Why do we need so much stuff?

The Impending Lure of Simplicity.

The imminent lure of simplicity.

It isn’t hard to see how stress is generated by the chaos we have created from surplus. We are living cluttered lives. Our inboxes are constantly full and we can’t keep up. We can’t stop, and so to relieve the pressure, we have to go out and buy more stuff to help us deal with the stress of all our other stuff. Sound familiar? How did we get here?

We started with only ultimate survival elements like food, clothing and shelter.

As we progressed, we created more specific survival instruments in order to make our lives easier. One of the greatest skills we possess as a species is our ability to design and create tools to help us adapt to our environment. We helped our communities become faster, more efficient, more productive, more comfortable and more protected. Fast forward a couple more centuries and we have finally arrived at an age where we are able to create or construct almost anything and have access to almost everything at the simple touch of a button. The options we have are so vast, that the mere though of selection is often overwhelming.

Going to the supermarket with my mother in the late 70’s and early 80’s (I was little) to buy our staples: bread, butter, milk, eggs and cereal was a ‘bat of an eye’ affair back then, as there was only one option of each of the above. Go into any supermarket now and you could easily have an entire aisle just for bread. Kind of scary.

Human instinct tends to be protective and nurturing. We want to be settled and seek stability and security. No wonder we tend to associate change with fear and vulnerability.

In our distant, unindustrialised past, changes often went hand in hand with some kind of tragedy or stress like natural disasters or conflict, leading to loss, illness, hunger, death, and exposure to enemies. It is easy to see how we have been hardwired to ‘stock up’ on as many supplies and tools as possible in order to keep our homes and families safe and protected for 'when the rains come'. We need to build that psychological power shield around us. Roughly translated: stuff means security, which means happiness.

Problem is, we are also beings who can reason and we are well aware that the paradigms of wellbeing and security have shifted. A lot.

One of the characteristics of a survivor is the ability to adapt. We have two choices it seems: to adapt and become comfortable with overload and waste, or to rethink what we really need in order to be well and productive. We are heading towards an era where we may have to rediscover simplicity. Some of us will choose to ignore this. Some of us will choose to evolve.