Stuff - Storage - Buying More - Throwing Away - Social Pressure - Happiness
Hello, I am Nicolas Bustamante. I’m an entrepreneur and I write about building successful startups.
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Do we own too much stuff? There are 300,000 items in the average American home; the latter even tripled in size over the past fifty years. Even with that, the self-storage industry in the U.S brings $39.5 billion in yearly revenue and exceeds 1.7 billion square feet of space. How come we accumulate so much?
The rise of developing countries gave us access to cheaper goods, and the advance of e-commerce put these goods few clicks away. Thanks to that, and a hefty dose of advertising, people started to accumulate stuff faster and faster. For instance, 3.1% of the world's children live in America, but they own 40% of the toys consumed globally.
There is a paradox because technological innovations reduced the number of items we need. An e-book device replaces thousands of books, and a smartphone replaces cameras, mp3 music players, calendars, alarm clocks, pens, watches, and much more. We can also argue that the rise of ride-hailing apps reduced the need for a car or the convenience of homestay marketplaces decreased the appetite for a second home. Yet, the accumulation of stuff seems endless.
I believe that less is more, especially regarding owning stuff. In my opinion, owing less means less stress, less debt, fewer distractions, and fewer liabilities. Consequently, it leads to having more time, more money, more freedom, and, overall, more happiness. I happily describe myself as a minimalist. People are my priority, not material possession. In my opinion, the quest of life is about purpose, meaning, adventure, not accumulating goods. It doesn't mean I own nothing; it implies that I'm surrounded by things that bring me joy and utility.
Many friends are different from me, but most aspire to own less stuff. Changing a lifetime of habits is, however, difficult. First, it requires accepting to throw stuff away. Most people have trouble discarding things away, feeling guilty for the waste, and ashamed they are not using it. But let's be honest, there are only two categories: things you use often and things you don't. It's hard to throw things away because items might have a functional value, an information value, or an emotional value. Again, if you don't use it, you probably don't need it. People do throw things away; the average American throws away 65 pounds of clothing per year. The only issue is that people buy more right after.
After having discarded unnecessary items, the next challenge is to stop buying more. Once you have experienced the powerful impact of an ordered space filled only with necessary belongings, you must fight to keep this state. It's hard because there are entire industries that want you to buy more. Back in the 70s, the average person saw 500 ads per day versus over 5000 today. One of the most demanding challenges is to resist the social pressure and the status game that leads to accumulation. Promoters constantly reinvent themselves to convince you. Today they attract customers with ads that imply that it's necessary to buy ethically produced products promoting the environment. What about not buying at all? Who is saving the planet now?
For me, being a minimalist means removing excess possessions to focus on things that matter the most. It means living more intentionally and exercising temperance. In my opinion, it's not even about owning less; it's about desiring less, about having enough. By living for yourself, you avoid playing an endless status game filled with greed, envy, and jealousy. You preserve your time and embrace the simplicity required to be truly happy!
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