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The Acquisition Trap:Less is More

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Think of a person who associates the acquisition of jewelry with pleasure. She loves it all – rings, necklaces, and bracelets. She has a large jewelry collection, but she never seems to wear much of it. Many of it is crammed into the back of her closet drawers or stuffed into cloth/silk baggies and lost in the bottom of her closet, where they’ll probably never see the light of day again. The collection is far too big to be stored in her normal jewelry box, even though it’s a large humongous-style jewelry box. The only time she is ever content with her jewelry collection is shortly before and after a new purchase. Buying jewelry gives her a short-lived thrill, and then the desire to acquire more returns, ruthlessly propelling her toward the next purchase.

Does this Sound familiar? Even if jewelry is not your weakness, can you relate to the thrill of acquisition? Perhaps your passion is clothing, books, DVD’s. Or what about the latest electronic gadgets?

A long time back…I was kind of the above mentioned latest gadget addict. Oh, I didn’t have many expensive pieces, as I didn’t really have the funds for that. But I was still happy with more, more, more of whatever I could afford.

What drives that need for acquisition?

“Newer, Shinier, Bigger, better and more, more, more!” is the prominent message of today’s advertisements. The job of advertising is to convince you that your happiness is tied to whatever he or she is promoting. Sadly, our materialistic society is about getting more and more stuff with no end in sight.

And when does this acquisition cycle end? When will you have ‘enough?’

Most people never ask themselves this question, and so they keep buying more and more. Purchasing becomes a never ending cycle. There might be a temporary satisfaction by your latest purchases (retail therapy!-as glorified by the media), but soon that burning desire to buy something new resurfaces again. Your living spaces become overloaded with more clothing and jewelry and shoes…many of which you have stopped wearing because they don’t fit any longer or they’re out of style. Perhaps you can’t even find many of your things because they’re shoved into the bottom of your closet (exactly where mine used to be)!

Less is more…More is Less. Who decides and when?

We’ve all known children who are overloaded with toys. They own toy boxes filled to the brim with the latest and greatest toys (the product of doting grandparents, perhaps?) but often claim that they can’t find anything to play with. It’s no wonder! The poor kids are totally overwhelmed with MORE with excess! We might judge them as spoiled or ungrateful, but how is that situation any different than you and I looking into our overloaded closets and complaining that we have nothing to wear?

Of course we all need a certain amount of essentials, clothing being a prime example. And what about luxury items like jewelry or gadgets? Those items can be fun, right? Of course they can! But how much will we ever really wear or use? Most people don’t even consider setting limits on this kind of purchase, but for our peace of mind and for our budget’s sake, we might wish to think about doing so.

How do I stay within my Limits?

My current gadget collection (which is far smaller than my previous ginormous collection) is still full, but I now refuse to let it overflow. How do I stay within my limits?

  • One in-One Out: Now, If and When I ever buy a new gadget, an old gadget has has to go and I usually only validate the purchase in my mind when an old gadget has broken down(that’s the better reason for my purchase).Β  That one in-one out rule has become my simplification and decluttering anthem, and I highly recommend it for most personal items.
  • 6 months use policy: Another way is, the 6 month use policy. If it hasn’t been used for 6 months-means you will never really use it again. Give it out…let it go! If it was that useful or important you would’ve surely used it in the past six months.

Less is More- Needs & Wants

If your current possessions seem to own you, instead of the other way around, maybe it’s time to ask yourself a few essential questions, such as:

  • How much clothing do you really need?
  • Do you need any more than three weeks worth of outfits per season?
  • Then why do you own enough clothing to outfit five to ten women for a month?
  • And speaking of clothing, must you hold onto those jeans that fit you 25 pounds ago? Does seeing them hanging in the closet make you feel any better about yourself, or do they seem to mock you as you choose an outfit each morning?
  • And if you do manage to lose those 30 pounds again, don’t you think you deserve a new pair of jeans? I certainly do.

Liberation from the acquisition trap

Many of us, at some point in our lives have experienced the liberation of decluttering. Have you ever thoroughly cleaned out your closet, tossing or donating items that no longer serve you? Do you remember that feeling of freedom after you completed the task, when you looked into your closet and saw only items that currently fit? Maybe you even saw a little empty space! WOW! In addition, you benefited others by donating the excess clothing to Goodwill, or the charity of your choice. What a tremendous feeling! In the future, consider purging your closet of unusable items on a regular basis, perhaps monthly.

Since you’re considering handling the closet, take a good look at your bookshelves. Why do many of us feel we must own every single book we read? Yes, some books are like good friends and should be purchased and kept for the long haul, but many are not that special. Most public libraries are wonderful facilities and checking out a book is still absolutely free there. Considering the excess books on your shelves, I can tell you from personal experience that almost all your local libraries appreciate all donations of ‘reasonably used’ books. Another option for dealing with your over abundance of books is to pass a book along to a good friend, which can be a rewarding experience for both of you.

And ofcourse, if you’re really feeling bold and awesome, move on to the overstuffed shelves where you keep your old VHS tapes or Audio cassettes and DVDs. Haven’t watched some of them in years, right? Then here’s my friendly advice: recycle, recycle, recycle! Many people I know (myself included) have purchased a DVD library subscription over the past few years. It is a wonderful system, as you rent DVDs instead of purchasing them. This way, you won’t have to create additional DVD shelf space in your home. Is a DVD library more affordable than purchasing DVDs? You bet it is.

You’ll Never be sorry to ‘Downsize”

Sometimes people worry that if they begin decluttering in earnest they’ll miss all their old stuff. I can honestly say that I have NEVER talked to one ‘downsizer’ who was sorry that he or she had taken the plunge and tossed or donated all the excess baggage. Every one of them was pleased to be living with less.

In conclusion, instead of purchasing more and allowing our toy boxes to constantly overflow, we can become like the contented child with a limited number of play things. When we actually see and use everything we own, we appreciate our things all the more. And remember that the most effective way to avoid future clutter is to follow the one in-one out rule. When something new comes in, a similar item must go.

Now go ahead and donate that last pair of shoes/purse/jewelery/gadget/shirt that you just HAD to have last summer(mostly to show off πŸ˜‰ ), but haven’t used more than once. And what if you miss it terribly when it’s gone?

Let me promise you that the shop where you purchased it from will still be there.

Get out of the acquisition trap and see how liberated you feel. I have and still am experiencing it. You feel so light , like you can flyΒ  like the butterfly. No excess to weigh you down.


What about you??? Have you felt this liberation? Or are you still stuck in the acquisition trap? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

With Immense Love and Gratitude,
~Zeenat~

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Author: Zeenat {PositiveProvocations.com}

Counseling Psychologist/ Spiritual Counselor/Motivational Speaker/Naturopath/Holistic Healer/Writer

32 thoughts on “The Acquisition Trap:Less is More

  1. Hi Zeenat

    You dear soul – you always right with such a passionate energy and on all things that I resonate with SO well!.

    This topic too is very close to my heart. In fact, I am a minimalist at heart. I enjoy nice things, but I don’t need them, or seek them. In fact today, as I am in the move towards voluntary simplicity and downsizing even more, life just keeps expanding and feeling more and more free.

    Too many of us are slaves to our STUFF. And why? My take is that we are trying to fill the voids within, with material items. Except as you pointed out too these things do not bring long lasting happiness.

    What we seek can only be found in the way we are. What are we “being” each day to ourselves, others and the planet? When we fill the world with love, respect, kindness, peace, generosity and more of such gifts, we feel like we have everything we need, and there is no gap, no void to fill. We are complete.

    So yes, I feel liberation and it feels SO good. Thank you πŸ™‚

    • Hi Evita,
      You and me are like soul sisters na….I love how e can relate to each others thoughts so beautifully πŸ™‚
      Youre so right..that people on the whole are trying to fill the voids in their life by buying more more more…..not even thinking twice why they are doing so.
      If they only let go of the stuff…they would understand what true liberation really means. Back to basics works for me.
      Thank you fro your beautiful thoughts on this.
      Much Love,

  2. Hi Zeenat,

    Your post, as always, is lovely and meaningful. I totally agree with all that you have said. I think your approach is the best way to live a lighter and clutter-free life.

    I try to apply the one-in-one-out rule in my life vis a vis my clothing and when I stick to this rule, I am very happy with the quantity of clothing in my closet. The moment that I forget this rule, the clothes start accumulating and my closet gets too full and I am no longer pleased with my closet… and then I am forced to do the heavy annoying pruning which then reinforces the idea that it is far easier and less time-consuming to just follow the rule all the time πŸ™‚

    Best,
    Dorlee

    • HI Dorlee,
      We do forget sometimes na….Me too πŸ™‚ I can oogle away at the adds on the TV, but when it comes to buying the newest gadget….I dont take the action unless its passes my two rules.
      It takes practice…and then finally when you already feel liberated..you dont really want to go back tot he clutter right…
      Thank you fro sharing your thoughts here Dorlee. I appreciate it.
      Much Love~

  3. Hi Zeenat,

    As always you are right on the mark. Simplicity is not only good for the sense of liberation it brings, it’s also healthier for this precious planet. When I moved from Europe to Hawaii at the beginning of the year, I brought two suitcases, a carry on, and a backpack. I’ve only bought a few items of clothing since then and don’t have any urge to buy more. Books are my downfall, but I even have that under control. πŸ™‚ Sending a big hug your way.

    • HI Sandra,
      Youre so so right….simplicity is good for the planet too! When we go back to basics..and only use what we need….we put less pressure on the planet and ourself. Its amazing how our small actions can have such magnanimous positive/negative effects.
      The urge to buy goes away once you know what more important to you…just like you know exactly what you need now.
      Thank you for your wonderful comment here.
      Much Love~

  4. G and I buy things for two reasons:
    1) because we need them
    2) because we love them

    And it’s a double treat if we can do both! What this means is that we have far less than a lot of people we know but, even so, we could probably stand to do some more cleaning out.

    I will always be the keeper of books, though. It broke my heart when I left the States to have to get rid of so many (I had well over 500). Books are like my friends; they’ve been a part of my life forever. Their presence in my house is something I love, and the thrill of having them is not something limited to just before and after their purchase. I will say, though, that books that I will not read again and again and again get traded in at the used book shop … where I get one free used book for every two I take in — WOOHOO. I also share my books around with my girlfriends ~ they get passed from hand to hand quite a few times.

    • Hi Chania Girl,
      I’m the same with books…really I seem to have a love affair with most of my books πŸ™‚ There was a time i had nearly 200 books and while shifting from Iran to Muscat, the boxes got lost…. 😦
      Since then I started collecting again….but this time, its books that matter…not anything under the sun. I know there were so many books i had which I hadnt even read…and was frankly never intending to..so its best that the boxes got lost. Made me re-evaluate my book collection habits.
      So today i have loads of books..still my most prized possessions…but fewer…more meaningful. And once i’m done with them, Like you I pass them along…to friends, family…so I know when I want them back..they are just a phone call away.
      As for your buying strategy…its awesome…although i must admit..if it was left to my own loving devices….the whole electronic store would be in my home πŸ˜‰
      Much Love~

  5. Oh Zeenat, I don’t let anyone tell me what to buy or what to wear or how much clothes to buy or not to buy. I am just back from a shopping spree in DC and love every piece of clothing I bought. I love my Cartier and my iPhone and my Mac book Pros (both of them) and every China in my house but I have NO clutter. I am notorious about using what I have or donating it. The other month, I had a best friend over and took her through my entire closet and gave her half the clothes I no longer wear. My mom insisted why I didn’t sell them and I said because it makes me happy to know someone I love is wearing them! I donate all the time and I clean things out all the time but I do love what I have. Yet yet yet, you got through to a part of me that LOVES to buy (mostly because I hardly had much, growing up) and so I will exercise more detachment in my meditation. You are a darling. Thank you!!!!!

    • HI Farnoosh,
      Youre such a lovely person..Giving away your stuff like that. Plus you really have your priorities set right..which is the best way to live. Coming from less makes you want more…its natural. But, knowing your priorities and setting limits…that takes a strong person…and youre such a shining example of that.
      Thank you fro sharing your beautiful thoughts here.
      Much Love~

  6. Zeenat,

    Oh boy do I love this post. The liberation of simplifying and letting things go can do wonders for the soul. I will probably keep my books just because that is a real joy (obsession) for me.

    I’ve yet to do it, but I know a big simplification/possession-ejection is due around these parts. I’m actually looking forward to it.

    I ran across a show on hoarding and my goodness that will help put things in perspective. The way some folks have chosen to live through keeping every little possession is no less than amazing.

    As a side note, I *love* the cover of your e-book. It is all you!

    George

    • HI George,
      Youre a naughty minx…:)
      I have that love affair with my books too…just like I replied to Chania Girls comment above..a major loss of book boxes..led me to re-evaluate my purpose and collection. I guess you need to put action into this thought..and believe me..liberation will be yours πŸ™‚
      Thank you fro the lovelies about the ebook cover πŸ™‚ I hope you downloaded the ebook…do go through it..and let me know what you think.
      Much Love~

  7. As a kid I remember that I used to love buying music casettes – reason – my love for music ansd singing. Today all my songs exist on the laptop, but the casettes are still there and most of the tapes that r there, were of no use after a month. I wish I followed your six month policy then and I wouldnt have had to go through the pain of throwing them out. I say pain because through the years I have developed a semse of emotional attachment towards them. But yes I do also realize that I have 20GB of music still lying with me which is eating up my hard disk and needs some serious atention now hehe. But yes, I do find these situations coming all the time – either with me or with people I know. I think Ill forward this link to them. Am sure it will help them out.

    As always, an awesome article Zeenat. Keep them coming.

    Cheers!
    Tavish

    • HI Tavish,
      Youre so honest about this…thats great! Atleast you’re accepting that you need to do something about it. Slow and steady…..but make sure you do it. Don’t put it on tomorrow….cause then you and I both know..tomorrow never comes..right.
      And thank you fro forwarding this link to others…the more we all collectively simplify the better fro us.
      Much Love~

  8. Hi Zeenat,
    I really enjoy the flow of topics on your post. I think that the acquisition trap resides in our thought process. It’s not about the things. The things are an attempt to fill up the need hole that is a bottomless pit when we focus on the wrong things. Too many of us have learned conditioned “strategies” to meet our needs – which in fact, never touch what we truly need. Love, belonging, recognition and affiliation have nothing to do with these things, yet they become the object of our quest.
    I’ve been de-cluttering for years. It’s a process. For so many “things” there are a whole constellation of thoughts that have to be unwoven and released too. The more we do this – the less of the “stuff” we need. Having and giving beautiful things is wonderful – and I wish it for the whole world to have the freedom to do – but it is the emotional liberation from it all that is the real gift.
    thx for another thought provoking post. Louise

    • HI Louise,
      Youre so right….decluttering and simplifying is a process. A very fulfilling process. It is amazing how when our stuff is in order..so are we. The liberation from all standpoints is truly wonderful.
      Thank you fro your lovely thoughts on this Louise. I appreciate them.
      Much Love~

  9. Hi Zeenat,
    Living on the boat means my physical space is limited. I choose to make my space one of comfort and peace, so my material items reflect that. I don’t have much material because I don’t prize it as some people do, but that does often set me apart from others. I used to have the desire to ‘fit in”, but that is no longer important to me. I’ve learned to celebrate my uniqueness. I embrace a miminalist lifestyle because it makes my heart happy.
    As far as my children, they do sometimes want the latest and greatest…that in itself is not wrong. I think if the desire takes over your life and changes your path, that needs some analyzing, but desire in itself can be motivating. Together my little family is learning that it is the state of your heart, your energy, that is important, not what you are (or are not) surrounded by..
    Thank you for sharing Zeenat–so powerful:)

    • HI JOy,
      You do truly live from your heart. Thats what makes you embrace your minimalist life. The choice has liberated you..and made you more aware of your needs. Your kids are kids…and then will have their wants…my little one is 3..and she already wants chocolate everyday. …But What I hope and pray is that we can lead by example. IN time they will understand our choices..and soon embrace them too. Our kids need our support to find their own way….
      Much Love to you my friend~

  10. Hello Zeenat,

    I used to be a terrible horder, I Was exactly as you described, cupboards bursting with clothes of three different sizes and 30 different seasons, enough shoes to sink a ship, books that a library would be proud of and every other piece of junk (sorry, indespebsible items!) you could think of.
    Anyway circumstances forced me to move very quickly (long story) and I left everything behind. Litereally everything, I left with a handbag and not much else. I had no money to replace all this stuff and I kept waiting for the sense of loss to kick in. It didn’t, in fact I felt free and liberated. Of course there were a few things I missed (there were a couple of pairs of heels I still dream about!!!) but overall I realised the stuff wasn’t making me happy.
    I replaced some of the books and had to buy some more clothes, but t really gave me a wake up call that stuff really doesn’t matter – even the thinkgs you think you can’t live without – you can.
    Now you have reminded me, my cupboards are getting a little full again and there is a local charity shop that would love the jeans that no longer fit……….
    Many thanks,
    Kate

    http://www.improvedconfidence.com

    • HI Kate,
      I loved your comment so much. It made me giggle the good giggle πŸ™‚ especially the dreaming about the old heels part πŸ™‚ I do that about an old cellphone I used to have … πŸ˜‰
      I am so glad youve found a way to be simplistic yet happy. And those jeans are screaming to be let out girl πŸ˜‰ Give it away..now……
      Thank you fro your lovely comment.
      Much Love~

  11. @zeenat
    Your have provided great step by step approaches to decluttering one’s life and getting off the “charge it!”hamster wheel. My husband and I dropped out of the consumer driven instant gratification society 30 years ago and have never regretted the choice we made for a single moment.

    We reuse and and recycle religiously. We are reluctant to purchase anything new at all, unless we cannot find what we need (not want) secondhand, or we cannot barter in exchange for it.

    Our cabin in the woods lifestyle is so simple and austere that those who visit us take a few days to absorb the fact that if they want heat they must split kindling and wood. If they want water they must draw it from the well. If they want food they must harvest it and/or help themselves to the homemade preserves and then cook it themselves. In order to use a cell phone they will have to go to another area as there is no cell phone reception where we live.

    Actually some love to come to vacation here because they truly are out of touch and they like that. It gives them time to relate to one another as a family and allows them to soak up some nature as well. That’s a remarkable contrast to those folks, who enter public washrooms in shopping malls with bags of merchandise, and then enter cubicles and text message and chat while on the throne!

    Choosing the pathway of living a consumptive life that panders to continual acquisition of material things will not lead to happiness. What is does lead to is becoming one of the many who don’t give a damn about the environment, their ecological footprint, and are constantly pandering to the demands of their ego (the monkey mind) which has been brainwashed by advertising to demand “more! More! MORE!” It’s truly sad to see how many automatons enslaved to the demands of their monkey minds, live, reproduce little consumptive images of themselves, and then fret in their old age over which relatives they will endow with their hoarded wealth when they pass over.

    Money can’t buy you love and in the end love is all that truly counts.

    • HI TT,
      The life youre living..is my goal one day. I dream of having a farm, growing my own food..basically living a back to basics life. Today I live in the city..and cant escape from much what an apartment life has to offer..but in a short time am moving to a little town int he interiors…and the best part I have already got news..that the produce there is untouched(no artificial fertilizers).
      But even though I am in the city…I have very few pieces of furniture…just what I need. Nothing exorbitant. My mum usually wonders why I dont buy heavy and bulky furniture. I prefer little or no furniture. The simpler the better. The more space i have the better I think and the better I feel.
      I am surely gonna come for a holiday to your cozy corner of the world….it sounds heavenly. No wonder you do such great work… See this is where all the clarity comes from.
      Thank you for sharing yourself here TT. I appreciate it.
      Much love~

  12. Law of diminishing marginal utility suggests that you will find lesser utility as time passes and frequency increases doing the same thing.Since acquisitions are varied in nature the longer it takes to get over it.But it eventually does.

  13. Hi Zeenat .. yes – as I declutter before I move .. I am feeling freer and lighter .. it does make such a difference.

    The space will open up ideas for thoughts, for being out and about, living with nature more .. and just being free – not shackled to things!

    Thanks – have a great weekend .. and I’ll be decluttering some more .. Hilary

    • HI Hilary,
      A fellow clutter free gal…I like it πŸ™‚ You and me both have experienced the freedom that comes from de cluttering ….and there is no better way to attain clarity of thought. A physical exercise that clears the mind… πŸ™‚
      Thank you fro your lovely comment.
      Much Love~

  14. Methinks the acquisition craziness includes all the digital gadetry. Alot of people think we’re nuts not to have a cell phone. My partner and I just kid ourselves over this. We don’t plan to until absolutely critical. We live in the city, not in the country and hence, close to services and folks.

    As for a life of not acquiring the material stuff….I agree up to a certain point, Zeenat. I grew up under tough poor family situation..My parents raised 5 children in a 1-bedroom apartment in southern Ontario before moving to a house. (and kid no.6 was born).

    A person may elect to strip away the material possessions, as long as they equip themselves with skills to make/create/fix to recycle things…and have more time to do it. This route with many children, can be exhausting on the parents. And we didn’t have a car until I was 15 yrs. old.

    Yes, all of this while I grew up in Canada. Such situation can exist in Canada.

    So I guess I’m just either too jaded ..or too practical. I dunno.

  15. Z.
    I left a long comment and came back to see your reply and it’s not here! Yikes another one bites the dust.

    I was saying it’s funny cuz I used to sell jewelry! I’ve now 1/2 away because I never wear it or could possibly wear it all.

    Two years ago I quit shopping for anything I don’t need. We downsized our home and I’m feeling free and simple and lovin’ it! It’s so true…we already have everything we need. Well OK I need some more friends like you;)

    • HI Tess,
      Which long comment are you talking about sweetie. I responded to your last comment on the last post….there was no other comment for this post….hmm…and i check my spam too …
      Sorry about the comment though…..
      And as for your downsizing…we do already have all of everything we need…..but our hungry egos want more and more..right. I am so happy to read that your downsizing has truly been fruitful for you.
      And really I need more friends like you too….When it comes to friends..the more the better right…more love to give and get πŸ™‚
      Much love to you~

  16. Pingback: Believe in yourself…. « ~Positive Provocations~

  17. To be honest, it’s really hard for me to step above my propensity to acquire more. Though I know it would only be a cycle, I still for for it. One thing I have learned to counter this is to appreciate what I already have. Also, I tell myself that I don’t need the things I want to acquire because it’s useless. Perhaps I have not perfected this approach, but I have been more successful now in resisting my urges (acquiring that is). πŸ™‚

  18. Zeenat — I always seem to visit your site at just the right time. I never really thought of myself as a collector, but over the years, my house reflects this as a truth.

    I have lots of clutter. I guess, in part because I hate to clean out stuff. I don’ t really purchase much anymore, but I just don’t get rid of anything:~)

    I have twenty year old used batteries in one drawer, my grown kids toys and other stuff in boxes in a closet and tons of sentimental junk stuffed here and there, out of sight. This summer I have promised myself to “declutter.”

    The way I will have to do it is drastic. I have to drag everything out of closets and drawers and dump it in the room I live in the most. As I hate a mess that’s in my sight, this will FORCE the issue with me:~)

    I know I will be happier with a house that’s less crowded and a bit more minimalist.

    Thanks for this post:~)