The amount of stuff we own these days is staggering.
The average American home size has grown from 1,000 square feet to almost 2,500 square feet. Personal storage generates more than $24 billion in revenue each year. Reports indicate we consume twice as many material goods today as we did 50 years ago. All while carrying, on average, nearly $15,950 in credit-card debt.
These numbers should cause us to start asking some difficult questions of ourselves. For example, “Why do we buy more stuff than we need?”
I mean, when you really stop to think about it, this becomes a fascinating question. What thinking would compel somebody to spend money on things they didn’t actually need in the first place?
If we could successfully answer this question, we could more easily free our lives and our resources for more important pursuits.
But this question can be difficult. It forces us to admit weakness in our lives. Consider some of the lies we have believed:
7 Reasons We Buy More Stuff Than We Need
1. We think it will make us secure. Our logic goes like this: if owning some material possessions brings us security (a roof, clothing, reliable transportation), owning excess will surely result in even more security. But after meeting our most basic needs, the actual security derived from physical possessions is much less stable than we believe. They all perish, spoil, or fade. And they can disappear faster than we realize.
2. We think it will make us happy. Nobody would ever admit they search for happiness in material possessions—we all just live like we do. We buy bigger houses, faster cars, cooler technology, and trendier fashion hoping we will become happier because of it. Unfortunately, the actual happiness derived from excess physical possessions is fleeting at best.
3. We are more susceptible to advertising than we believe. On average, we see 5,000 advertisements every day. Every advertisement carries the same message: your life will be better if you buy what we are selling. We begin to hear this messaging so many times and from so many angles, we begin to subtly believe it. This is not a complete condemnation of the marketing industry. This is simply a call to realize their messaging affects us more than we realize.
4. We are hoping to impress other people. In a wealthy society, envy quickly becomes a driving force for economic activity. Once all of our basic needs have been met, consumption must become about something more than needs. It becomes an opportunity to display our wealth, our importance, and our financial success with the world.
5. We are jealous of people who own more. Comparison seems to be a natural state of our humanity. We notice what other people are buying, wearing, and driving. Our society encourages these comparisons. And all too often, we buy stuff we don’t need just because people in our friendship circles have done the same. A culture fixated on praising excess will always misdefine true success.
6. We are trying to compensate for our deficiencies. We mistakenly look for confidence in the clothes that we wear or the car that we drive. We seek to recover from loss, loneliness, or heartache by purchasing unnecessary items. We seek fulfillment in material things. And we try to impress other people with the things that we own rather than the people that we are. But these pursuits will never fully satisfy our deficiencies. Most of the time, they just keep us from ever even addressing them.
7. We are more selfish than we like to admit. It can be difficult to admit that the human spirit is hardwired toward selfishness and greed, but history appears to make a strong case for us. We seek to grow the size of our personal kingdom by accumulating more and more things. This has been accomplished throughout history by force, coercion, dishonesty, and warfare. Unfortunately, selfishness continues to surface in our world and our lives even today.
Excess material possessions do not enrich our lives. In fact, buying things we don’t need keeps us from experiencing some wonderful, life-giving benefits. We would be wise to realize the cause and become vigilant in overcoming it.
There is more joy to be found in owning less than can ever be discovered in pursuing more. (tweet that)
After reading this article, I can agree with reasons 2 and 4. When I was little, my mother and I didn’t have much money, and of course, like all children, I wanted what they had. But I understood that we cannot afford it, so I always dreamed that when I grow up I will earn a lot and I will buy everything I want. And so when I grew up and my family has a normal wealth and we can afford a lot of things, at first you are happy about it, then you want more things and then there is a rethinking. When a year ago, the war started in my native country and I left my native home with one suitcase and a backpack of the most necessary things. You look and do not understand why you have so many of these things when true happiness is not in them. And in order for your loved ones to be close to you, there was a peaceful sky above your head, and the insidious enemy left your land, and also for all our soldiers to return home alive and well. Now that we have been living in this war for a year, when I go to the stores, I buy only necessary things or things that I give to loved ones. Of course, we should buy some things for ourselves, but not without exaggeration, because happiness is not in this. The main thing is a peaceful sky and all relatives at home. Therefore, of course, we want many things, but we must not forget that this is not the most important thing in our life
Donna Elliott says
I’M RIGHT THERE WITH EVERYBODY I KNOW IT’S A SICKNESS TRYING TOO GET RID OF THING’S BUT HARD TOO DO I KEEP FINDING MYSELF AT THE GOODWILL, SALVATION ARMY NEEDING HELP 😢😔 MAKING PROBLEMS WITH GETTING ALONG WITH MY HUSBAND
I’m not insecure or unhappy or trying to impress anyone. I have stuff for 3 reasons:
1. It’s pretty and I like to see it/use it.
2. It’s something we use, and I hate not having it there when I need it and having to run to town (20 miles one way) so I make sure we have plenty on hand.
3. I make art out of everything and anything.
I think these are good reasons to “accumulate” at least if you have room for it.
I do have one bad reason, though: some stuff has considerable value, and I hate to throw or donate, so I’m storing it until the Garage Sale.
Which hasn’t happened yet…? …I’m working on that!
On to Freedom!
Thank you dreamnoblade
Ayqa shabbir says
I agree with this. We should be minimalistic. We should enjoy our life, every moment of life. We can be happy with less things, without comparing ourself to others. If we continuously focused towards asset making. It’s not bad. But there is a great share for others also.
We’re bored, lonely; trying to fill an empty hole in our lives.
Cornelius Johnson jr says
People buy more stuff than they need because they are looking to spend money or they like how the product look
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Diana Thomas says
I could not AGREE with your 7 reasons more!! Especially #6…. I know people who do this very thing. Some people will constantly buy “stuff” they do not need. I know some of these people, and I feel so sorry for them. STUFF, will not make you happy. The people that I know who do this, also have a very defensive attitude towards people. They find fault in everyone they come in contact with. The salesperson in the store, the waitress in the restaurant, everyone! Something else I have noticed, is these people have VERY few friends. So sad…….
Ho Jun says
I firstly would like to apologise in that I entirely disagree with all of your statments. I am not to be aggressive or something bad and I am just here to provide you with some feedback using experiences that have been accumulated while living my life so far. I considered that giving suggestionmight be helpful for your personal development so if it does not matter a lot, I would like to give an advice.
To begin with, your ideas are too confined and it looks like you are merely describing your own opinion which signifies that it contains only those that are personal ideas. In order to make sense your statements, it requires some of the explicit evidence to support your opinion but none of them includes any obvious proof. To illustrate, you just mentioned that ‘we are hoping to impress other people so we buy more deluxe products.’ However, this is extremely general idea since there may be numerous number of people who think in a different way. So what I recommend you is to consider readers who will be reading your article excluding your personal opinions and including specific examples so as to make people consent to your statements.
Thank you a lot for wasting your precious time reading my opinion and I positively expect that you would have a further advancement in your writing and persuasive skills.
Diana Thomas says
Your response to the article seems “angry”. My first guess is, you are one of the very people this article is about. Life is short, smile…be happy. Go buy yourself something! LOL
I agree. Advertising influence us. I’ve lived in the same house for the past 24 years. And I do not hoard. I regularly donate and give stuff away. I like nice stuff and buy when needed. I used to shop crazy, but over the years I think i became a smart shopper. I don’t fall so easily into the traps of must have items. I think I’m fairly minimalistic and pragmatic. Getting rid of unnecessary stuff helps a lot. Also there are people out there that needs it. So I’m on that road, but still spoil myself at times. But more the exception than the rule.
Joy Johnson says
None of those reasons resonate with me. I usually buy second hand items rarely new. I’m not trying to impress anyone. I’m so not trendy. I do own far too much and buy to often. Currently, it’s because we just got a new house, and I’m trying to fill it with things I love and that reflect our styles and interests. Hoping, I can slow it down when I fill the spaces with only things that I truly love.
Don’t fill the space. Allow the space. You describe what is stated above.