The Desire for ‘Stuff’: a Self-Reflection

I am striving to living a minimalist lifestyle. Generally I have been doing pretty well with this over the last year or so with a significant purging of unnecessary things to the point that i’m feel that i do get value from and use the things that are left.

What is left for me to do (apart from working out how to organise what i do have better which i need to do that we have downsize our home), is work on the internal aspects of minimalism. Ideally i’d like to get to the point that I do not desire any more stuff.

I am generally getting pretty good at squashing materialistic desire when it pops up, but it would be so nice to not to have to deal with that feeling at all to begin with. I find that removing myself from situations where i am exposed to things that i like definitely helps a lot, like avoiding malls.

But in the world of the internet it is far too easy to still be exposed to advertising so very pin-pointed to my very specific interests. For example one of my hobbies which i’ve recently reintroduced into my life is running and if i’ve spent anytime at all on the internet reading inspirational stories from runners etc. I invariably get exposed to some very specific advertising for running paraphernalia. The worst thing is if i ever spend any time looking at a product online that I think is actually kind of nice but i do not need..I’ll come to my senses and not buy it realising it is unnecessary and not helpful in my lifestyle choice. The problem though is those cookies or whatever that save my computer data, and without wiping these from my computer these advertising banners cleverly continually show me the things that i was originally tempted by again and again regardless what type of website i’m on and what i’m reading. Despite knowing what is happening there have been occasions that i’m felt so focused on wanting something that iv’e just gone and got it so that i can get this feeling out of my head! And if it is something that actually i didn’t really need, then there will be invariably regret accompanying it when it arrives.

I’d much prefer it if I never wanted anything and could therefore only get things when they really are needs.

It isn’t just advertising either but people around me. How much someone likes a new thing or gadget is often a topic of conversation in our society. And chances are a lot of your friends and family have some shared interests so some of the things they have and enjoy are things you’d quite like too…but don’t need.

So I am far from the point when this isn’t as much an issue any more for me but I do believe it is now less. I can actually walk around a shopping centre and generally my feeling is one disgust at how many unnecessary  things there are and how overly consumerist our society is. There are only a couple of stores now where I would be very tempted to buy things i don’t need (like a stationary store the other day..which i did get me :/).

So things that have helped me thus far:

  1. Definitely removal from locations of greatest exposure to new stuff. Living rurally has helped a lot. I have also unsubscribed from some of the facebook buy swap sell groups that used to tempt me with things.
  2. Not caring what other people think of me, especially about my appearance. Some people have argued with me that this is a bad thing and i should care. But it sure does help me save on having to own a lot of appearance based stuff- especially as a woman. Not sure if this is something cultivatable though. I think i was born this way.
  3. A challenge with a set time. I did a 6 month challenge a few years ago where i wouldn’t buy a new clothes (except shoes + underwear). This challenge really changed my perspective on the cost of clothes even after the challenge finished and it also made me realise how awesome things you can get 2nd hand at thrift stores are. So now most of the clothing i buy is 2nd hand as I can’t bare to part with the amount of money new clothing costs unless it is something i know will last a much longer time and is worth it in some way.
  4. Really considering purchases thoughtfully. Questioning whether or not something is really needed. The downside to this though is potentially spending too much time thinking about something can imbed it in your brain more when really you want it out if it isn’t a useful thing to you.
  5. Being accountable to a spouse. My husband and I track our savings and expenses every month we also talk about any medium to big sized purchases with each other. It is much easier for him to ask me if i really do need something sometimes than it is for me to ask that as i’m more emotionally involved in the choice as it is something I want, on the other hand he is a more objective outsider. As the person in general less enthusiastic about minimalism he will often sarcastically point out if i haven’t lived up to my minimalist label – and that actually helps.
  6. Focusing on what i have and things i’m grateful for and relationships. Often the desire for something is actually based on a need in my life that isn’t actually fulfilled with a material thing. Advertising agencies have got so very skilled at tapping into these needs and this confuses us. For example travel-wear companies tap into a desire for freedom and exploration confuse us by telling us that we can have this by buying their backpacks. Identifying what my real needs are and satisfying them helps. Also focusing on gratitude also helps my life feel full. If i’m not sure what my core needs are which are the source of wanting something then often just connecting with people helps and it might just so be that this was my need after all.

So this mind state is definitely a work in progress for me. Id like to think that achieving a lack of desire for unnecessary things is mainly possible. In many way it is a very Buddhist kind of thing to try to achieve. It is also good for me to self-reflect on this and highly recommend it to you too if this is something you’d like to achieve in your own life. Perhaps at some point in the future i’ll revisit this again and hopefully i’ll have a greater mastery of this.  If you have any recommendations from your own life i’d love to hear them!





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