Clutter does not create happiness

Do lifestyle changes make a difference to your happiness and well being? At Lifetree News we have shared the importance of honoring your strengths.  Another focus has been the “challenge of materialism.” As you reduce your clutter and become more mindful about your “stuff,” you become happier, get more done and improve your relationships.

 We live in a “world of consumerism.”  Consumerism has encouraged us to define ourselves, communicate our identity, and seek meaning through acquiring “stuff” more than through our deeper values, activities and community. But once basic needs are met, continually acquiring more material goods does not lead to more happiness.  Instead, it becomes a deterrent to happiness.  Researchers find it leads to greed, anxiety, and depression. We are much happier when we are honoring our strengths, connected with others, and serving a deeper purpose.

People today are becoming informed of the human cost of “stuff” - trafficking, sweatshop exploitation, forced and child labor and many other ills. As people become more aware of these inequalities and problems, many are redoing their relationship with stuff.  Beyond being mindful individually, activists are generating collective efforts for greater structural change toward creating a world that works for all.  Can we do “stuff” differently?  It depends on what it means to us.

Can we do “stuff” differently?

What does stuff mean to you?  When we define ourselves as continually needing more stuff, it is often motivated by feelings of inadequacy, scarcity, and lack – of not enough.  When we recognize our strengths and values as human persons, we recognize we are enough. Our existence as persons in and of itself provides extraordinary value. We find other ways of creating happiness.  

As you reflect your own unique view towards “stuff,” I encourage you to acknowledge your strengths.  Acknowledging your strengths can help you in five ways.

1. It will help you see that happiness and well being is more than just experiencing pleasure. Enjoying the pleasures of stuff is important, but once the pleasure wears off more is not better.  Chocolate is great, but too much is not. 

2. When you tap into your strengths, you will discover the kinds of activities and work that engage you.  This is where you are enthusiastic and excited, leading to a deeper level of happiness than pleasure.  Find your areas of strengths, and, use them more.  It will help you to make decisions and cut through what is important and what is not.

 3.  You will discover that you can use your strengths to serve a purpose greater than yourself.   For example, the character strength of justice may be important to you. If so, learning about the working conditions of those producing the goods and purchasing Fair Trade products can be deeply gratifying because it promotes equality.

4.  As you discover your strengths, you will better appreciate yourself and others.  When you become more positive, your relationships strengthen and improve.

5.  Aligning your activities and goals with your strengths helps you to get things done.

Try an experiment:

Take one small area in your home – such as your clothes or the kitchen pantry.  Then reflect, how much is enough? What do you really need?  Is there an excess you can donate to others? When you donate, do you feel happier and more connected?  Try it.

Jeff Shinabarger’s book, More or Less has a series of little experiments that can help you discover how much is enough for you. You will also discover the benefits of generosity, connection and joy of sharing with others.  Check it out.

To your generosity,

Dr. Alice



Annie Leonard:  How to be more than a mindful consumer. mindful-consumer.

Jeff Shinabarger.  More or Less:  Choosing a Lifestyle of Excessive Generosity. Colorado Springs, CO. David C. Cook, 2013.

Discover your strengths.  Take the VIA Survey of Character Strengths at



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