Can we experience more by having less?

November 24, 2016

While Marie Kondo's book told us HOW to declutter, Stuffocation makes the urgent case for WHY. Starting with alarming accounts of how clutter and hoarding impact physically on our stress levels, the book takes a big picture look at the history of materialism: how governments, manufacturers and advertisers encourage it, and why most of us have bought into it. James Wallman argues that many of us are not only dissatisfied by our possessions, but are actually being made unhappy by having too much stuff (not to mention the impact on our planet, which he only mentions in passing). He gives case studies of people who have made dramatic changes: from the minimalists who live with just 99 possessions, to people who felt trapped, then got rid of possessions, moved to smaller houses, and therefore could afford to work less hours in a more meaningful job. 

 

This book felt like a call to action for me, and in between reading it, I was feverishly filling bags for the charity shop and asking myself when I last wore/read/looked at this object? I've only missed one thing I gave away in the last big clear out, and that was for about five minutes, so I'm really going for it this time.

 

Author and trend forecaster James Wallman says that the next big movement following materialism will be 'experientialism' - and that people with a comfortable standard of living are already valuing experiences over possessions. However, he warns that your attitude to those experiences is key - they have to be intrinsically enjoyable by you, and ideally you will be immersed in them ('flow' activities). Experiences viewed through the lens of "This will look amazing on my Facebook/Instagram account!"  just won't bring the same level of happiness.

 

It's always empowering to read something that fits with how you are living (or trying to live) your life. I find it reassuring to know that by giving up my job and risking losing status and income to set up a business doing things I really enjoy, I am not only happier, but may also be part of a movement ("hippies with calculators" is one of the sub-groups Wallman identifies). I also came away with a strong sense of the value of memories - because experiences can't be displayed on your shelf or in a box (and if you are really in the flow you wouldn't even be taking photographs). 

 

The book finishes with practical tools for becoming an 'experientalist', and if you are inspired to make a change, maybe a coaching session could be just the experience to get you started...?

 

Stuffocation: Living More With Less by James Wallman  http://stuffocation.org

(I ordered it from the library - just £1 for a reservation, and one less possession to worry about...)

 

 

 

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