As most of you have probably figured out by now, I love reading. It’s one of my favorite past times. I find that reading is a great way to stretch my mind and relax all at the same time. As you might have also guessed, I have been preoccupied with books about simplicity, minimalism and happiness recently.
I thought I had read every book out there on the subject, but this past weekend I was out of town and had the opportunity to go to Barnes and Noble (one of my favorite stores) and I was excited to find a new book related to simplicity and happiness! (Of course in an effort not to crowd my tiny house, I bought the new book on my iPad)
The book was, “Stuff-ocation,” by James Wallman. I haven’t quite finished the book, but so far it’s a fascinating read on our consumer culture and more importantly on what we can do to reject keeping up with the Joneses and improve our everyday life. It examines the amount of stuff we buy and why and then talks about some of the “countercultures” that are popping up as a result of our current consumer culture.
In his book, Wallman argues that as a nation we are living in a time of material abundance, but rather than bringing happiness this material abundance is actually contributing to stress, debt and overall discontent with our lives. He examines how we created a culture of excess, which he partly blames on marketing and planned obsolescence, and more importantly talks about some of the cultural movements that are rejecting this lifestyle.
It should come as no surprise that Wallman discusses minimalism and simple living as reactions to our consumer culture. At first I thought he was going to embrace the tiny house movement completely, but alas he did not. Instead he argues that experientialism rather than minimalism or simple living is the new way to go.
With experientialism, he believes Americans will begin to understand that happiness is a result of the things we do, not the things we have. And although, I don’t agree with every point Wallman makes, I wholeheartedly agree with his argument that experiences are more important than stuff.
Spend Less, Do More
Wallman believes that if we start spending our money and time differently, i.e. on experiences rather than on things that our lives will be happier. He cites current happiness research that explains why things don’t really make us happy. However, rather than live an austere life (which I think is how he views minimalism) or a hard life (how he views the return to simple living…think cabin in the woods), he believes we should make changes in our life to value experiences more than stuff. I guess all I have to say to that, is
One of the biggest advantages of downsizing is spending less and doing more! When I say I spend less in a Tiny House than I did in my old house, I mean I spend less on the necessities like housing and food. I am now able to use this “extra” money to pay down debt (one of my goals for downsizing) and more importantly to do more fun stuff.
My weekends have been full of trips, time with family and time relaxing. So for me, Tiny Living wasn’t a goal in and of itself, but rather a lifestyle change that allowed me to spend less and do more, which is in fact helping my “happiness” levels.
Experiences are Key
Despite what advertisers want us to believe, “stuff” doesn’t make our lives full. Stuff fills up our homes and cars, and it creates the appearance of prosperity, but in reality most of us do not feel fulfilled when we buy more. Wallman goes through a number of case studies that prove just that. He comes to the conclusion that as a nation we are at a tipping point, where we are going to start valuing experiences more than things.
I would argue, most of already know that on a fundamental level. Chances are most of your favorite memories involve doing something or spending time with someone you love. How often do your best memories actually include things? Sure there are those few special items you probably have that make you smile every time you look at them, but I am guessing if you are like me it has more to do with the feelings you associate with the person who gave you a gift or with the experiences surrounding when you got something.
An Experience Revolution
So if we know that experiences are more important than stuff, how can we create lives that reflect that reality? For me, that meant moving into a Tiny Home so I could reduce my monthly outgo of cash and increase my discretionary income. However, just as Wallman pointed out, Tiny Living and minimalism isn’t right for everyone.
Instead, I encourage you to take time each day to find experience you enjoy. Maybe it’s enjoying a few minutes of quiet time or a good cup of coffee. Maybe it’s taking time to read books with your children or spend time with someone you love. Or maybe it’s having dinner with friends or going to a local event. No matter what experiences speak to you, spend time creating a life full of memories instead of a life full of stuff.