Materialism minimizes meaningful lives, clouds brains

Amanda McCard, Contributing writer

You walk into your house after a tiring day at work. Stepping through the door, you see millions of pairs of shoes scattering the floor. You take off your coat and place it in the overflowing closet, alongside twenty other jackets. After navigating through the landmine that is your living room loaded with furniture, you can finally relax. Or can you?

Now imagine you enter your home and see nothing but a few valued and well-used items. You place your coat and shoes in a small closet and easily close the door without anything getting stuck. You walk into a pristine room to sit down and read a library book for a few minutes, before continuing your productive yet peaceful day.

There’s a reason why the first scenario was stressful to read, while the second sounded like music to the ears. Material possessions do not lead to more happiness. Not only does clutter increase anxiety and decrease efficiency, but it also distracts people from more important aspects of their lives.

An accumulation of items can cause stress. Twenty-five percent of two-car garage owners in America don’t have room for their vehicles because of all their clutter, according to “Clutterfree with Kids” author Joshua Becker. Not having enough space often encourages people to invest in solutions that have more room, which then pushes them to buy more items to fill the new space. This can be a troublesome cycle to start, and even worse to break free from. It is hard to live comfortably when you feel like your own house does not have room for you.

Additionally, Becker stated that Americans lose 198,743 items in a lifetime. If we had fewer material goods, everything would have a place, and the stress of searching for your keys or phone when you are in a rush could be eliminated. Although more possessions do not increase quality of life, those who own the most might argue that “the more the merrier.” Celebrities, for example, might believe that their ridiculous amount of clothing, houses, and gadgets is necessary. In fact, the more material-minded could say that everything Americans own is useful and needed. However, that is not the case. The average 10-year-old child plays with 12 toys each day, but owns 238, according to Becker. This means that 226 toys are forgotten and unused. This is just one example of the excess of nonessential items we own.

A clutter-free lifestyle would be more efficient. Through research Becker found that when teenage girls were surveyed about their favorite hobby, 93 percent responded shopping. If buying more objects was not a beloved pastime of young females, more time could be spent concentrating on school or making progress towards personal goals. Personally, I know that I have felt relieved and more focused after cleaning out my closet and donating multiple articles of clothing. It eliminates the confusion and guilt that accompanies a wardrobe full of more than is needed. Also, as Becker explained, because of our fascination with material possessions, almost 50 percent of American households save no money each year. There is a constant pressure on citizens to have the latest gadgets, whether they be smartphones, clothing, or kitchen accessories. Belongings are distracting and cannot be owned in excess if we want a productive society.

Most would say that a person’s priorities should be family, religion, education, and helping others. Although this can slightly vary, few would argue that the accumulation of things is the most crucial aspect of life. However, clutter gets in the way of everything else. Becker revealed that 1.9 percent of American income ends up being donated. There are humans starving in other countries and dying of disease. There are animals, children and women being abused, and habitats being destroyed. Yet less than 2 percent of what we earn goes to help these charities. If we did not feel required to own every object we saw, more money could go to those really in need. Furthermore, Becker recounted that $100 billion dollars are spent on jewelry, watches, and shoes every year in America. This is more than Americans spend on college, a much more useful and necessary cost. The only way to fix this pressing problem is by reducing the number of things we own and resisting the temptation to further accumulate anything unnecessary.

We must eliminate the need for objects from our lifestyle. If we did this, Americans would be less stressed, more efficient, and more focused on what really matters. If every person looked through his or her possessions and asked him or herself if they either used or loved each individual thing, the majority of people would realize that Americans own way too much. We need to evaluate if giving up a few possessions is worth the idea of a clean, clutter-free life.