:

    @nrwfos: Besides donating to charities such as Goodwill (as suggested earlier), you could give away items using your local Freecycle community. I’ve done that for many of my clients who’ve decided to get rid of stuff – I’m a professional organizer – and it’s made both the givers and receivers very happy. Things that were just taking space in closets, garages, etc. are now being put to good use.