The Limits of Materialism

When do we ever stop wanting more?


Growing up, we are constantly influenced by celebrities and people living lavish lifestyles. This conditions us to believe that the only way to be happy is through material possession. Unfortunately, most of the times this desire ends up turning into an eternal pursuit. It’s as if we live our lives chasing and accumulating things in order to fill an internal emptiness. We get conditioned to believe that big mansions, six-figure jobs, and luxury cars will bring us happiness. However, the reality is that we are never satisfied. As we continue to possess more, we continue to want more. It’s a never-ending cycle.


While growing up, we have a sense of value engraved in our minds. Our parents taught us to save up money and work hard for what we really want, in order to achieve happiness. One thing they didn’t teach us, however, is that happiness comes from within. No physical object can make you truly happy. Happiness is something that you create for yourself. To further explain this point, I am going to give you a snippet of my life in which I applied this practice.


I tend to accumulate sentimental items because they are very precious to me – and because I had been taught it was the right thing to do. These items rank from the first movie ticket I watched in NYC, to the only BlackBerry I owned while I was in high school. Over the years, I held on to all these objects that had a sentimental value in my life. I thought having these belongings would help me keep a piece of my past, and the sentimental value I attached to those objects alive – I was wrong.


As a New Yorker, space could be a huge issue, my lifestyle of holding on to all these sentimental items was just bringing chaos to my home. My place would feel smaller, chaotic and further away from a peaceful place where I could relax after a stressful day. I started to get frustrated at all the things that were surrounding me. I started to get upset at my family for no reason, but soon enough I realized that those objects I had been thought to love were the cause of my frustration. There were approximately thirty, ranging from books to furniture, to electronics, and just stuff that was not necessary to have. I asked myself a question that would eventually become the turning point in my life; How might my life be better if I owned fewer material possessions?


I opened my closet one day, emptied out all of my drawers and separated all the items that I would eventually donate, sell or throw away. Every piece I touched I asked the same questions; is this object adding any value to my life? How is it making me happier? I realized that I had over 100 pens and pencils. Who needs that many? I had a full box of pictures under my bed. All of these items were in my life, but they were not serving any good purpose other than taking up space. When I opened the box full of pictures from under my bed, I realized that I was never taking the time to look at them and appreciate them. So I thought of the idea of scanning these pictures and buying picture frames in which I could eventually put them in order to better appreciate them.


Letting go is not an easy thing to do. As humans, we get attached to sentimental possessions, and we think that they will bring us happiness. It is impossible to live without having any possessions, but living with the items that actually add value to your life, is a plus. Getting rid of the clutter makes us feel lighter and gives us more time to do what we love. I didn’t throw away my old pictures, but rather I scanned them and gave them value. Remember that when we strive to question everything, our actions become more deliberate, appreciation flourishes against any circumstance and life becomes lighter and more passionate.


“Love people and use things, because the opposite never works”.