Are You #Materialistic?

June 30, 2020

© Carole Kanchier, PhD  

Are You Materialistic?

Do the things you own end up owning you?

Materialistic people attach a lot of importance to money and want to possess many material things. According to experts, consumer materialism seems to be growing in Western cultures.

Numerous studies show that a focus on acquiring stuff makes us unhappy, hurts our relationships, increases our feelings of isolation and self-doubt, causes us to be less resilient in crises, and makes us more prone to mental illness. Research also shows that excessive focus on material possessions lessens citizenship and our sense of social responsibility.  Craving stuff is bad for everybody!

Do you care about material possessions a little too much? Do they make you feel better or more complete? It’s okay, we all love a brand new gadget, outfit, car, home or even holiday. These things are part of who we are. But should they make us who we are?

Are you materialistic?

Answer yes or no.

1. Do you prefer to de-stress by going to the mall to shop for new stuff?

2. Does obtaining a new electronic gadget before others give you immense joy?

3. Do you equate happiness with luxuries in life?

4. Do you believe in showing off your expensive gadgets and clothes whenever you can?

5. Would you buy an expensive brand even when a cheaper, equally good alternative is available?

6. Do you buy latest models of gadgets or appliances even if your old ones work perfectly?

7. Do you feel envy when your friend buys something better than what you already own?

8. Do you always wonder about what others think about you?

9. Do you value social status and prestige over the need to express creativity?

10. Do you think money can solve all your problems and make you happier?

11. Do you look for jobs that pay the highest wages?

12. Do you prefer to make friends only with rich people?

13. Is the first thing you want to know about a blind date the amount of money he or she is making per month?

Scoring: Onepoint for yes to the forgoing statements. The higher your score, the more materialistic you appear to be.

Real happiness comes through knowing that we’re more than just the sum of our stuff. Sadly, due to our societal economic model, that requires money to buy the basics, we can’t help but be materialistic to some degree. Although the bare minimum doesn’t do much for the ego, the preoccupation with acquiring material goods can come at the cost of  developing the spiritual and other aspects of our lives.

Minimizing materialism

Reducing materialism doesn’t mean forsaking all your possessions. A person who has developed a healthy inner world would see possessions as neutral. This shift is more about attitude than specific actions. Try some of the following:

– Track your exposure to advertising. List every ad you’re exposed to for five days. Note the effect the advertising has on your values and habits.

– Clarify your values. Review perks you want your job to provide. The Job Satisfaction Questionnaire in Questers Dare to Change Your Job and Life may be helpful. ( Note what you can do to make your job more satisfying.

Separate your identity from the things you possess. You are more than your stuff.

– Monitor spending. Track every penny you spend for a month, and then take a hard look at whether your spending reflects your values. If it doesn’t, think about what’s driving you to behave as you do. Is it insecurity? the need to impress? peer pressure?

– Identify activities that can help fill internal voids in your life. For example, can any of the following fill the void better than possessions: intimate relationship, creative work activities, service to others, spiritual growth?

– List small things that give you great pleasure. Sprinkle them throughout your day. Notice other small pleasures as you proceed through the day.

– Practice random acts of kindness and compassion. Do it anonymously. Help those in need. Volunteer. Make someone smile. Shifting your focus onto the needs of others can replace materialism.

– Experience your relationships. Participate in mutually enjoyable activities things with your partner and friends. Don’t view relationships as possessions.

– Identify intangible assets that can replace your need for material stuff.  Discipline and emotional control are examples of non materialist assets you can strengthen.

– Avoid the status game. Seek friends from all societal levels. Don’t buy into the game that decides a person’s worth is based on their money or profession.

List things for which you’re grateful. Give thanks for them daily. 

– Monitor urges. When you’re at a store, keep track of the number of times you want to buy something.  List these in a  notebook or index card. When you’re aware of purchasing urges, you can better control them.

– Create a monthly shopping list. If you really want to buy something, put it on a list, and write down the date you added the item to the list. Tell yourself you cannot buy that item for a month. When the month has passed, if you still want the item, buy it. But do not buy anything (besides essentials like groceries) without putting it on the list for a month first. Many times, our urges to buy material stuff will pass during this waiting period.

– Declutter. Go through your closets and other possessions and get rid of stuff you don’t use. You may be less likely to buy more stuff, particularly if you like the decluttered look of your home.

– Enjoy varied leisure activities. Exercise, play board games, or create a collage. Do fun things with your own kids, or volunteer for a charity. List 50 free or cheap activities.

– Buy used. When you get the urge to buy something, and you’re convinced that it’s needed, try buying a used item instead of buying a new one, first. Look in thrift shops, garage sales or flea markets.

– Subscribe to ethical principles. Ethics, described as a moral philosophy, is concerned with what is good for individuals and society. Ethics covers the following dilemmas: how to live a good life, our rights and responsibilities, the language of right and wrong, and moral decisions regarding what is good and bad. Our ethical beliefs infuse debates on topics like human rights and professional conduct.

– Let go. Buddhism teaches that attachment to things creates suffering. This doesn’t mean the only path to true happiness is abandoning everything. It means, don’t hold on too tightly to material possessions and relationships.

Questers Dare to Change Your Job and Life, by Carole Kanchier, suggests additional ways to minimize materialism.

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Based on ongoing research, Questers helps people understand change, and empower themselves to manage uncertainty.

Author Bio: Carole Kanchier, PhD, is an internationally recognized newspaper/digital columnist, educator, speaker, registered psychologist/coach, and author of award-winning, Questers Dare to Change Your Job and Life and forthcoming Arouse the Force Within You!  Dr. Kanchier has taught at University of California, Berkeley and Santa Cruz and University of Alberta, and other institutions of higher learning. Carole Kanchier is known for her pioneering, interdisciplinary approach to human potential.
Dr. Kanchier is available for presentations and consultations.