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Why Less Stuff Will Lead to More Happiness
Does Less Stuff Lead to More Happiness?
Growing up, I was very influenced by advertising that told me that I'd be happier if only I bought more stuff. I wanted the trendiest clothes, a nice car, a beautiful home, and fancy jewelry. Everything I saw on television or in magazines showed happy, beautiful people enjoying all of these things. As I got older, I worked hard and moved up in my career. Finally, I was able to purchase some nice things for myself. I soon realized that buying yet another pair of jeans, shoes, or a handbag didn't bring me lasting happiness. I used to go shopping for fun. Now I go shopping when I need something. This mentality is becoming ever more common. The economic problems many people have experienced over the past few years have forced people to obtain satisfaction and enjoyment from experiences rather than from buying stuff. But what's happened is that people, like me, are discovering the real secret to happiness. It's not more stuff! Instead, experience and time with loved ones bring lasting happiness. We've all learned an important lesson - less stuff does lead to more happiness!
See Graham Hill's edited living space.
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- Consumers Find Ways to Spend Less and Find Happiness - NYTimes.com
How you spend has a greater effect on your happiness than how much you spend, researchers say.
The Benefit of Owning Less Stuff
Many people are like me. They want to be happy and they think the way to do that is to make more and more money in order to buy more and more stuff. The problem with this mentality is that you become a slave to the stuff you own. Gradually, your income rises and along with that, your expenses increase as you satisfy your desire to have the things that you think will make you happy. Your job might become more and more stressful as you move up but you can't quit because you need every penny of income to pay for your stuff. You're not able to save anything either because your bills are equal to or more than your income. You might have a beautiful home, a newer model car (or two), and more clothes than you could ever wear. But despite all of these things, you may not be happy. Why is this?
Research from Thomas DeLeire and Ariel Kalil, called "Does Consumption Buy Happiness" may shed some light on this. What they found is that the only category of consumption that's positively related to happiness is spending on leisure activities. They also found that a key reason why spending on leisure brought happiness is due to the social connectedness often associated with these experiences. This means that to be happier, you need more time to spend on leisure activities with others and that your spending priority should be on activities and experiences rather than on stuff.
Now it's easy to understand why you may not be happy in your all-consuming career even though you have lots of beautiful things. Unfortunately, you probably lack the time time enjoy yourself and to connect to others in a meaningful way. What's the solution?
Graham Hill of Life Edited
Graham Hill is a big proponent of less stuff equals more happiness. His three rules are:
- Edit ruthlessly: Get rid of stuff you don't use and don't buy stuff you don't need.
- Think small: Get by with less space and less stuff to lower your level of stress, your financial burden, and your carbon footprint.
- Multifunctionality: Buy and use things that have more than one function to make the most of your space and money.
He argues that by living this way, you will achieve less debt, less stress, and more happiness in your life.
How to Be Happier
Given this, the best solution to increase your happiness is to somehow devote more time to leisure activities. In our time-starved world, you may think this is next to impossible. In order to be successful, you probably need to change your lifestyle dramatically, which is never a comfortable experience. However, the rewards are likely to be great. If you're in the situation described earlier, you need to do some planning. Start by tracking everything you spend for a few months. Then systematically evaluate each expenditure to determine if and how it can be reduced or eliminated. As Graham Hill says, be ruthless in your choices. Use the excess funds to pay down debt and then to save money. The less money you need for living expenses, the less you need to work and the more leisure time you'll be able to enjoy.