“If you are not content today, there is nothing you can buy this weekend to change that.” — Joshua Becker
I am going to just come right out of the gate and admit this—I love buying things. The shopping part, not so much. But the acquiring part? I could acquire things all day, my friends. I literally spend hours thinking of all the new things I “need” to make my life better.
I make lists upon lists. Decorative items, clothes, kitchenware, gadgets, office products, health items. My Amazon list piles up and collects dust as I anxiously wait, wondering when I can save up enough money to cross that must-have item off. I justify this obsession, telling myself that everything I want will improve my health, my quality of life—all good things right?
I tell myself I don’t spend as gregariously as she does. I don’t get my nails done as often as her. My shoe collection is much smaller than hers. Oh, and my closet? Almost bare! A minimalist win, for sure.
But my mind? Constantly full. Full of lists. Full of the items that I need to make my life “better.” Full of reasons why I can’t be perfectly happy until that thing enters my world. It is an exhausting hamster wheel, let me tell you.
Jumping off that wheel in a society that places a high value on conspicuous consumption as an assertion of social status is no easy undertaking. It takes a conscious effort to not only silence the outside voices shouting at you about the newest product—it takes a quieting of the consumer inside. The voice telling you that you aren’t whole or happy until you have that one more thing.
How to Be Content with What You Have
Recently, I have learned how to do this for myself, and although I am nowhere near the finish line—and most likely never will be—I have gained some knowledge along the way.
1. Just stop.
This is the first and most important step in quieting the consumer. Just stop. Take a deep breath and don’t allow your mind to spiral. This thing you are considering, even if it is amazing, isn’t going to bring you ultimate joy and happiness. So what is it going to bring you? This is no time for flowery, Pinterest daydreaming.
This is the time to give yourself space to really consider this item and what brought you to the point of wanting it so badly. Step back from the ledge, see it for what it really is, and what it means to you.
2. Ask yourself why.
Once you have considered it, now you have to ask the hard question—why do you want it? Don’t avoid this part, sit with it. Is it so you can have what “they” have? So you can feel better about a situation, or yourself? So you can be perceived a certain way by others? Or is it something that will supposedly make your life easier? Simpler? More manageable? More beautiful?
Answer these questions with honesty, and you will have a much better handle on whether it’s worth your energy, money, and maintenance.
3. Take an inventory.
Before you run out to buy this item, it’s important to take a quick look at what you already have. Chances are there is something you already own that may suffice just perfectly. I cannot count how many times I have purchased something I thought I needed, only to come home and find that exact item hiding in a drawer somewhere.
This is also a wonderful case for practicing minimalism in your home so that you can actually find the things you need, when you need them.
4. Practice gratitude.
Now that you’ve followed these quick steps, you can make a healthy decision about your purchase. But whether you buy it or not, it’s important to remember that anything you buy will only bring temporary happiness. Focusing your energy on what matters most is always a good idea, and one way to do that is to intentionally practice gratitude.
I find that in moments when I find myself lacking, or feeling like I must have this one thing to be happy, I simply need to just begin another kind of list—things I am thankful for. When I start listing that out in my mind, I am overwhelmed by how many wonderful gifts I already have in my life, and just like that, the one thing doesn’t seem as attractive or necessary after all.