"Nothing is sufficient for the man to whom the sufficient is too little." Epicurus, 4th Century BC, Greek philosopher
No one wants to admit to enough never being enough, but be honest. Are you and your money parted in wasteful, extravagant or thoughtless ways? Have you elevated consumption to the level of Olympic sport? How else can one explain the planning, the exhaustive and exhausting hunt, and the proud flaunting of shopping trophies? Like the big game hunter with the leopard skin rug, the shopper extraordinaire delights in the hunt, the kill and the display.
But do these outward and visible displays delight or have we consumers simply been narcotized to the folly of indiscriminate buying?
The signs of profligate spending are everywhere. Consider these all-too-common symptoms.
At least a third of all food we purchase is never consumed. The result is lots of wasted dollars, squandered time and poorly deployed storage space. What’s skulking in your pantry and refrigerator that you’ll never use?
The closet houses a bunch of strangers too. By some estimates, eighty percent of what’s there will not see the light of day. With a big closet, it’s easy to ignore the lurkers, but they are not going away on their own. You invited them in. You’ll have to show them to the door.
Today’s hot new toy or gadget will likely be tomorrow’s clutter.
Planned obsolescence keeps corporations flush and landfills full. Consumers who stoke three quarters of the nation’s economy are the pawns in this game. We have a seemingly endless appetite for the latest and greatest, no matter the utility of the next iteration. We’ve allowed our self-worth to be defined by what we own. And we don’t want to feel inadequate!
So what’s the antidote to hyper-consumption? Think, restrain, retrain.
Think before you buy. Do you need it or simply want it? Can you afford it? Can you store it? Engage your mind before you engage your credit card so you can delight in your decision rather than regret it.
The line between needs and wants has so blurred that these words are now used almost interchangeably. But they are fundamentally different. Our needs pale in comparison to our wants. Needs should be satisfied. Wants should be indulged very thoughtfully.
Restrain yourself. We’ve become a nation of shopping enthusiasts- maybe shopping addicts. It’s our favorite pastime. We’re burdened by our possessions yet we keep on buying. That’s crazy. It’s self- defeating, messy, and expensive. Emotion and poor impulse control drive reckless shopping. “I see, I want, therefore I buy.” What are your triggers- boredom, loneliness, keeping up appearances...? Find other ways to feel good.
“Buy the best and you only weep once.” The ancient Chinese proverb still applies.
Retrain yourself. With practice, the impulse to shop will ebb. You’ll form new, healthier habits. You’ll be amazed by how much space (physical, financial, and emotional) is created simply by stemming the flow of stuff into your home. You’ll discover that much of what you’ve been buying, you’re happier without. Less truly will be more.
“Things start out as hopes and end up as habits.” Lillian Hellman was on to something.
Maybe we're reaching the tipping point and are moving toward a more reasoned and sane approach to consumption. Witness the deluge of books, blogs and articles on simplifying. If you’re reading this, you almost certainly know the perils of too much stuff. Retail therapy is expensive and not just in the monetary sense.
With Robin’s Rules as your guide, maybe 2017 will be the year where the ancient Greek philosopher, Epicurus is resurrected, and the sufficient will be sufficient.
“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not” Epicurus