A Bit 'o Random Musings on Politics, Religion, and Anything Else That Passes Through My Crazy Head

Monday, July 26, 2010

Stuff: To Have, To Hold, To Cherish

During a semester in college, I worked as a research assistant for a political science professor studying the history of currency. It was fascinating to study why people assign value to certain things - cowrie shells, shiny metal (versus other types of shiny metal), or certain glittery rocks. At its heart, this is somewhat arbitrary and becomes an "emperor's new clothes" type experiment. If everyone else assigns value to something, you begin to assign value to it too. Today this is even more bizarre - why do we assign such value to little pieces of paper and ink with the US seal on them? Humans seem to have a tendency towards accumulation of "valuables" and stuff. Why do we care so much about stuff? Beyond a certain basic level of need, stuff isn't necessary for survival.

People like stuff. They like acquiring more and more of it. What can we do to combat this? We live in a society where life is about 'consuming' - using up resources. I think that can replace the more important, and more lasting, things in life. While moving, I realized I have fallen victim to this - I have lots of stuff, too many clothes, and after I moved I bought more furniture.

So, how do we combat this tendency to accumulate stuff? (assuming we should?)



  1. I don't read it regularly, but I have some friends who are fans of ZenHabits.net, and this post on letting go of attachments might be particularly germane to your question.