With the popularity of Maria Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and the tiny house phenomenon that seems to be sweeping every decorating and DIY channel, it would seem we are in the midst of a movement to downsize, declutter, and minimize. As much as I appreciate the reasons and sensibility of doing so, I am not necessarily on board with this movement. Decluttering, yes – but living as a minimalist? No. I like my space. I have a plethora of art supplies – perhaps half of which I could do without, but all of which I use at some point during any three-month period.
My husband and I live with our dog and cat in a nice-sized house for a couple – unless he’s rehearsing with his electric guitar and I am trying to nap. Then, it feels the size of a refrigerator box when I need a box that would hold a 747.
While the collecting of stuff is an aspect of materialism, we more broadly think of materialism as a disinterest in spiritual, intellectual, or cultural values in favor of a preoccupation with physical objects, comforts, and considerations. A materialistic person likes things more than ideas, values stuff more than relationships. Seems a bit shallow, but we’re all different – that’s what makes life interesting.
ScientificAmerica reported in 2014 that the longest study ever conducted on materialism found that becoming less materialistic leads to greater contentment in life. A major disadvantage of materialism is that focusing all your attention on acquiring more things means you lose sight of the everyday pleasures that will actually give you fulfillment and satisfaction. Chasing the things money can buy is a revolving door to ever wanting more.
The reasons materialism is unfulfilling are many. I heard a quote many years ago that went something like “If your goal in life is money, power, or fame, you’ll never be sated and you will forever be seeking more of them.” Materialism is pretty much all those things wrapped up one big ball. The more you chase the ball, the farther you have to run.
Then there’s the matter of the anticipation of acquiring the fancy car or big house being more satisfying than actually having the fancy car or big house. What do you do when you get the thing you’ve always wanted and you still don’t feel very good or like yourself very much?
Seeking material things to fulfill our lives is an empty promise because we can’t create relationships with things, and relationships are ultimately what make us happy and give our lives purpose. The more positive you are in life – and less materialistic – the greater the chances you have strong relationships, and vice-versa. An unfortunate number of people don’t realize this until they’ve lost the relationship, due to death, divorce, or deliberate distancing.
None of this is to say that having nice things is bad, especially if they make you feel good. But authentically good, not keeping up with the Joneses good. I would never encourage anyone to feel guilty for driving an expensive car or taking pride because they have a magazine-cover home. If having those things is your end goal, however, you might have some room to bring more positivity into your life.
If it appeals to you, you can start today to become less materialistic. Begin by emphasizing experiences over possessions. Take a day trip with your partner or a friend that doesn’t involve shopping. Be present and involved in the conversation. Listen, without thinking what you will say next.
Another thing you can do is to limit your TV and social media time. All those ads and beautiful Instagram pics are designed to make you envious and feel like you need to compete or keep up. Take the time you’re away from your screen to explore your passions and interests. What have you always wanted to do or learn? Now is the perfect time to sign up for a class or plan an outing.
Lastly, even if your stuff is in neat piles, you might have clutter. So think about cutting some of your possessions loose. If you don’t use them, they don’t give you authentic pleasure, or you bought them out of spite or envy, perhaps rehoming them and creating breathing space would be a bigger benefit than holding onto them.
If you really want to make strides toward bringing more authentic positivity into your life, sign up today for the 30-Day Positivity Challenge. This complimentary 30-day series of exercises gives participants a variety of assignments conducive to feeling better, overall. According to inspirational speaker Abraham Hicks, “Few realize that they can control the way they feel and positively affect the things that come into their life experience by deliberately directing their thoughts.” Abraham Hicks says we accomplish this by simply “reach[ing] for a better feeling thought.”
The decision is yours: Will you choose positivity?