Happy Time of Things!

It’s the week after Thanksgiving and the holiday shopping craze has begun. From Black Friday and today, Cyber Monday, through Christmas Eve, it seems to be a cacophony of “buy! buy! buy!”, and “more! more! more!”.

I’m fortunate in that I’ve been able to have a lot of great things in my life.  But in having many things, I realized something — things are a small part of Life.  Living in a nice house or having the latest iToy isn’t going to make me happier.  Owning a car isn’t going to do anything to my mental well-being.  It’s the value that these things add to my life that make them worth having.  But my life isn’t going to be inherently more fulfilled by having them.  

To that point, I recently sold my Wii on Craigslist.  It ended up being bought by a family of three and I even got to meet the little boy who would be enjoying it.  While I was a little skeptical, I haven’t missed it at all. The handful of times I used to play it, I was with friends.  And believe it or not, cards or simply hanging out is just as fun. 

It seems that the job of our economy is to make us want more.  I think the true challenge is discovering what is enough. Maybe having a Wii is part of “enough” for you, and I completely respect that — especially if you’ve thought about it and come to that conclusion. 

This weekend, I thought about my things, and I took on one of the Bastion of Things in my life — DVDs.  I used to pride myself on how many DVDs I had, and would prominently display them in my room.  Yet, yesterday, I rounded up about twenty of my thirty-odd DVDs and took them to Newbury Comics to sell.  (I may eventually part with the DVDs that I didn’t sell.  Baby steps.)  What I realized was that having these DVDs didn’t add anything to my life.  They weren’t part of “enough”; they were excess.  

Having these DVDs actually detracted from my life. They were another distraction that was easily available. I think there’s power in eliminating distraction. When I cut out media in February, I was able to really hear what I wanted to do. How I wanted to be. This is similar, but with “stuff”. Do you find that you have “stuff” in your life?

This is an easy first step. A few of the DVDs I sold, I also had on my computer.  The rest I can rent – most of them instantly on iTunes or Amazon. 

Maybe by parting with them, I’ll be able to have a clearer sense of what could go next.  


5 responses to “Happy Time of Things!

  1. Hey David, I really like this post. It’s been interesting moving from a house to a relatively small apartment, and having to make decisions about what to bring, what to leave, and what to get rid of. It’s amazing how much stuff we accumulate, then don’t use. We hold onto it because we feel that it somehow represents our identity. In reality, that identity is expressed in our thoughts, words, and actions.I also think there is this interesting opportunity with purely digital goods and services, like the instant rentals you mention. Although I haven’t really done it yet, I’m excited to buy a Kindle book through Amazon, even though I don’t own a Kindle. Apparently, you can read the book on just about any device (laptop, iPod, iPad, etc.) without consuming any resources or taking up space. I guess it’s still consumption, and the downside may be that you can’t give it away the way you gave away your Wii, but it seems more sustainable.

  2. I think digital goods will definitely shape the future and make it possible to have less, simply because more is kept “in the cloud”. I also think that it will reduce the reliance of things as defining because there will be more of a “rental” mentality. Even if I buy the book, since I don’t physically own it, what do I have? I was looking at my book collection last night, and I’m daring myself to go through that next. (Also, while trying the Kindle across devices is fun, I also recommend the library. Not technological, but certainly inexpensive and sustainable.)

  3. David,That’s a very smart outlook on life. I’ve always felt that the amount of items one owns negatively correlates with how free one feels. Possession are often the reason we don’t go out and create more significant moments in our lives. “I was going to go for a walk but I think I’ll just stay home and play Wii.” You will never know what you could have seen or who you could’ve met on that walk; it’s a fair certainty that watching a DVD or playing Wii will result in something fruitless at best.-Anonymous

  4. Hey David et. al.I have to throw in a pitch here for two more great reasons not to base our identities, sense of happiness, or economy on a greater and greater assortment of things: 1.) Most of the things that are available for us to buy either take precious resources to make or pollute the environment with harmful substances at some phase of their life-cycle. While these may seem like small effects on an individual level, picture the effects of millions of people buying thousands of products year after year after year – many of which are designed to be discarded at an ever increasing rate (since things that last a long time don’t have to get re-purchased very often). I could wax all poetic/scientifc about the effects of this cycle on human health, ecosystem health – especially the impact our choices today will have on the millions of people that will inhabit the planet tomorrow…but I think y’all get the point.2.) As we all know, the distribution of wealth in this country and even more so the world is extremely unbalanced. Now, many people believe they “deserve” every dollar they’ve “earned” and should be able to spend those dollars on whatever things they want. But there are plenty of charitable organizations of all kinds that could use that money to make people’s lives better who don’t have as many things as all of we lucky punks already do. Every time I buy a new thing, I try to remind myself how much difference that money could make in the lives of people much less fortunate.Keeping these issues in the back of my mind doesn’t always work. I’m still an occasional consumer of relatively useless things. It’s really freaking hard to make the choice of non-consumption in our society!! But this holiday season I’m definitely going to try even harder keep both 1.) and 2.) in mind. Put them together, and you’ve got a great holiday gift idea: Charitable donations in the name of friends and family. Sure it doesn’t come with the “WHOA” moment that opening a box with a new thing in it does – but in the long run I think it will be appreciated just as much. Plus…dad doesn’t need any new ties.- AL

  5. Oh one more thing. If you haven’t already seen it, check out The Story of Stuff at http://www.storyofstuff.comIt's an awesome cartoon explanation of how “things” (called “stuff”) in the video have grown to become the foundation of our economy, why that’s a really bad situation, and what we can do about it!

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