Thursday, August 12, 2010

What makes us happy?

If you take (or have taken) a few minutes to venture around my blog you'll see that like many other people I struggle between the conflicting feelings of wanting to simplify my life and eliminate my debt and buying shiny new toys.

Over the past couple years I've been more on the simplification side of the struggle but I have to admit that I have a few websites that I like to browse regularly for new gadgets and car stuff. I've been really good about not buying much stuff lately but sometimes I temporarily feel unhappy when I see something that I think that I would really like but know deep down that it would be foolish (financially or otherwise) to buy it. That feeling subsides somewhat quickly once I start to think about all of the things I've purchased over the years and ended up rarely using.

Over the past couple years I have sold and donated quite a few things that I know I'll never use again and haven't missed them. I know that I still have quite a few things left that I know I wouldn't mind seeing gone... I just have to make the time to put stuff up on craigslist, eBay, Amazon and gather together the rest to donate.

Another reason behind my quest for simplification is that I really don't like clutter. Clutter makes me unhappy and in our two-bedroom apartment with a den/office both the spare bedroom and the office have a good amount of semi-organized clutter, most of which is mine. I would love to see that gone. That would make me happy.

So my question is: What makes us happy?

Money? Stuff? Vacations? Cars? Clothes? Simplification? Having lots of things around? Plain walls? Pictures and decorations all over? Having money in the bank? Being outdoors? Movies? Music?

Is it more about things or is it experiences? Is it security or possibly rewarding risks? Is it what others think of you or what you think of yourself?

I think for me it's:

Trying to straddle the fine line between having hobbies and things that I really like but keeping everything else in check.

Getting rid of the "clutter" of things that I don't use and won't need but keeping my CD collection and books.

Spending time doing things I like like going to see bands and making it to a beach every once in awhile.

Spending time with my family, having friends over or spending quiet nights at home instead of spending hundreds of dollars out for dinner and drinks.

Spending more money on car washes than clothes.

Wearing said clothes until they're worn out instead of getting a new wardrobe every year.

Not buying a bigger, better TV or computer every year even though I might think I want one.

I guess I'm probably pretty average. I could never do a 100 item challenge or anything like that... but I think I'd feel a lot better if I could get rid of extra stuff, keep control over my desire to spend money, pay off my debt and get myself to a position where I feel more stable.

Aside: This blog post was brought to you by the Friends episode "The One With The Secret Closet" ("hidden" clutter) and the recent New York Times article "But Will It Make You Happy?" (simplification and conspicuous consumption).

1 comment :

Liz Stone Abraham said...

Jeremy, I've been asking myself that question a lot lately. Since my divorce and subsequent move back to Brooklyn, I've often had to choose between wanting and needing. I want a cool new cell phone, although my plain vanilla phone works fine. I want new clothing, even though I have plenty of nice things to wear. I need to take my cat to the vet. I need to put money into my 401K so that I will have something to live on when I'm old. Okay, so do I always follow that model, only buying what I need? Noooo. That would be horrible! But I admit that lately, when I try on a pretty dress in one of the zillions of new boutiques in my neighborhood, I have a vague but perceptible sinking feeling. I want the dress; I don't need it. But the wanting vs. needing isn't what bothers me. That sinking feeling makes suspect that the dress will not, as you suggest in your post, make me happy.