More research seems to indicate that although having more goods may be desirable, ironically it can make you less happy.
For example, according to a recent paper in the Journal of Marketing Research, owning more possessions that provide similar consumption functions (e.g. multiple TVs, shoes, cars, homes, etc.) can lead to greater comparison standards, making people less satisfied with their goods as they seem deficient in some way. In other words, it is more satisfying owning less as they cannot compare their possessions to as many things.
One of my favourite talks is David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech he gave to a graduating class at Kenyon College, Ohio in 2005. This was the first and only time David Foster Wallace gave a public talk on his views of life which has also been reprinted in book form in “This is Water”. His thoughts on learning how to think particularly struck me:
“Learning how to think” really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot or will not exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed.”
In a culture where we are constantly bombarded with streams of advertisements, it can be very easy to get sucked into the consumerist mindset where you believe that next purchase is essential and will make you happier. I know this for a fact. Companies don’t spend billions on advertisements because they think it will influence people’s buying habits; they know it will influence people’s buying habits. Even if you are aware of the power advertisements before watching one, this does not make you totally immune to its effects. Quite simply, any exposure to advertisements will have an effect on your purchasing decisions.
Recently my mum put a load of old christmas tree decorations on my desk in my room, the idea being for me to check whether I wanted to keep any before throwing them away. For a practising minimalist, I found no reason to keep any; although I remembered quite a few from my childhood, I had not tried to find them again since so there was no need to keep them. However, I did take a picture and may keep that if I do find myself wanting to look at them again (allows me to get rid of them and have a backup option – which I will delete if I don’t view it in a couple of months!)
The main thing I noticed when I walked into my room when they were lying on my desk was, funnily enough, this clutter that had not been there before. I found this to be visually distracting and rather stressful, and my initial reaction was to just get rid of it all; it almost felt as if this clutter had just invaded my room! We all know how stressful and visually distracting clutter can be – just google images of a tidy and messy desk and notice the difference in your response. Anything that you have in your room takes up space in your mind. Too many unnecessary items clogs up the mind and is likely to cause stress.
Once I got rid of the decorations, my mind was at ease and I could relax in my own room again!
A couple of days ago, I decided to take the afternoon off on Wednesday (today). As I generally have an abundance of time still to use before the end of the year, it helps to reduce my remaining leave days while allowing me to get some work done in the morning. I also thought that having the afternoon off on a Wednesday was the perfect way to break up the week. It allows me to break up the usual routine by having a bit of space to breathe, to do something a bit different than the norm. Think I may go for a walk and then do some reading. Is it about time you had an afternoon off?