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Don’t be a slave to stuff

We are well aware of how materialistic our consumer society is.

Everywhere we go we are bombarded with ads and images of the latest technologies and fashions we must have, the newest books and films we must consume to stay culturally relevant. But have you ever stopped to think just how much of an effect that can have on our lives?

Of course I’m talking financially, but also mentally. I read an article the other day about a woman who simplified her life and got rid of 20,000 un-needed items from the house she shares with her husband and children. 20,000.

Maybe your case isn’t as extreme as said lady, but think about all the things you have that you no longer need. I recently did a very literal spring clean of all my stuff and threw out, amongst other things:

– Clothes that I no longer liked, or no longer fit
– Books I had read but not enjoyed enough to read again
– CDs I had digitally catalogued
– Average DVDs (the classics were kept – you’re safe Back To The Future trilogy pack)
– Snow boots from that time I was going to Canada in Winter
– First generation iPad
– Previous prescription glasses

The list really does go on. It was a very cathartic ‘stuff’ cleansing and left me and my house feeling refreshed, clean, and a lot simpler. Most of what I had I donated to the local Vinnies, but the good condition items I threw on eBay – hey, a girl’s still gotta eat. With those handful of items I made $700, and still have a few auctions yet to close. That’s enough to cover three weeks of rent, for very little effort.

Doing this kind of thing is great to make some extra dough, but think about how much you’d save if you just didn’t think you needed so much stuff in the first place. A lot of people buy things because it makes them feel good, but what happens when you’re swamped by all this stuff which doesn’t lead to any long term happiness, and can actually increase levels of dissatisfaction and anxiety?

Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus from The Minimalists say, “unnecessary consumption leads to debt, debt leads to financial woes, financial woes lead to discontent, and discontent is a key element of unhappiness. And that’s the equation: unnecessary consumption equals unhappiness.”

A more minimalist life has a lot of positive benefits. Imagine not always wanting something but being satisfied with, and grateful for, the things you already have? How about waking up in the morning and not having a panic attack standing in front of your wardrobe because there are too many outfit choices? Or saving money to put towards a holiday, which I guarantee you will remember much more than that new iPhone upgrade you just purchased. You could indulge your hobbies and take a language class, art course, even learn to play the harmonica. How about sponsoring a child or donating to a charity who’s cause you’re passionate about?

All of these things can bolster your financial and mental health, saving you money and making you feel good by other less ‘stuffy’ means. Your life and bank account are two of your most important assets, but they mean nothing if you’re not spending either of them correctly.

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