Blog, Minimalism

How to Stop Our Obsession with Material Possessions

Since our birth, most of us have been exposed to poor habits when it comes to consuming and acquiring things.

We walked with our moms and stood/sat while they browsed through aisles, possibly watched her make a bee-line to a sales rack, and, perhaps, whined just enough to get a toy ourselves. In reality, all three of those actions contribute to cultivating our obsession with things.

How to Stop Our Obsession with Material Possessions

Browsing makes room for other things that we don’t need to catch our eye; you should go to the store with a list and your objective already in mind. Sales tables are literally fly traps, designed to attract you and coerce you to spend money that you wouldn’t have otherwise spent on things that you wouldn’t have otherwise purchased.

You should avoid sales, unless they’re brandishing something that you actually need. Rewarding a child with a toy for some momentary silence is generally not a healthy practice for you or your little one.

But most people wouldn’t analyze the above situation this way. That’s because behaviors like this have become commonplace—we naturally don’t foresee how they breed an affinity for material things.

That is to say, our relationship with things starts very early in our lives. Hence, we often don’t notice just how dependent we are on our gadgets. Our fascination with things isn’t entirely our doing, but we should be aware of the damaging effects of constantly chasing after the newest item.

The Cost of the Obsession

We naturally have a propensity to accumulate and acquire things. Showing them off makes us feel better about ourselves and displays our social status. Being able to have them makes us feel powerful. We feel comfortable and safe with them around us.

Really, we’re just walling ourselves in among our stuff—blocking ourselves off from seeing all that the world has to offer outside of “stuff”. That doesn’t just negatively affect our view of the world, but blinds us to the negative impact we have on the world. 

The way we socialize and interact with each other has taken a big hit since objects started to dictate our worth. Face-to-face interactions are less common than ever, and more young adults are struggling with acceptance among their peers.

Our worship of money and the luxuries it can afford us has caused a great disparity in how we, as a society, prioritize things. To illustrate this, we can look at the fact that our money is kept in safes and transported in armored vehicles, yet our children are transported to unlocked and unguarded schools on average (possibly under-maintenanced) buses.

Material obsession is something that we all suffer—or have suffered—from to some degree, and it’s taxing on our personal well-being as well as our societal infrastructure.

Our pursuit of things takes a toll on our minds, our self-image, and our bank accounts. We feel it when we’re not able to have something the people around us have; from a kid to an adult, we’ve all experienced this feeling.

Not being involved in the latest trend shouldn’t be so mentally taxing for us, but that’s a symptom of constantly trying to keep up with those trends. Sparkly advertisements and influencer product reviews make it extremely difficult for us to keep our money in our piggy banks.

Worst of all, it impacts the way we feel about the world and our lives whether we come to realize it or not. 

Some who come to make this realization take steps to loosen the hold that their favorite store has on them. However, others are so enthralled by their desire for possessions that they continue to practice this unhealthy reliance on things for fulfillment.

Here, we’re going to try to team up with the former group and go over a few steps we can take to detach from our desire for excess.

5 Ways to Stop Obsessing Over Objects

There’s no fixed procedure that’s perfect for everyone. Circumstances and goals are going to vary from person-to-person.

You might want to distance yourself from things so you can treat your budget better, give the things that are important in life more attention, or you just might find yourself wanting a change to your everyday life.

Regardless of why you want to take this step, it’s absolutely a faster track to a happier, healthy lifestyle!

These steps are for you to try out, in order to help make the process of reducing your attachment to material items smoother. The process won’t be without its bumps—consumerism is something that’s been programmed in us as a society, so this process will be akin to overcoming a habit.

With consistency and a little clench of the teeth, you’ll be walking past that “On Sale” sign without a second glance before you know it!

1. Remember that you matter, not the stuff 

Ultimately, you control how you feel. This process of detachment is about reclaiming power over your feelings, life, and wellness. You can derive joy from so many things outside of a store-bought object, and the greatest source of joy is yourself!

Your thoughts and feelings not only dictate how you behave, but how the world around you behaves. Your thoughts carry energy, and that energy draws what you think about into your life.

Hence, if you retain happy feelings and thoughts, you’ll be so overwhelmed with non-material abundance that your craving for things will naturally diminish.

Another way of reinforcing that you matter is by taking those resources you were formerly using to acquire more things and putting them back into yourself.

Very few people can say that their mental health, nutrition, fitness regimen, self image, and productivity are absolutely perfect. We all have something that we could be all the better for improving. 

Take that shopping spree money and finally book that dermatologist appointment. Sign up for a class to enhance a skill or learn a new language. Put that money towards something that makes you a better, more knowledgeable, and more radiant you.

Keeping yourself at 100% maximizes the benefits of your minimal life.

2. Disconnect from trends

Trends serve to keep us in the cycle of accumulating. There is, and will always be, a new trend or viral product. Consequently, as long as we’re trying to keep up, we’ll be acquiring new things. Hop out of the race by trying your best to stick to purchasing only what you need.

Challenge yourself to do this for a set period of time. Beginners might want to start with two weeks to a month of only acquiring what’s necessary for a healthy and productive lifestyle: core food items, cleaning supplies and hygiene products (only when they need replacing) and items necessary for work. 

3. Ignore sales

We touched on this a bit earlier: sales aren’t conducive to a healthy budget or relationship to things. Going to the on-sale rack or clearance aisle and purchasing things solely because you’ll pay less for it if you buy it now is, realistically, the act of acquiring things just because.

We have no need—hence, no appreciation—for these things. And, more often than not, we end up leaving the store with more things and less money than we anticipated. Avoid future buyer’s remorse and avoid sales!

4. Journal

It helps to organize your thoughts, track your progress, and have a place to jot down your feelings. Cut some time out of your day every day to write down how you’re feeling about your journey.

Express your aspirations, your big and small successes, and even your slip-ups. Documenting your mistakes will help you be more mindful of them in the future, and that’s exactly how we learn from them. Appreciate your downfalls as much as your victories!

Aim to write once in the morning and once at night, even if it’s briefly. It can be such an efficient relaxation and motivation tool. When you wake up, record your dreams, affirmations, and goals for the day.

At the end of your day, express how you felt about your day, any significant happenings, and where you could’ve done better. Not only will this help you stick with your anti-consumerist goals, but you’ll also become more familiar with yourself and your own attributes and habits, which is essential for getting to the root of what truly makes you happy.

5. Find what makes you happy

We don’t believe it when we hear it, but money really doesn’t buy happiness. Or, rather, “stuff” doesn’t make us happy. With that in mind, it’s up to us to discover what truly brings us joy and fulfillment.

You have to be honest with yourself about what makes you feel whole. It could be our plants, our fluffy children, our (fairly) normal children, our romantic partners, our charities and organizations, our homes, our businesses, jobs, hobbies, friends.

There are so many things outside of what we physically own that have the potential to bring us happiness all day long. Yet, we tend to ignore them in order to focus on material gain.

Ask yourself important questions about what makes you smile, your favorite part of your day, what events and people you genuinely look forward to, and who got you this far on your path to success.

This inner-dialogue will beget a better understanding of what truly brings your heart joy, and once you identify those sources of joy you can give them the attention and appreciation they deserve.

Final Notes

Anything we can describe as an “obsession” is probably not the healthiest thing to be indulging in, and items are no exception to that. Accumulating things for no reason, such as free merchandise or samples, isn’t a habit that encourages a clear and tidy living space.

We want to assume that free things are good things—we liken it to a favor of sorts—however, they create clutter, take up space, and block the flow of appreciation since they likely serve no valuable function.

In order to prioritize what’s important, we have to understand that our attraction to things is temporary. We’re fascinated with something for the two weeks that it’s new, then we’re more than likely onto the next thing. True happiness isn’t packaged or on a hanger.

Today, it’s more important than ever to be mindful, and not let automation and glamor cause us to stray from the things and moments that really make life worth living.