“Love people, use things.” That’s the gist an article Arthur Brooks wrote this past summer. Mostly, I’m with him. Those who define their lives by their possessions are spiritually bankrupt. What’s even less fortunate, is that many of these same people are dissatisfied with their lives.
So, I’m in no way refuting Brooks’ argument. I agree that many would benefit from focusing on the people in their lives, instead of the things they own/want. However, I wonder if we miss something when we treat this as an either/or situation. Our relationships with things are complex, and we shouldn’t view things in just one way.
Think back to the first thing you adored as a child. It brought pleasure. You took care of it. Were you to have lost it, you would have been saddened. Now, look around your home. How many things do you feel that strongly about? My bet is that you can’t list more than a handful.
OK—I get that you’re not going to love a mug, spatula, or vacuum. You just need these things, right? But, let’s pretend you did love them.
Imagine your vacuum breaking tomorrow, and the repair-person saying it’s not practical to fix. And, what if, you didn’t rush to the store and buy the one that was on sale? This time, you tell yourself that you’re going to do it right.
You look over your space, and consider your vacuuming needs. You consider where you might next live, and ask yourself whether you could get by without this thing.
Upon determining it a necessity, you conduct research, read reviews, and buy the item that’s right for you. In doing so, you forego special offers and sales. Instead, you pay more for a vacuum that’s proven to last—and is nicer to use.
As a result of having spent more, you take better care of this new thing. You read the manual, follow the maintenance instructions, and pack it away carefully. You see this thing not as a stop-gap solution you’ll soon replace, but as a purchase you don’t intend to repeat.
This sort of an approach comes with benefits to you, the companies you buy from, and even the planet.
Objects that work make chores less tedious; plus, well-constructed things need fewer repairs. Paying for quality creates market demand for better things. This allows manufacturers to prioritize performance over price and gimmicks. Ultimately, this means less waste left in landfills.
Truth be told, I don’t love my vacuum. (I did buy a well built/designed one.) That said, I do like it. Meanwhile, I sort of do love my laptop, my blender, and my hydration vest. In each of these instances, I’ve spent more than I needed to. I did so because I like owning dependable things, and I want to purchases as infrequently as I can.
Amassing stuff is easy. You see this inside of Walmart, where zombies’ carts overflow with “good deals.” Thinking, researching, and selecting one’s possessions? That takes work. Done properly, though, these things can bring you delight.