Part of the reason we feel compelled to buy so much stuff, all of the time, is that we've lost the ability to be content with what we have. In fact, many of us don't even know what we have! Our closets are packed, our basements are piled high with boxes we haven't opened in years, we rent so much storage space for our stuff that self-storage is now a $22 billion dollar industry in the US.
Imaging what we could do, individually and collectively, with that $22 billion dollars. Would we have as much debt? Could we fund better schools for our kids? Would it be easier to help make sure our neighbors don't go hungry or senior citizens don't freeze to death?
Cultivating The Art of Contentment
An essential element of deciding when and how we're going to spend our money is learning how to be content with what we actually have. Frankly, I don't think most of us are very aware of what we have: we're too busy working to accumulate more, more, more to pay attention to the items we interact with every day.
But we can change this. Our parents & grandparents talked about 'counting your blessings' - and even today you see lots of people who are really into gratitude. They keep gratitude journals listing three things they're thankful for every day, for example, or make a point of telling someone that's made a difference in their life how much they matter.
I think these are great practices. They're just not enough if we want to enjoy life more and buy less stuff. For that, we've got to focus in on the tangible world, intensely and often.
This is how it works. As often as possible, when you're using an object or item, say out loud one of the benefits you can identify about it. For example:
Boy, this pen writes nicely!
I love how well the brakes on my car work.
This shirt is really comfortable.
This toothpaste tastes good.
I can fit everything I need to into my tote bag!
You might feel a little silly at first when you start this practice, but over time, a funny thing will happen. As you get in the habit of recognizing and articulating what you like about the possessions you have, the drive to replace them drops off significantly.
In fact, you might even wind up a little happier. I've found this happens especially with items I use all of the time. Let's take the coffee maker. Trust me, the coffee maker in this house gets a lot of use! And I think I've found every way to praise the coffee maker that there is. It's easy to use. It works fast. It makes good coffee. The coffee stays hot for a long time. There's a friendly little beep that lets me know when the warming unit is shutting off. It's easy to clean. The coffee pot is a little focal point of goodness in my life, and when I engage with it, I'm happier as a result.
It's not a spectacular coffee maker, mind you. It doesn't make espresso or lattes or wash my windows or anything like that. But it's a good coffee maker that does what its supposed to do, consistently, and recognizing and maintaining some level of awareness of this fact creates a bright point in my day.
You might be surprised how many bright points are waiting to be recognized in your day. Enjoying what we have reduces our desire to acquire more. That's essential if we want to get our lives back under control. It all begins with counting your blessings.