We are a collective culture of individuals who like to buy things - lots of things - and on a daily basis. We believe that many of the things we purchase are necessary and important for our well-being, comfort, or happiness. Certainly many things we own and purchase are necessary and useful for us to live and work effectively. Our cars help us to get where we need to go, our homes protect and shelter us, and our foods keep us nourished. Being able to buy what we need, and having the conveniences that modern living can provide, can make our lives more enjoyable and less stressful.
The question that can arise as we look around our homes and living spaces is when does having, gathering, or buying “things” start to intrude on what really makes for a good, balanced life. Having material things require that they be taken care of so they may continue to be purposeful to us. We need not only to take care of them, but we also need to make room for them to co-exist in our environment.
After a while, having and acquiring lots of material possessions can create clutter; not only on a physical level but also on an emotional level. Our possessions can begin to possess us unless we become selective about what we need, want, and are willing to have taking up space in our environment.
For many of us the things we have accumulated represent our love of beauty and the fulfillment of self and they create a lovely environment for us to dwell in. But if our possessions become status symbols, or a display of prestige, then our need for them has taken over our lives and we have lost the necessary balance between having possession and having them own us. We then experience the syndrome of “materialism.”
In a 2010, an international journal paper*
was published from a study investigating consumers' motivation to accumulate items and their reluctance to dispose of material possessions. The article identified the relationship between the consumer’s need for security with having and collecting possessions, and their reluctance to let go of them.
What has also been identified in psychological circles is that owning things can become important when we feel an internal void in our lives. Unfortunately, the possessions can only temporarily fill the internal void we may be feeling. What fills our internal needs are: relationships, personal challenges, meaningful work, service to others, or the pursuit of knowledge.
A way we can let go of our accumulations and still enjoy what we do possess is to take an inventory of the material possessions we have, asking the questions, “Is this purposeful, have I had use for it in the past year, or does it bring beauty into my environment?” By cleaning out the excess of our unnecessary possessions, we can enjoy a greater control over our lives and reduce the time, energy, and money we invest into them.
- Dr. Georgianna Donadio
Hélène Cherrier, Tresa Ponnor, (2010) "A study of hoarding behavior and attachment to material possessions", Qualitative Market Research: An International Journal
, Vol. 13 Iss: 1, pp.8 – 23
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