For a long time, I believed more was better.
In reality, it’s all relative.
This past weekend when I went over the second chapter of Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) with my son, we got to my favorite piece of advice:
“The more possessions one has, the more he has to worry about.”
The chapter goes on to talk about how having more can cause a host of issues, but giving charity brings peace.
Isn’t it funny?! We think we will feel at peace if we just had… (fill in the blank).
In truth, it’s easy to get buyer’s remorse and realize what you just spent money on may not have been a good purchase.
Every week in Power Hours or when I’m with a client in their home, I watch people slough through thousands of dollars worth of stuff that they wanted when they bought it, but the purchase wasn’t well planned and the item ends up sitting there collecting dust! Now they don’t have the money they worked hard for and the stuff isn’t useful for them.
We don’t think about how quick and easy it is to acquire stuff, a quick Target run means you drop $100 or more each time, if you do that once a week or more it adds up, and what do you have to show for it?
A big reason why many of my clients don’t want to let go of objects even though they don’t want the object anymore is that they spent money on it and they don’t want to throw it in the trash.
They want to make sure what they spent money on goes to a good home. (We won’t even discuss that most people’s trash is also another person’s trash, that’s a separate email!)
It’s almost as if they feel they can absolve themselves of the bad purchase by giving it to someone else. Like passing on their bad decision.
The problem is, it can be difficult to get objects to the people who need them most and this causes the bottleneck: I can’t let go of it, I may need it, and I would get rid of it if only I had someone to give it to who would use it.
When you give to a charity you know what you gave is getting put to good use. Knowing your money is being used for good brings you happiness and peace.
That’s the fundamental difference. Spending on others in need makes you feel good about yourself like you have a hand in the divine plan.
Spending on yourself isn’t bad, it’s just easy to get out of control. In the short term, you may feel good about it but in the long term, it’s always, what was I thinking?
You should have the things that make your life better, or easier, or even that you want, but the question is, at what point is it too much?
In order to live our best life, with less worry, and more peace, we have to set our priorities. Charity first, then, material goods.
A few things to ask yourself when you want to make a purchase to help you avoid having too much:
- Do I have a place to put this item?
- If I’m replacing something I already have, am I ready to let go of the old one?
- Do I need this or do I want this?
- How will I feel about this item in a few weeks? Will I still love it or will it be sitting in a drawer collecting dust?
- What will happen when I am done using this item? Will I be able to recycle it? Will it be trash?
Remember – our homes are our sanctuaries. Have you ever been to a place meant to be relaxing and it is full of stuff, everywhere? No, of course not. Because you can not reach your highest potential as a human or truly relax if there is a lot of “noise” around.
How can we expect to have peace in a home with too much?
Therein lies the wisdom of this chapter – peace comes by giving, not consuming.