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)