You can see where I’m going with this. A bevy of words ushering us to consider a life of less ……and more.
The ‘Less IS More’ post-modern catchcry has spilled out onto the world stage offering us up a ‘Happier Life’ if we simply have, do and spend less.
I am wondering if it’s got anything to do with the plethora of garage sales that seem to pop up every weekend, scattered about the suburbs.
Have people caught on to this declutter trend, or just saving themselves a trip to the dump?
The question I’ve been keenly exploring is not; Why do we buy, accumulate, and hold onto things we don’t need? That’s had it’s day.
No, I think the question that has helped me somewhat of late is the more basic version of that question; Do I ‘NEED’ it or simply ‘WANT’ it?
Now splitting the difference between these two terms shouldn’t be a challenge, but in today’s consumer-driven society it’s not so cut and dry.
A Lesson Learned
I vividly recall the first time I became aware of this distinction.
As a teenager (surprise, surprise!) I was desperate to own a pair of Reef surf sandals. You know the kind; brightly coloured, tribal patterned, rippy velcro straps (very 90’s) and a cool reputation to boot if you wore them.
I knew they weren’t cheap, but I wanted.. NO needed them, like my future happiness depended on it.
I’d saved for them ($50 was a lot of money), dreamt about where and how I’d wear them, what my friends would say. I was finally going to be ‘cool’.
But it was a love lost in the end. The very next day I wore them, my heart sank.
I didn’t feel any ‘cooler’, in fact they now looked kind of ugly on my feet (the fluro pink and green print certainly made that glaringly obvious).
And if I was honest, I knew I’d let that daemon desire overrule my common-sense. I was left with that niggling ‘I’ve just wasted my hard-earned money’ ache.
In my defense I was a teenager and as Murphy’s Law would have it, a few months later our dog chewed them up, so I’d felt the lesson fully by then.
So WHY do we do it?
According to becomingminimalist.com there are ‘7 Reasons Why We Buy More Stuff Than We Need’.
- We think it will make us secure
- We think it will make us happy
- We are more susceptible to advertising than we believe
- We are hoping to impress other people
- We are jealous of people who own more
- We are trying to compensate for our deficiencies
- We are more selfish than we like to admit
Each of these seem to feed off that malevolent mistress ‘Desire’.
The desire to be happier, the desire to be better than others, the desire to be someone else.
A feeling that has a habit of becoming our default setting when making decisions.
Reining in our Desires
So, is it OK to let our desires guide us in this way? How or can we rely on our rational brain to determine if it is indeed a ‘need’ or a ‘want’?
And how can we reprogram some poor habits to ensure a life of ‘less, is more’.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t need this chocolate right now, but damn life’s better with it than without it.
I don’t need to go on a holiday, but it’ll be a nice change to see new places.
I don’t need to see that film at the cinema, but I feel like a bit of escapism to fend off the mundane.
I think it’s necessary and obviously normal to have some of our ‘wants’ fulfilled. Life would be undoubtedly boring without them.
I guess it’s about learning to rationalise the value we place on these ‘wants’. Asking ourselves; is it excessive, over-the-top, a substitution for something else? And ultimately not letting our desires get the better of us.
So over the years as I’ve tried to wrestle with that trying ‘WANT’ Daemon, the following basic principles have generally held me in good stead:
- The ‘sometimes treat’ mentality
- The ‘I could get by without it’ reasoning and
- The ‘delayed gratification’ approach
It’s certainly not easy, desire is also a fickle mistress…… but it’s worth a shot trying to rein her in if we ultimately want more! More time, sanity, space, money and dare I say it…..Happiness.
‘Screw motivation, cultivate discipline’ Steve Kamb
Tighten those reins somewhat, rule with restraint and reign supreme (to an extent).