We often associate happiness with having possessions, and with having the ability to obtain more possessions whenever we so desire.
We see people walking around with the latest smartphone, shopping for designer clothes, or eating at upscale restaurants, and we assume they must have happy lives.
But is that really all there is to happiness? Doesn’t true fulfillment have to do with more than just accumulating material possessions?
WHAT ARE MATERIAL THINGS?
So what do we mean by “material things” anyway? Material things are exactly what they sound like – they are physical possessions that we acquire, usually by purchasing them.
Material things can mean anything from houses and cars to books or jewelry. It can mean your wine collection or a fancy dinner on the town.
It essentially refers to whatever items or possessions you like to spend your money on.
OUR ADDICTION TO MATERIAL THINGS
Now before we get ahead of ourselves, there’s nothing wrong with desiring certain material things. We work hard and we deserve to enjoy some of our earnings by purchasing things we like.
Everyone wants to have a safe and spacious home. Everyone wants to drive a reliable car rather than one that needs constant repair.
It’s normal to want to dress your best sometimes or enjoy a good meal. These desires are all normal, so where does the addiction come in?
When we begin to adopt the mentality that these material things are the primary thing we should be striving for, that they are the point of living and the ultimate keeper of our happiness, that is when things start to go awry.
We begin placing the accumulation of possessions above relationships with other people, perhaps above our family and friends, and this is when it becomes an unhealthy addiction.
It is easy in our culture to get addicted to material things, and even to believe that material things are the key to happiness.
Everywhere we go, we are bombarded with advertisements, marketing strategies, and even gimmicks.
Everyone wants to take our money. Everyone wants a share of our hard-earned paycheck. The world is designed to convince us to spend all our money on things, and to perpetuate the belief that this is what will make us the happiest.
This mentality motivates us to compete with each other, and if we aren’t careful, it can escalate to the point where we compromise our relationships for the opportunity to acquire more things.
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15 REASONS WHY MATERIAL THINGS DON’T MAKE US TRULY HAPPY
1. EXPERIENCES ARE GREATER THAN POSSESSIONS
A new shirt will only be new for a couple of wears. A nice dinner only lasts one night.
But if you decide to invest your money in experiences rather than possessions, they can last you a lifetime of memories.
Add in the fact that you can bring loved ones into those experiences with you – a vacation with your family, or a weekend away with your partner – and now you have a shared memory with the most important people in your life that will bond you for years to come – and maybe even spark a new tradition.
2. SHOPPING ONLY LEADS TO MORE SHOPPING
Shopping is not just a means to an end, it is an activity in and of itself. If you get in the habit of driving straight to the mall on payday and this becomes the routine you turn to when you need to de-stress and relax, shopping will cease to be an exercise in searching for items you need, and will instead become a habit by which you are regularly spending money on whatever looks good at the moment.
3. SOMEONE ELSE ALWAYS HAS MORE
No matter how much stuff you manage to accumulate, you will always feel behind when trying to Keep Up with the Joneses.
There will always be a neighbor with a bigger house, or a coworker with a nicer, newer car.
You may win the occasional battle in out-purchasing someone you know, but the war will always elude you. No matter how much you buy, someone else will always have more.
4. PEOPLE AREN’T AS IMPRESSED AS YOU THINK
It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that your family is impressed, or even jealous when you show up at the Christmas party with the newest version of the Apple watch that was just released last week.
But in reality, they’re probably not as impressed as you think.
They may spend a fleeting moment wishing they could drop a few hundred on an accessory, but they’re not losing sleep over it.
And if you become the friend or relative who can’t attend a social function without showing off your new, expensive wares, you can bet that the people in your life see you as obnoxious, not someone to emulate.
5. IT’S COSTING MORE THAN YOU REALIZE
Maybe you make a good living and can afford to splurge on nice things – if that’s the case, then it’s great that you’ve reached a place in life where you don’t need to be worried about income.
But it doesn’t matter what you’re making if you’re spending it all. If your expenses are nearly canceling out your income, then you’re not really that much better off than someone who is living paycheck to paycheck.
What kind of egg nest could you be sitting on if you saved or invested the bulk of your excess cash rather than spending it all?
Maybe you could retire earlier than you planned, or at least cut back your hours. Not only are your material possessions costing you money in real-time, but you may be borrowing against your future.
6. THE MORE YOU HAVE, THE MORE YOU MUST MAINTAIN
It feels great to buy a bigger house – but remember, upgrading your possessions isn’t always a one-time expense.
A bigger house means more time spent cleaning, more money spent furnishing all the rooms, and more work on things like landscaping.
Even if you outsource some of these tasks, when your square footage increases, so does the amount it costs to bring in a cleaning service. You can outsource your yard work, too, but when you have lots of land, you can expect to pay a pretty penny for someone to maintain it.
Depending on the location of your new home, your property taxes might have increased, and if you live somewhere that has cold winters, you’re probably racking up quite a heating bill to keep your space warm.
7. YOU HAVE MORE TO LOSE
The more you have, the more you have to lose. If you upgrade your lifestyle every time you get a raise, you won’t want to think about what will happen if you ever lose your job.
These are things we try to avoid thinking about, but unfortunately, they happen to people. Whatever your spending habits are, always make sure you have something to fall back on if disaster strikes.
8. THERE IS ALWAYS SOMETHING NEW TO CHASE
One day you splurge on the newest smartphone, and the following month they’re already promoting the next model.
Companies have our buying habits down to a science, and unfortunately for us, they are completely aware that they have us hook, line, and sinker.
They know they can always tempt us with the newest model, and they will stop at nothing to get people to spend their money.
9. THE EXCITEMENT WILL FADE
New things are only new for a moment.
Eventually, they get placed on the shelf or stored in the basement. Once-new clothes get shuffled to the back of the closet, etc.
Humans are experts at adjusting to their environments and circumstances, which means that our brains are wired to get used to things. What was once shiny will soon seem dull. The newness wears off, and before you know it you’ll be looking for the next fix.
10. IT’S A DISTRACTION FROM WHAT MATTERS
If you’re spending all your time and money shopping for new toys, what areas of your life might be suffering?
Is your habit affecting your relationship with your partner or your kids?
Do you neglect loved ones because you’re always distracted by your most recent purchase, or does your family struggle financially because of your excessive spending?
What begins as getting a mild thrill from buying something new can evolve – often without our noticing – into an addiction that is all-consuming and damaging to the other areas of our lives.
11. YOU DON’T HAVE TIME TO ENJOY ALL YOUR STUFF
If you’ve got a home theatre, a sports car, a boat, new hiking equipment, a home gym, and more – how do you split your time to allow you to enjoy all your extravagant purchases?
If you’re buying this much stuff, chances are you’re working a lot of hours to afford it.
Between your working hours and time spent with others, when will you find the time to get your money’s worth of all your awesome stuff?
12. CLUTTER LEADS TO STRESS
The more things you own, the more cluttered your living space becomes, and this can have the effect of making your life feel more complicated.
A materialistic attitude, on the contrary, encourages us to accumulate things regardless of whether they contribute meaning or value to our lives, which is bound to make us feel more stressed.
13. QUALITY IS BETTER THAN QUANTITY
If you’re focused on buying tons of stuff, how high is the quality of the items you’re purchasing?
When your goal is to buy, buy, buy, this will often lead to frequent, hasty transactions that are made without much discernment, and very little research.
Are you interested in having things of quality, or just lots and lots of things?
14. YOU RISK GOING INTO DEBT
If your addiction to material things progresses to a point beyond what you can afford, you may risk running yourself into debilitating debt.
Addiction doesn’t stop at manageable levels, it just keeps going and increasing. The bar is always getting higher.
If you get into a cycle where your goal is to always have the hot items, you will do anything to feed your desire, perhaps even when it means running yourself into the ground financially by accumulating lots of debt.
15. HAPPINESS CAN’T BE BOUGHT
At the end of the day, money can only go so far in your search for happiness.
Most things are best in moderation, and material possessions definitely distract us from this goal.
If material things are your primary focus, you will find yourself with voids that your money and shopping simply cannot fill.
It certainly feels good to make a desired purchase, but there is much more to happiness than what money can buy.
While it can be tempting to believe that material things bring happiness, true fulfillment and satisfaction are much more complicated than that.
It is not wrong to strive for a life where lack of money is not among your top concerns, but as you strive to reach that place, don’t let yourself get distracted from the other areas of life that are even more enriching.