Why More Stuff Doesn't Equal More Happiness



"If you make a habit of buying things you do not need, you will soon be selling things you do". - Filipino Proverb.

Let us start by putting some things into context. I’m a 23 year old girl who grew up loving all the typical things you might expect someone like me to like including shopping and buying things, quite a lot of things. What would I do on my hungover days at uni? Whilst some may spend the day telling themselves they’ll never drink that much again laid in a dark room, I’d go out shopping. Why? Well, I guess it made me feel better, and in turn, that helped that hungover feeling.


And it’s not just hangovers; if I would ring my mum upset, she might tell me to go buy a pair of shoes – because that would make me happy, right?


It’s not a trick question, I guess it did…kind of. But how long did that happiness last? How long until I had to go back out and buy something again. I don’t think there’s any point in shaming people for buying things, for enjoying shopping, and you can’t invalidate the feelings that they might give them.


But is it sustainable? Not just in terms of the planet, but is it a sustainable coping mechanism? Are there better ways to feel the same way, and if so, how do you break out of the habit of shopping for things you don’t need?


What if we used a different form of currency?


Whilst doing some reading for this blog, I read something that really struck home for me.

Our purchases cost us more than we realise. In stores, products are measured in dollars and cents. But as Henry David Thoreau once said, “The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.” We don’t buy things with money, we buy them with hours from our lives. - Joshua Becker

It’s a frighteningly real concept. If we were to buy things, not with money, but with hours would it make us slow down and question what we were buying more? If that top said, 50 hours or that phone said 150 hours would you stand in the shop that long to get it?


Maybe you would, and that’s okay because perhaps that’s the way we know we need that thing. But doesn’t it make you think about everything you could do in 150 hours? The places you could travel (by the way, it would work out to about a 6 day holiday). The people you could catch up with, or concerts you could watch. And would those things fill you with more happiness than the possession?


Besides, experiences are what make memories. And would we even be closer to nature? Particularly when it comes to buying digital devices. Without the distraction of a new 50-inch screen TV or brand new iPhone, you HAVE to live your life instead of watching it without being connected to that screen.


When you’ve got nothing to watch, no photos on the timeline to scroll through, you have to make your own instead of liking everyone else's.


What did I do?


So now what? For me, the solution ended up being investing in my hobbies. I’ve always been interested in music, having started the violin some 14 years ago. I decided to invest in it again, getting lessons and working towards my grade 8.


I bought a saxophone, one of my lifelong dreams, and have now joined a concert band and have already done a concert 5 months into learning. Playing these instruments doesn’t just give me joy, but because of it, I have met so, SO many incredible people and made long-lasting friendships.


My youth orchestra was like a family to me, having those bonds and connections with people was worth so much more than my temporary connection with a pair of shoes. Going onto uni, it led me to do some pretty cool things, like managing one of the orchestras and giving me a lot of portfolio work with videography and photography. It gets me out the house 3 or 4 nights a week for various ensemble practice or music lessons.


I’m still spending money. I’m buying my lessons, I suppose, but these deep, long-lasting consequences are so much more worthwhile. And maybe music isn’t your thing, but surfing or cooking or art – there are groups of people you can meet and experiences that they will lead you to that gives you that ‘feel good’ emotion in a sustainable way. You can find 9 more reasons why buying things won't make you happy here. I’d like to end with one more quote I found whilst creating this blog:


"Redirect your desires toward lasting pursuits. Find happiness there. You will never find the right things looking in the wrong places". - Joshua Becker