Do We Have Enough Stuff? – By Dr. Dhanpaul Narine

Do We Have Enough Stuff?

The pursuit of happiness for many is really the accumulation of more stuff.

The pursuit of happiness for many is really the accumulation of more stuff.

By Dr. Dhanpaul Narine

We live in a disposable age. We have more than we need but few items are made to last because the world has been designed to encourage ‘throw-aways.’

Would you be happier if you have fewer things than you have now? Would you be happy to give up the BMW’s, Pradas, Guccis, the latest gadgets and that big house for the simple life? Must we go out of our way to get the new glossy toy to impress the neighbors?

 The reality is that we live in a world of stuffocation. It’s a new word and it’s easy to define. You look in your wardrobe and it is packed with clothes but you can’t find anything to wear. You decide to buy something new and while you are it you buy some other stuff that you don’t really need but you tell yourself you must have them. You return home with bags of stuff and throw them in a corner. 

The simple fact is that we have more stuff than we need and what is alarming is that we want to acquire more. The pursuit of happiness for many is really the accumulation of more stuff. The comedian George Carlin was on point. He said, ‘the whole meaning of life is trying to find a place to put your stuff!’

Materialism has created so much stuff that an entire storage industry has been set up to look after it. The outlook is not promising. Given the current state of consumerism the tendency will be for us to continue to accumulate stuff, to buy things that we don’t need and to put them away with negative emotions. The problem is that when you think you have gotten rid of stuff you find that it has returned, sometimes looking different! The Center on Everyday Lives states that, ‘we are living in the most materially rich society in global history with light years more possessions per average family than any preceding society.’ The Center also points out that we are at a point of material saturation and that we are suffering from a clutter crisis. We are constantly bombarded with powerful images. For example, we see people with expensive gold watches, drowned in shopping bags and with the latest designer outfits.

They jet to different resorts and spend as if money is falling from the trees and some even burn dollar bills to give the impression of happiness. But behind these manifestations of crass opulence lie depression, loneliness, and unhappiness. As we look to fi nd some balance in our lives we can’t help confronting the million-dollar question: why do we have this obsession with stuff and do we have enough of it? Will there come a point in our lives when we will be content with what we have? The answers to these questions are complex as they relate to both psychological and social impulses.

Psychologists argue that people buy things with positive emotions. There is the belief that the purchase of new stuff will lead to happiness. There are those that think a new car, a house, or appliances will make life comfortable, and bring a feeling of security and these in turn will cause one to be happy. When we really want an object a message is sent to the pleasure center of the brain and creates the feeling that we must have it and that the acquisition will help solve our problems. There is the view that acquisition gives a short boost to ‘materialistic people’ and that positive emotions are temporary.

The argument here is that the tendency to want is natural since resources are limited and there is competition in scarce environments. In addition, constant want keeps us in a state of alertness and readiness that is connected to our evolutionary make-up. A number of studies has shown that the materialist craze or buying stuff do not lead to happiness. Indeed we tend to become unhappy when we place the emphasis on material things. A study from Tufts University concludes, ‘people who are highly focused on materialistic values have lower personal well-being and psychological health than those who believe that materialistic pursuits are relatively unimportant.’

In another study published in the Journal ‘Motivation and Emotion’ it is shown that when people become more materialistic their sense of purpose decreases. As with most subjects there are differing opinions. One view says that we should not be too concerned about material acquisition since it’s all part of the hierarchy of needs and that there will come a time when we will achieve a natural balance. But this does not sit well with environmentalists and philosophers who argue that clutter will lead to affl uenza.

In other words mass consumption leads to mass depression. How then can we put all that stuff in a special place and live a clutter-free life? The first and perhaps the most important way is to value experience above objects. When a child performs at a school recital the experience is unforgettable and priceless. It is talked about for a long time and that performance can influence others to do better as well. If you buy stuff just for the sake of doing so and you throw them out in a few months it can have a tremendous impact on our limited resources.

Many people believe that materialism creates unhappiness. If we accept the premise that a mind that wanders is unhappy then around half of humanity is in a state of unhappiness. It is in this context then that ‘experiences’ make sense over ‘material objects.’ For instance, it is suggested by one writer that, ‘ you can wait for a delicious meal at a nice restaurant or looking forward to a nice vacation and this feels more satisfying than waiting for your pre-ordered iPhone to arrive. Or when the two-day shipping on Amazon Prime doesn’t arrive.’ The conclusion here is that positive experiences are uplifting and they make people happier while material possession will either become obsolete or wilt.

A bad experience can become a good story but an experiential purchase is fleeting. People tend to become more generous when they think of good experiences as opposed to when they make purchases for stuff. The economy is planned to encourage aggressive consumption as this is fed by easy access to credit. The banks are known to send credit cards in the mail and offer different incentives to increase spending. Is it too late to slow consumerism? This is a difficult question for a number of reasons.

There is aggressive marketing in the media that makes consumption all too easy. It is promoted by the social media that can be accessible in the poorest of countries. There is a report that by 2020 eighty percent of adults will be carrying a smart phone in their pockets. This may be great news to the manufacturers but the impact of this technology on society is worrying.

If the majority of the world’s population is connected what time would be left for the simple pleasures of life? The argument in many boardrooms is that businesses are driven by profits and quality time is secondary. One should not expect much help from the political establishment either. Politicians are more concerned with fundraising and campaigning than with implementing workable social and economic policies that are aimed at reducing clutter.

There has to be a balance between consumerism; all that stuff in our lives; and a return to old-fashioned values. This brings into focus the policy options that exist to combat the ever-expanding state of clutter. In this regard we find that the simple ideas make the most sense. We can make a difference by recycling. There are various ways to recycle such as using paper rather than plastic and then recycling the paper. How about taking your own cloth bag to the supermarket? That will reduce the need to use plastic bags.

There is also good reason to downsize, to carpool, donate the used computer, cell phones, eye glasses and cut down on the use of credit cards. There are strong reasons to color the planet green. We can begin by planting trees in our minds and then transfer the idea to the ground.

An interesting experiment in this regard is taking place in India in which a monk Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev has set up the Isha Foundation to spread the message of conservation. Vasudev was informed that Tamil Nadu would be mostly desert by 2025 and he decided to act. He started Project GreenHands and so far more than 17 million trees have been planted by 2 million volunteers. The point from all of this is that the greatest gadget is the mind. If we want to enjoy quality of life we need to take firm control and live simple by using less.

Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Comments

  • Leslie Chin  On 03/13/2015 at 1:35 pm

    Click to access The_Rise_of_the_Sharing_Economy.pdf


    These links are relevant to the discussion. Best regards.

  • Rosaliene Bacchus  On 03/13/2015 at 7:32 pm

    Another excellent article by Dr. Narine.
    To be or to have? That is the question.

    • Thinker  On 03/14/2015 at 11:43 am

      That is a first-world question.

      • Rosaliene Bacchus  On 03/14/2015 at 3:49 pm

        Thanks for the clarification, Thinker.

        Dr. Narine’s article addresses a first-world crisis, requiring a first-world response. When I moved to the US from Brazil, the self-storage industry was a new phenomenon for me.

  • Lord Norman  On 03/24/2015 at 11:05 am

    RE;HAVE WE NOT GOTTEN ENOUGH. MY PIECE ON THIS CALLED “ABUNDANCE”

    A quick glance at the headlines
    And it makes your inside binds
    All you read are the dark days ahead
    Listening to what the doomsayers said
    Concerns about growing population
    And beware now! we have to ration
    Energy, water and food shortages
    As we listen and take it in stages
    Using all our force just to fill
    As parents take another pill
    Easing the stress of the women and men
    Or what’s in store for their grand children
    Everything is farther from this proclamation
    For we are ushering in radical transformation
    Artificial intelligence, robotics and infinite computing
    Ubiquitous broadband networks, digital manufacturing
    Nanomaterials, synthetic biology
    Many breakthrough technology
    This will make us far better than our seers
    Than they did before in the last 200 years
    Every second they’ve deluged our senses
    As our amygdale prepares for defenses
    To win yes, that is what we always want
    Once turned on it becomes hypervigilant
    Sorting apart the critical from the casual
    For anything that threatens our survival
    These days we’re media saturated
    By the TV and radio we’re blasted
    Vying for our amygdala’s attention
    The weak eats up all the sick potion
    For if it bleeds it leads works
    Preached by our media jerks
    Saying terrorists may attack
    Coming from back-track
    That the economy could nose dive
    As the big boys giving high five
    The amygdale can’t tell the difference
    So we’re always left without a balance
    It won’t shut down unless the threat is vanished
    Meanwhile all their evil scams have flourished
    Even the poor today in America have much access by far
    To water, telephone, toilet, television, air cond. and a car
    Go back 150 years and the richest barons (robber)
    Had less even in Africa today than a Masai warrior
    Today he has a smart phone with Google
    And with bragging rights that he is able
    With a feast of features, watch, stereo, camera, video camera
    Voice recorder, video telecom. equipment and a GPSs tracker
    A library of books and dictionaries, films, and every game
    And today the life for every native or Masai is not the same
    This would’ve cost any rich man $1 Million  20 years ago
    Today it’s owned by all the CEO’s or a man from the ghetto
    To his friends he’s much more to brag and show
    More than his mighty president did 25 years ago
    And good things are happening all over the globe
    Information-based technologies are on the probe
    An $8 million supercomputer now sits in your pocket
    Its affordable today and a must in every man’s budget
    Philanthropists creating more than they prefer to hoard
    And more do-it-yourself innovators coming on board
    Finally a real global conversation is taking place
    Just recently Elbert L. Rutan flew into space
    Dr.Craig Venter was able to bring home
    The race to sequence the human genome
    Dan Kamen tackling water scarcity invented a water purifier
    And that means polluted water, seawater, even latrine water
    Can be turned into the sweet purest water on earth
    Making water around the world less than its worth
    Spending millions like Bill gates to eradicate malaria
    And Naveen Jain is crusading against poverty in India
    Pam Omidyar is bringing electricity to the world
    And many others letting their geniuses unfurled
    And the sagacious writing is seen on the wall
    Bringing a potent force of abundance for all

  • dhanpaul narine  On 04/08/2021 at 9:18 pm

    When Lord Norman wrote this we didn’t have Covid-19. Since then the world has changed and one wonders what his views would be now.

  • wally n  On 04/09/2021 at 10:57 am

    Every one of these articles seem to throw a large blanket, probably bringing guilt to hard working families, the ones that gave everything so that their children may be educated to buy a nice house and a nice BMW. Guessing here, if gates or any one of those “Philanthropists” do anything, probably a write off, usually covering some other nasty experiment. I see the pictures of the illegals on the beach, illegals at the US borders everyone with i phones, there is a “Philanthropists” behind that. They want to bring equality to the struggling poor, but paid for by the middle class.
    I will live my life as the George Clooney character in “Up in air” lectured.
    I have NO guilt.

  • Dennis Albert  On 04/09/2021 at 12:50 pm

    Consumptionism is First world problems for the upper middle class national living in the ABCEU countries.

    The average Caribbean immigrant living in the ABCEU countries don’t have enough, unless they were politicians and kleptocrats who stole monies from the “third world countries” to buy condo in Miami, NYC or Toronto.

    The burgeoning seven to ten storey malls in GT however, are a sign that the increasing oil wealth will bring about a mini version of consumptionism, but Guyanese will not be wondering to buy a 2022 model BMW X5, or to buy the latest Hermes.

    • Brother Man  On 04/09/2021 at 2:10 pm

      Are you a DJ, Raphael? Fix dat dam record player. It’s harsh in de ears.

      Brother Man

      • Dennis Albert  On 04/10/2021 at 12:49 pm

        Look Brother Man!

        DJ Raphael Trotman doesn’t post rigged elections every single day like Freddie of KN.

        KN is advocating for an uprising against Exxon, yet if Exxon didn’t discover oil after spending billions of Yankee dollars on dry wells from 1999, Freddie, Chris Ram and Glenn Lall wouldn’t have property that cost a lot of American dollars today.

  • Brother Man  On 04/10/2021 at 3:09 pm

    Have you considered fiction writing? You keep inventing stuff. I was not talking about Trotman. It must never strange voices living upstairs.

    Brother Man

    • Dennis Albert  On 04/11/2021 at 4:25 pm

      Where yuh psychology credentials?

      Raphael Trotman is the only Raphael I know, unless you talking about an ex-lover.

      Yuh derailing dis thread man!

  • Brother Man  On 04/11/2021 at 5:14 pm

    Look in the mirror to see who’s staring back at you: hehe. Don’t try to be a tiefman, Raphael. You’ll end up in jail. You ain’t clever enough for that ‘profession’.

    • Dennis Albert  On 04/11/2021 at 10:30 pm

      Check the doctor for dementia because you talking about a man named Raphel who doesn’t fit with this commentary.

      • Brother Man  On 04/11/2021 at 10:45 pm

        It’s not working for you , Trevor!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s