A case for simple living


Where has the happiness gone?
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About a year ago I had written a post titled Jaded Consumerism, where I mentioned that I’ve increasingly noticed that buying material goods doesn’t seem to bring much happiness to me or my friends. Oh yes, there are exceptions — like when I bought my iPhone recently; it still makes me happy! But, overall, we purchase without the joy.

This week I finally gave in to the husband’s constant cribbing and we traded our 10-year old TV for an LCD. That should have brought us (or at least him) a lot of joy…but it didn’t. We bought it, got it installed, he played around with the remote and read the manual, but there was no thrill to the purchase. A TV is a TV is a TV is what I was saying all along, but the husband just wouldn’t listen, would he?

Jokes apart, though, I’ve been wondering about this lack of joy since a while, and then I read an article on NY Times titled But will it make you happy?

SHE had so much. A two-bedroom apartment. Two cars. Enough wedding china to serve two dozen people. Yet Tammy Strobel wasn’t happy. Working as a project manager with an investment management firm in Davis, Calif., and making about $40,000 a year, she was, as she put it, caught in the “work-spend treadmill.”

That was the opening of the article, and I was hooked, because that’s exactly what I had been thinking about!

Strobel eventually hit the stop button on the treadmill, inspired by books and blogs that promoted simple living. She and her husband gave away a lot of their possessions to charity. In fact, “emboldened” by a website that challenged readers to live with just 100 personal items, she went ahead and did just that!

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A case for simple living
Image by eflon via Flickr

I’m quite sure that mustn’t have been easy, and I’m pretty sure that it isn’t something that I could do! But, living simply does have its benefits.

If you can downsize your desires a bit, not bother so much about keeping up with the Joneses, you could end up saving quite a decent amount of money. Instead of spending that on purchasing more material goods, you could use that to travel, to do some volunteer work, or even to help family, all of which will give you infinitely more happiness than simply amassing material goods ever will. And a lot of new research shows just that!

Studies over the last few decades have shown that money, up to a certain point, makes people happier because it lets them meet basic needs. The latest round of research [examines] how to reap the most happiness for your dollar. So just where does happiness reside for consumers? Scholars and researchers haven’t determined whether Armani will put a bigger smile on your face than Dolce & Gabbana. But they have found that our types of purchases, their size and frequency, and even the timing of the spending all affect long-term happiness. One major finding is that spending money for an experience — concert tickets, French lessons, sushi-rolling classes, a hotel room in Monaco — produces longer-lasting satisfaction than spending money on plain old stuff.

If I could control my spending impulses, there are a lot of things that I’d be able to experience — a trip to Egypt , learning Italian, painting a canvas, going on an African safari — just a few of the things that are on my bucket list.

If you chose to live simple and spend on experiences instead, what experiences would you choose?

You can read the entire NY times article here.

Posted in Opinion pieces and tagged , , , , , , .


  1. I read this article too, and it had the same impact on me. We get “used to” our stuff, but experiences never get old. In fact, the way we retell our experiences makes all the difference. They become the gift that keeps on giving. For me, I already have a very adventurous life. I need to tell myself the importance of these experiences, and remember why they are so valuable.

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