Think about this scenario:
You laugh with a friend whilst getting stuck outside in a hail storm. In a few weeks’ time, you’ll discuss it with your friend, and giggle as you reflect on how awful it was. You’ll share it with other friends, and find happiness in storytelling and the response it invokes in your listeners. This will be a timeless memory to share for years to come. You paid nothing for it, it wasn’t an ideal situation, but it still bought you sustained happiness at several moments.
To some extent, stuff does make us happy, because it can result in an experience.
If kayaking makes you happy, you need a kayak to do this. If you enjoy hiking, you’ll require hiking boots for your adventures. But there’s a fine line between stuff, and useful tools that allow for experiences.
In his book ‘Stuffocation’, James Wallman argues that if kayaking makes you happy, but you never get to do it, the kayak only reminds you of how busy you are and stresses you out even more. Get rid of it. Stuff doesn’t only lack sustained happiness, but it creates stress. Stress means less time for happiness and enjoying experiences with friends.
As you can see… the relationship between stuff, experiences, and happiness, is far more complex than we ever thought.
The idea that stuff makes us happy is pressed on us so often, that we’ve become caught up in a slippery void of buying stuff. We buy stuff to impress our pairs, but really, they aren’t paying attention. They are too focused on doing the exact same thing.
The next time you go to buy something, consider its true worth, and I’m not talking about its monetary value. Ponder how many times you will use the item, if you’ll enjoy it with your friends, and if you could use your money for something else with more value.