I received an advertisement in my email last week for a mid-summer clothing sale that brought to mind memories of how I used to feel years ago when looking at items I wanted to purchase, but couldn’t afford, always feeling like I never had enough. I would be happier if I could just have one more outfit, one more car, one more bedroom in the house or one more paycheck in the bank account.
Ironically, now that I am in a place where I can afford more wants, these advertisements frustrate me with their false message that ‘owning more can never be enough.’
I am frustrated for those who believe the message and feel badly about their lives because they don’t have the means to buy ‘more’, and likewise I am frustrated by those who do have the financial means, and purchase frivolous wants just because society says they don’t already have enough. Both scenarios encourage consumption just for the sake of owning more.
As I considered how to counter the negative message of this advertisement, even if only on a personal level, I came up with a quick mental list why we can say collectively as a society in the United States that we don’t need more, we already have more than enough.
-As of 2013, almost 11 million households in the U.S. rent storage units outside of their homes to contain more of their extra ‘stuff’.
-According to one report, the poorest of the poor in the United States are still richer and have more than 68% of the rest of the world’s inhabitants. Find out where you stand personally at The Global Rich.
-The average size single-family home has increased by more than 800 square feet in the last 30 years from 1,605 square feet in 1985 to 2,453 square feet in 2014.
-Americans are experiencing more stress than ever before, with the number one reason being financially related, according to research done by the American Psychological Association in August 2014.
Yet, with all of this research pointing to more not being better, as a society we are still sending the message to ourselves saying you can never have too much of anything. Keep working, keep spending, keep stressing and by all means keep wanting more.
One of the biggest differences I have found since my shift towards a simpler lifestyle is my desire for less has actually led to increased happiness, unlike what society tells us. Once I let go of the cultural ideal that accumulating stuff is what brings happiness, I found that I felt richer on a personal level.
With fewer belongings, we are able to live in a much smaller home than the average 5-person family in America, and we spend less time cleaning and caring for our stuff so we can use our free time for things that we really enjoy.
Stress levels are also much lower as we have embraced the fact that we can live on less money than we thought, and actually have more happiness and contentment with less.
Society will most likely continue to tell us that ‘more is more, and you can never have enough’.
The happiness and contentment that comes from knowing that wants will never bring long-term satisfaction, is more than enough for all of us.