Pursuit of Happiness

I’ve just finished watching the new Minimalist documentary on Netflix. These guys discuss the importance of having meaningful relationships and giving time to people instead of having and collecting stuff.

This is a concept I can totally get on board with. I am not a hoarder in the slightest. I love a good clear out and having free space. But even I like to buy things.

There is this idea of feeling less than if you don’t have a particular item. We are fed so much advertisement on having the newest thing and that that will bring you happiness. But for how long?

It was mentioned in the documentary about reaching for something you feel you need in your life to feel content, but then you have it. The sense of happiness is always temporary, until you have a desire for something else. An analogy put forward was the idea of starting at the bottom floor of a house. We’re psychologically trained to want more so the newest item we buy lifts us up a floor, maybe to the ceiling or the top floor. We live up there for awhile until the next item we feel will bring us happiness is shown to us through the media. We are now back where we started, at the bottom because the thing we desired before the new item we want, has gotten old or boring. So we’re waiting at the bottom again, until we buy the newest thing. Then we’re at the top of the house again. This cycle just keeps going and going, until we realise that stuff doesn’t bring permanent happiness. Life will never be content for someone that keeps desiring more. It’s not our fault though. FOMO is real! The fear of missing out will always leave us unsatisfied in the long run. Whether that be with the latest phone or watch or the newest craze of Instagram. We have this fear that if we don’t have these things, our life won’t be as full. But really life is so much more fulfilling when we take these things away and solely focus on what really matters.

After watching the first Minimalist documentary a few years ago, this concept of minimalism really spoke to me. I cleared out my wardrobe, I got rid of clutter that really wasn’t serving any purpose. I really wanted to live this life of having very few materialistic items. Being able to pack everything I owned into a suitcase and being ready to go just like that. This desire I felt lasted a few months I’d say, then somewhere along the line I forgot about it. I bought more things.

Recently I’ve realised I might have a form of OCD. This is purely self diagnostic, I am not a doctor so I can’t say for sure. But I find myself sometimes in an almost manic state of obsessive and impulsive consumerism. I have always been very impulsive. I won’t take too much time in really reasoning with myself about what it is that I’m doing. For example, my newest passion project is creating a gallery wall in my living room. I saw a YouTube video of someone that had done this themselves, they had a discount code for the website they purchased their prints from, so of course I had to check it out. At this point I didn’t really have the intention of buying one.

Before I know it I have 3 prints and 3 frames in my basket. Then I go onto another website, I check the prints out and yet again I have another 2 prints and 2 frames in my basket. The first prints arrive and they go up on the wall. They look great. So I go on another website and buy another one. Before I realise it, I’ve spent about £100 on prints and frames that a week ago weren’t even a thought in my head.

So here I am. I am an imperfect human. I have an impulse problem with a strong desire to be a minimalist. I try justifying my purchases by getting rid of other items. I clear out my wardrobe then buy new stuff. In fairness to myself I did just donate about 70% of my wardrobe and it felt great (see, more justification for my actions). Once I have finished with my gallery wall, I’m sure I’ll love it. But I know full well that this is not pure happiness, it won’t bring me as much joy as holding my niece for the first time or give me the same feeling I get when I hug my boyfriend.

In truth the message of the documentary does solidify with me and the thoughts I had during 2020. The year that brought so much physical separation of loved ones, really brought people closer. It made me realise what is important to me. It’s not the stuff we have but it’s the people and the time we give that matters.

So with the start of 2021 I aim to spend less and appreciate more.

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