Western society faces a powerful cultural meme, propagated by governments and corporations alike, that buying things creates happiness. Sure, some material goods can bring some measure of happiness, some of the time. However, most everything sold by the Walmarts of our world will bring you no more lasting joy than a kick in the balls. Here’s a list of reasons to buy less stuff, organized into four groups.
1. Junk won’t make you happy – do you really think that that fancy spatula/tongs kitchen tool will bring you lasting happiness? Or that miniature camera tripod? Or those smelly candles? Or that new garden tool? Come on!
2. Save money – if you spend less on things that won’t make you happy, you have more money for the things that will
3. Buying less helps keep your ego in what matters – there’s nothing more pathetic than people who base their ego on the look of their cars, the size of their houses, the speed of their computers, or the size of their video game collections. I don’t care if you drive a ferrari. Try basing your ego on something that matters, like your contribution to humanity.
4. Get to have higher quality stuff – instead of buying many, worthless things, you get to have fewer, more valuable things.
5. Makes you cooler – I have found that a slick, uncluttered apartment, furnished with high-quality stuff will impress people who are worth impressing (dear geeks: in the eyes of a woman, 2 linux boxes, a windows laptop, a backup laptop, and three legacy machines you’re fixing up is nerdy; one little white macbook is cute.)
6. Have more room – if you stop filling your home with clutter, it gives you more room to actually live in, more room for visitors, more room for parties, etc.
7. Feel free – I get a great sense of freedom from knowing that every material thing to which I attach emotional worth can fit in one small suitcase.
8. Save time and effort – buying less stuff requires less time shopping, cleaning, getting things repaired, organizing and so on. Having less means that it’s easier to find things, especially when you’re trying to get out of the house on time.
9. It gives you power – wasting your money on nick-knacks and dust catchers gives marketers power over you. Take that power back by not buying their poorly made, poorly designed crap. Having less stuff means you don’t need as big a home, i.e., you don’t need as big a mortgage. That gives you power too, power you would otherwise relinquish to a bank or other lender.
10. It also gives you flexibility – a less cluttered home gives you more ways of opening up space for parties, and makes it easier to move to a new home.
11. Less frustration – having fewer things means there are fewer things to break; having better quality things means that what you do have will break less. It’s also harder to lose things when you have less.
12. Improve your health – less clutter means less dust, less junk means less harmful chemicals in your home, less disorganization means fewer accidents (you can’t trip on it if it’s not there).
13. Avoid crime – having a smaller, sparsely adorned home will remove you from the local thieves target list. DVD players are easy to sell on the street. A designer Italian coffee table that expands into a dining table, is not.
14. Simple insurance claim – when shit happens, having fewer things makes for a much simpler insurance claim.
15. Simplify your will – deciding who gets what is easier when there is less stuff.
1. Stop fights with your partner – having fewer things means there are less things to fight about. The fact that it’s easier to keep your space clean and neat means the messier of the couple will not irritate the neater as much.
2. Improves your sex life – you’ll have more space for romping, and better things to romp on/with, not to mention more money to spend on things that really juice up the sex life, like romantic vacations
3. More intimacy – Having fewer things (like chairs) and less space means people have to sit closer together
4. Beauty in Simplicity – whether you’re still trying to find Mr. or Mrs. Right, or just trying to hold on to the partner you have, living in a beautiful space can’t hurt. Have you ever seen beautiful clutter? I didn’t think so.
1. good for human rights – stop buying stuff made in sweatshops and the sweatshops will close
2. it’s good for the national economy – I didn’t say stop spending money, just stop buying junk. Buying better goods often means buying goods assembled in your country, so more money stays in your country
3. good for your country’s workers – some of the money that stays in your country is paid to local workers
4. you take up less space – it cost society less to provide services to a populace that is spread over less area
5. more flexibility to donate to worthwhile causes – since you’re not wasting all your money on junk, you might consider giving some to charity
1. save energy – manufacturing, marketing and transporting goods requires energy
2. combat climate change – use less energy = use less fossil fuels
3. reduce air pollution – from both transportation and manufacturing
4. reduce water pollution – all the lead from those lead-tainted toys will get in the water supply sooner or later
5. smaller cities and less urban sprawl – if the people in the city take up less space, so does the city
6. produce less harmful chemicals – fewer batteries, for example
7. consume fewer resources – you have to make all that junk out of something
8. Stop destroying the forests – some junk is made out of wood products
If you take one thing away from this list, let it be this: when the ad says that such-and-such product will make you happy, it’s probably bullshit. Buying, owning and being surrounded by less stuff helps you focus on what really makes you happy. I can’t tell you what makes you happy, but if you think about it, you will probably find that it is not available at Walmart.