Changing our relationship with stuff isn’t easy. Even I, one of the titular “Minimalists,” still struggle with the siren song of consumerism. I wish I could tell you that Ryan and I let go of our excess possessions, simplified our lives, and never felt the desire to buy any more material goods going forward.
Yeah, I wish.
But that jacket sure looks nice in that banner ad.
So do those shoes in that marketing email.
If you pay attention, it’s everywhere you look.
That pair of skinny jeans on that billboard.
That shampoo in the television commercial.
That makeup on the drugstore window banner.
That miracle diet pill on the radio advertisement.
That mattress they shill on your favorite podcast.
That big-screen television in the newspaper insert.
That kitchen backsplash on the direct mailer.
That vacation home on that fixer-upper show.
That Mercedes-Benz in your Instagram feed.
That Rolex on the back cover of the magazine.
But a Rolex won’t buy you more time. A Mercedes won’t get you there any faster. And a vacation home won’t earn you more vacation days. In fact, the opposite is true in most cases. We are attempting to purchase that which is priceless: time. You might have to work hundreds of hours to buy an expensive watch, years to pay off a luxury car, and a lifetime to afford a vacation home. Which means we’re willing to give up our time to purchase the illusion of time.
Don’t get me wrong—I’m sure Rolex and Mercedes make high-quality, well-crafted products, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with owning them. The real problem is feeling as though these material items will make your life better, meaningful, or complete. But your things won’t make you a more whole person. At best, the things we bring into our lives are tools that can help us be more comfortable or productive—they can augment a meaningful life, but they cannot bring meaning into our lives.
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