Photo by Ogglog
Let’s assume that you aren’t hungry, thirsty, in pain, or any other problems at this moment. You are completely happy with your life in this present moment. If you achieved that level of happiness then you wouldn’t need to buy anything. You would be completely satisfied in your current state, so you wouldn’t need to alter it with material goods. Your desire for possessions is a way to bring you pleasure, but most likely not happiness.
Pleasure v. Happiness
There is a difference from pleasure and happiness. Sometimes things that bring us pleasure will make us unhappy, such as eating that last donut when you are worried about your weight. You can receive pleasure from buying items, but you might end up in debt which will lead to unhappiness. At other times it is harder to identify the difference of pleasure and happiness. Will that iPhone really bring happiness or a short term pleasure? Can a bigger car really provide happiness? Can seeing your TV from the other side of your house make you happy? These are often short term pleasures (until you see the bill perhaps) don’t bring a lasting sense of happiness. Happiness will come from within you, rather than from the objects around you. You can get a feeling of happiness being around your loved ones, but are you truly happy with the time you spend with the television.
Attachment to Objects
Not only do you gain pleasure from buying the item, but you are attached to each item. It isn’t easy to get rid of things that you use often, such as a computer, television, stove, and more. If anything happens to these items then there is a feeling of pain. The degree of pain will vary depending on how attached you are to an item. You might not care if you lose a book that you didn’t care much about, but you will feel some pain if you try to turn on the computer and it doesn’t function correctly. These things can hold you back from happiness, because you are preoccupied with the attachment to the objects around you. You can’t be happy if you are worried about your broken car. In some cases you need the item, such as a car, but you can get by with less. You can always ride a bike, then if it breaks you can fix it easily if it is essential to you. The less you have, the less to worry about.
So, if objects don’t truly make you happy and you might even feel pain because of them, then why keep so many around. I am not suggesting you should sell everything and move into the woods with just a tent, but there is most likely room for improvement unless you are reading this from your local library and do live in a tent. We often disregard advice to only buy things we need rather than want, but you can easily confuse wants with needs. You may think you need the car, but you can survive with a bike. You may think a large house is needed, but you could downgrade your house which also allows you to own less stuff. I find it to be very inspiring to think of people that are content only with the items that can fit in a backpack. This lifestyle doesn’t look pleasant since you will be giving up comfort. You do adapt though, and in the end is it less comfort? You might have to bike to work, but you will feel better. You might sell your television, but you find new hobbies with the free time. These objects make life nice, for a limited time, but they are not needed. You can still be happy without them. You might just have a room with a box, candle, and a book. Who says there isn’t happiness there?
Larger Picture: Your Life
Each time you buy something, then you are trading your time or effort for that thing. That car could take many many hours of your life. You could feed your materialistic needs in exchange for your time, or you could live with less but find things that make you happy. Is the new iPhone worth the 25 hour of your life ($199 cost of the iPhone 3G divided by 7.95, the minimum wage in Oregon.) or would you rather spend that time with friends or doing something you enjoy. You literally just spent 25 hours of your life on some item that might not even bring you 25 hours of pleasure. I have had friends that didn’t have a job during school. They often wouldn’t be able to purchase things they wanted, but they survived fine. They seemed to be the most happy because my other friends that had jobs and these things they wanted would often complain how much they dislike their job. You waste a little part of your life with each object you by and even by the objects you already own.
Every day you are influenced by advertisements, people, and other things to tell you want you want. It is tough to overcome the nagging voice that tells you that you need all the items. Often you will have a strong attachment to your current items and a strong pull towards new items. When you think of times that you are happiest then I doubt it was the time that you bought your TV or new kitchen. Try to use your time for happy moments, not to work for short pleasure inducing objects.