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On purging

August 9, 2010

Lately I’ve been purging. In addition to purging, I’ve been spending less. Buying less. Chucking more.

Books? Gone. Replaced with digital books on my Kindle. Clothes? Gone. If I didn’t wear it in 2009, I won’t wear it in 2010. Gone. Little random pieces of lord knows what I acquired—giving away.

Thankfully, there’s an excellent charitable organization in the area, the Vietnam Veterans of America. They come to my door and pick up my donations, easy as could be. Toys, my old printer, sports equipment, kitchenware, books, sheets, duvets, etc. — they take it all.

I read this article in the New York Times today about a minimalist couple who, after reading a challenge to live with only 100 personal items, did exactly that. The article goes on to discuss how average spending has diminished in light of the recession, and consumer habits are changing. People buy less. Save more.

And it’s been a truism for eons that extra cash always makes life a little easier. Studies over the last few decades have shown that money, up to a certain point, makes people happier because it lets them meet basic needs. The latest round of research is, for lack of a better term, all about emotional efficiency: how to reap the most happiness for your dollar.

So just where does happiness reside for consumers? Scholars and researchers haven’t determined whether Armani will put a bigger smile on your face than Dolce & Gabbana. But they have found that our types of purchases, their size and frequency, and even the timing of the spending all affect long-term happiness.

One major finding is that spending money for an experience — concert tickets, French lessons, sushi-rolling classes, a hotel room in Monaco — produces longer-lasting satisfaction than spending money on plain old stuff.

Makes total sense.

And then, there’s this statement:

Before credit cards and cellphones enabled consumers to have almost anything they wanted at any time, the experience of shopping was richer, says Ms. Liebmann of WSL Strategic Retail. “You saved for it, you anticipated it,” she says.

In other words, waiting for something and working hard to get it made it feel more valuable and more stimulating.

In fact, scholars have found that anticipation increases happiness. Considering buying an iPad? You might want to think about it as long as possible before taking one home. Likewise about a Caribbean escape: you’ll get more pleasure if you book a flight in advance than if you book it at the last minute.

So, my spending moratorium will do me good, right? Because I am anticipating September 1 with fervor?

One Comment leave one →
  1. Mark permalink
    August 11, 2010 8:25 am

    I read an observation by an historian who claimed that nomads are (were, he was speaking about Native American Indians) the happiest people. They moved on average, every two weeks, and did not even have a concept of ownership.
    And in the words of the late, great John Lennon, ” Imagine no possesions…I wonder if you can.. No need for greed or hunger…”

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