George Carlin quipped "life is a game, and whoever dies with the most stuff wins." When he said it we all laughed, in large part because we know it's not far from the truth.
Consumer spending makes up about 71% of US GDP, up from 62% in 1981. During that same period, our economy expanded from $3.2 trillion to $21.3 trillion, so our appetite for more "stuff" seems endless. But does it make us happy?
A couple of years ago my siblings and I helped my parents move from their home of 55 years. It was a good size house with a full basement, attic, and a large garage; plenty of space to stash a lifetime of stuff. My parents weren't overly acquisitive, but over 55 years they also didn't get rid of much.
For me and my siblings, it was an archeological dig into our childhoods. For my parents, who were downsizing, it was pure trauma. The process was an overwhelming amount of work layered in a bubbling emotional stew.
I came home determined to streamline my life and shed unnecessary things. I sold or gave away what felt like truckloads of stuff. It was not easy, but you know what? IT FELT GREAT! My entire life felt physically lighter. Now, whenever I feel the desire to acquire I ask myself how it will add to my happiness. Then I call my family or a friend instead. It's our relationships, not our stuff, that bring everlasting joy and happiness to life.
...and yet, somehow, I still have stuff everywhere!