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Why Less Stuff Will Lead to More Happiness

Updated on September 23, 2012

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!

An full closet may not lead to happiness
An full closet may not lead to happiness | Source

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:

  1. Edit ruthlessly: Get rid of stuff you don't use and don't buy stuff you don't need.
  2. Think small: Get by with less space and less stuff to lower your level of stress, your financial burden, and your carbon footprint.
  3. 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.


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    • MissJamieD profile image

      MissJamieD 4 years ago from Minnes-O-ta

      I've been promoting this lifestyle for a long time. It's nice that it sounds like you make decent money, but you're not trying to keep up with the jones's and going broke doing it. Maybe you were at one point? lol...This is one thing that I dislike so intesely about society today. People think they need stuff to make themselves look good but in all reality they should be focusing on their children and family and being happy, that should make them look good. It's society that's trying to change the outlook on family life, and for the most part, it's succeeded in making everyday people, turn into working zombies when it's not necessary. The Starbucks everyday is NOT necessary, save yourself $30 a week by making your own coffee! You don't need a $30,000 vehicle, trust me, a $18.000 car will get you to the very same destination, and probably save you money in the long run on top of that. Who cares what you look like? And I don't mean cosmetically, I like to look good too, but financially there are many ways to look and act beautiful without ruining your life over the price tag. Great hub again!

    • articlesocean profile image

      Saira Sheikh 5 years ago from London, United Kingdom

      Useful informative hub! I usually buy extra decoration pieces because I love decorating the house, and I end up saying to myself where am I going to put this now? So have to just keep it. Voted up ! Thanks for sharing such useful intimation.

    • profile image

      wwolfs 5 years ago

      Interesting article and video. It is true many times we buy things that are not really necessary, only to add a financial burden and more stress to our lives. Thanks for sharing useful information.

    • SD Dickens profile image

      SD Dickens 5 years ago

      Thanks for reading Jennifer!

    • SD Dickens profile image

      SD Dickens 5 years ago

      You're welcom Thundermama - Thanks for reading!

    • Jennifer Joyner profile image

      Jennifer Joyner 5 years ago

      This is so true.

    • Thundermama profile image

      Catherine Taylor 5 years ago from Canada

      Thank you for introducing me to Graham Hill! Less is more. So right!

    • SD Dickens profile image

      SD Dickens 5 years ago

      Hi Vespawoolf - Thanks for reading and for the positive comments!

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 5 years ago from Peru, South America

      This is so true! Materialism leads to less time for oneself and others. It's just not worth it. Editing is hard to do and takes time, but it pays off in the long run. Thank you for this useful hub!

    • SD Dickens profile image

      SD Dickens 5 years ago

      Sounds great! Thanks for sharing your ideas...

    • profile image

      di 5 years ago

      Try one room with a vaulted ceiling, skylights, arched windows, recessed lighting and heated floors.

      Shelving, cupboards, closets, bureaus, desks, tables or lamps are not needed.

      Try a luxurious sofabed and chair to sleep, lounge, study, dine and entertain.. Store minimal wardrobes in baskets beneath the furniture. Use a computer for media. Store handy items in a tote bag.

      Use a portable stovetop and one-pot recipes. Cover the sink area, an under-counter fridge and washer/dryer with large cutting boards. Stack minimal kitchen items behind a small set of curtains beneath the kitchen sink. Store utensils in a single basket. Dry dishes on towels.

      In the bathroom, try a tiny corner sink without a vanity. Hang towels on hooks. Store cosmetic baskets on the back of the toilet. Store soap in the shower. Try a full-length mirror and clothing hook on the back of the door.

      Try a swivel sweeper and one multi-purpose cleanser. Clean by hand, rinsing in a sink.

    • Ahyat profile image

      Ahyat 6 years ago from Canada

      Great hub keep it up ;)

    • SD Dickens profile image

      SD Dickens 6 years ago

      Thanks Millionaire Tips!

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 6 years ago from USA

      Another great hub. Stuff does just cause more problems - in storing it, in cleaning it, in buying it. Less is indeed more.

    • Mroz profile image

      Mroz 6 years ago from Minnesota, USA

      Great hub and I agree that editing one's stuff does increase focus and happiness.

    • doodlebugs profile image

      doodlebugs 6 years ago from Southwest

      When I lived aboard my sailboat for 3 years I had very little except necessities. I did not feel burdened by too many things to keep up with, as I sometimes do now. I'm trying to get back to that simpler life, by keeping only the things I really need.

    • lindsy lohan222 profile image

      lindsy lohan222 6 years ago from no where

      yeah countries are so excessive lol

      ~~lindsy lohan

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 6 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      I had to come back for a friendly reminder to stop looking at the piles that need to be sorted and (mostly) pitched and "just do it"! ;D

    • Injured lamb profile image

      Injured lamb 6 years ago

      I agree most with this ~ "Get rid of stuff you don't use and don't buy stuff you don't need." Thanks for the sharing, SD.

    • festersporling1 profile image

      Daniel Christian 6 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      It's amazing when you go to a country where people live quite well on $200 a month. That is one monthly supply trip for an American family to Walmart. The consumerism of the Western countries is so excessive. But on an individual level, I agree with your hub that it will lead to more happiness.

    • MarloByDesign profile image

      MarloByDesign 6 years ago from United States

      And less stuff = less cleaning and dusting! Just my two cents. Rated USEFUL.

    • Melovy profile image

      Yvonne Spence 6 years ago from UK

      I agree with what you’ve written here. For a long time I’ve noticed that it’s far more satisfying to get rid of stuff (clutter) and have more space, than it is to gather more. Can’t say my family agree as yet, but I live in hope!:)

      I found what you wrote about spending money on leisure activities interesting, and especially that connecting with others is the key. It doesn’t surprise me though, as the old song goes: “We all need somebody to lean on”.

      Thanks for this hub.

    • LouLa Ball profile image

      LouLa Ball 6 years ago from Tennessee

      Great hub! This is what my mother and I have been talking about for a long time. This is what a lot of people should have been doing all along. However, like anything else, it takes something bad to happen for people to change, unfortunately. Keep up the good work. We can all use reminders.

    • lindsy lohan222 profile image

      lindsy lohan222 6 years ago from no where

      wow thats alot of bags lol :)

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 6 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      You're soooo right that many people who used to buy, buy, buy mostly because they *could* are finding in the current economy that they CAN be happier with less stuff. And yes, one does become a slave to things. At some point, the things they think they own actually own them. An aunt and uncle lived by "You can't take it with you", and in their later years gave treasured items to family and friends they knew would appreciate them, rather than have those same family and friends fighting over it after Aunt and Uncle were gone.

      It may be hard at first to be absolutely ruthless in deciding what you *absolutely cannot* live without, but once started it gets progressively easier, especially when the bank account (and free time!) grows as the truly unnecessary stuff disappears and isn't replaced! ;D