Living in such a materialistic society as we do, it can be hard to even detangle oneself from the mindset of constantly wanting and buying more and more stuff.
We have been bombarded with ads from a very early age, from every possible media, telling us why we “need” this that and the other thing. We are told how each of these items will make our lives easier, fuller, more fun, etc., etc. Just the very act of “shopping” has become a leisure time activity in and of itself.
We are trained to always want the bigger and better next thing. We compare ourselves to others based on if our stuff is as good, new, and shiny as theirs. We never reach the point of satisfaction because there is always that next best new thing coming out that we have to have, as evidenced by the lines for the newest model iPhone. Really??! Is it that much better than the previous model that you have to waste precious hours of your life waiting on line to have it a few hours (or even days or weeks) earlier than you would have been able to get it otherwise? To me, that represents the epitome of how deeply this materialistic mindset is entrenched in us.
And once we get that new thing, how long does the satisfied happy feeling last? Not long apparently as evidenced by all the stuff put out at garage sales (many with tags still on), not to mention Craigslist, eBay, and even worse, into the ever-growing landfills. It is the thrill of the acquisition that is being sought. Once we actually own the thing the joy fades pretty quickly. This just sets us up for wanting more to experience that “high of the buy” once again. As you can see with this type of scenario one can never be truly satisfied and happy.
Would you like to get off this unsatisfying and frustrating carousel? I know I do and I make a very concentrated effort in my life to buck the system. It can be hard to do when you are literally surrounded by it, but the better you get at recognizing the pattern and fighting to control being sucked in by it, the happier (not to mention less stressed and richer) you can be.
It is when you get out of the “more and better stuff” mindset you truly start to appreciate the things that you have. And ironically the less stuff you have the more you appreciate it. And even more ironically the less you pay for each item the more you appreciate it. I take great satisfaction in having acquired an item for free or very inexpensively that has given me much use or added beauty to my life. The less I spend on something the more I appreciate it, because not only do I appreciate the thing itself, I am also appreciative that it did not take my hard earned money away from me.
This can be especially true of items that we tend to collect a lot of, such as clothes. It feels much better to have a few shirts that you really like and enjoy wearing than to have your closets and drawers stuffed with them, many of which you don’t even wear. And if you spent a lot of money on those shirts that you don’t even wear that can make you feel worse. As they say, “Less is more”. It really is true! I take great pleasure in buying a shirt that I really like at a thrift shop for a few bucks (or even better if someone has given it to me for free) and I feel that pleasure each time I wear the shirt.
The fact that our world is bombarded with stuff and we can go out to stores filled with it and buy, buy, buy, and now even at home we are bombarded with the urge to buy, buy, buy on our computers leaves us in a state of wanting constant instant gratification. All we have to do is have a thought of wanting something and it can be ours at the swipe of a credit card or click of a button. But has this made us any happier? I would venture to say no. What it has done is deprive us of the joy of waiting for our pleasure. For it is in that anticipation of pleasure that our excitement builds up. If we have to wait for something, then we appreciate it so much more when we finally do get it. Instant gratification has effectively deprived us of that very pleasure.
Some people think of trying to live below their means as a painful way to live. They view it as deprivation. But it is all in the mindset of how you approach it. I find that living below my means gives me more pleasure than living the life of constant instant gratification through buying more and more stuff. It is a less stressful, slower, more satisfying way to live. It allows you to savor pleasure more deeply rather than to be constantly looking to acquire the next best thing.
I urge you to give the joy of slow acquisition a try. You will be surprised how much pleasure not spending money can bring you. Your life will be less stressful, more peaceful and richer than ever before, I promise!
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