How long would it take you to make a complete inventory of your physical possessions? How long would it take you to box everything up yourself, and how much space would those boxes take up? If you’ve moved recently, then you can probably answer those last two questions. But imagine going through each item, writing it down, and giving a brief description for the sake of inventory. Further imagine visiting each item mentally and physically and describing the purpose each filled in your life. Impossible task?
Why is it we own more than ever before? Has our need for things grown over time? Why do we acquire, keep, and continue to acquire things? Let’s explore a few of the reasons we seem to need larger and larger homes.
Why We Hold onto Things
As human life has evolved technologically, we’ve seen the products we purchase to ‘get the job done’ become more and more specialized. These tools and machines may get used once in a blue moon simply because they can only do one specific job, but their owners can justify their place in the home.
Sometimes, the strangest things hang around in our lives for years gathering dust. They may even live in a box or trunk, hidden from the human eye for decades. No function at all, but their owners have an emotional tie to them. Perhaps it was a birthday present from one’s 7th birthday, or one’s wedding dress, or even an empty soda can you were drinking from the first time you saw your favourite actor win an award.
Status and a Society of Consumers
Often, people buy something because it is the latest fad, it looks cool, or it makes them looks good and impresses their friends. The item doesn’t have to be any better than what the person already owns, but when it’s cleverly marketed as being the new ‘it’, it may be irresistible.
Common to many people is a need for distraction from what is missing in themselves. Emotional voids, often created early in life or even through trauma and heartbreak in adulthood, can be too painful to face. Instead of healthy self-examination and seeking support, people will turn to filling their lives with things that temporarily make themselves feel ‘filled’ or whole. It never really works, however. The buying cycle continues, and the search for happiness remains unfulfilled.
If the number of possessions you have really is an issue for you, and you want to do something about it, it’s time to face yourself head on.
A Simple, Difficult Question
Asking yourself ‘Why?’ you do what you do sounds like a rather simple question, but if you really sit down and answer yourself honestly, it may end up being deeper and more difficult than you think. A superficial answer to “Why did I buy that?” might sound like, “Because I wanted it,” but it won’t help you understand your behaviour. More difficult to come to grips with might be an answer that points to a fear of being unloved or unpopular.
Understanding Needs versus Wants
We often say, “I need that!” when what we really mean is “I want that!” Needs tend to be things that ensure our survival or make it possible to be better, more self-actualized people. Wants, on the other hand, tend to be those things that distract us. When you spend some time thinking about how you would categorize those thing you believe are needs, you might make some surprising discoveries.
How often do we stop and appreciate who and what we have in our lives? Probably not often enough. Always thinking about the next thing, tomorrow, or the future, usually means you are not living in the moment and appreciating today. Take some time to think about all the things you already have. Say thank you to those you couldn’t do without.
When you’re able to be honest with yourself, and be thankful for what you have, you’ll likely discover that healing what’s inside can fill you up.
A wise person carries their possessions within them…
About the author:
Tara Bambrick is a life coach, educator, and professional writer specializing in loss, identity, mental health, and expressive writing as a healing tool. At Choosing Life – The Write Way, she offers personal coaching and writing e-courses.