I’ve often asked myself why we buy more than we need. I mean, when you really think about it, what would cause us to buy unnecessary things in the first place?
I think there are a number of reasons this is the case—some internally motived and some externally motivated. But one reason we should never overlook is our felt need for security.
Ask yourself, Am I buying too much stuff because deep down I think it will insulate me from the harms of a chancy world? And if so, what is that costing me?
In our society, too many of us believe security can be adequately found in the personal ownership of possessions. Of course there is a grain of truth in that belief. Certainly, food and water, clothing and shelter are essential for survival. But the list of possessions we truly need for life is quite short, and most of us already have these things.
The reality is, we have too quickly confused needs with wants and security with comfort. As a result, many of us collect large stockpiles of possessions in the name of security when we are actually accumulating comfort (or desired pleasure). We work long hours to purchase these things. And we construct bigger and bigger houses to store them.
We dream of a future that includes larger paychecks and sizable savings accounts. We plot and plan to acquire them because we think lasting security can be found there. If that costs us in other areas of life, such as our family and friendships, then that’s the way it goes. The cause of security seems so important that we can’t give up our pursuit of more.
One day I received an email that was gut wrenching to me. A woman wrote:
I’m a working mom of three young boys. I ran across your website while researching ways in which people have made a one-income household work for a family of five.
My husband and I have worked our tails off over the last fifteen years to advance in our careers. In doing so, we have accumulated a lot of material possessions. We didn’t start out materialistic, really. Over the years, though, we have engorged our lifestyle, including a large home and even a modest lake retreat.
Two weeks ago we overheard my eight-year-old son tell a friend, “Mommy and Daddy aren’t home a lot. We don’t see them very much.”
My husband and I stopped dead in our tracks. Our hearts broke. Is all of our stuff really worth it? Of course not.
We are trying to figure out the “how.” We are looking over our budget, trying to find a renter for our log cabin by the lake, and working to have my husband quit his job to be a stay-at-home dad. I am wondering if you have any pointers to help us along this path.
This woman and her husband felt that they needed to work. They felt that they needed more money and more things. They believed that their family wouldn’t be safe and secure and well provided for without the fruits of many long days on the job.
Until they realized that they were providing something very different from what their family really needed.