Avoiding “stuffocation” this holiday season

I’ve had a link to this article, “Buy less, do more: 5 reasons why experiences make us happier than things” sitting in my post drafts for quite some time and thought that with the holiday season upon us, it’s timely. Also I’m a sucker for a fun portmanteau, and “stuffocation” fits the bill nicely. 🙂

Christmas crowds at Bluewater shopping centre” by davepatten is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

The article is a condensed interview with British trend forecaster James Wallman, who coined the term “stuffocation” to describe the suffocating impact of materialism and acquiring things on our lives and the environment.

We need to shift away from a culture of materialism and toward one of experientialism,

James Walllman

For many years, my family and I have been trying to move further and further towards experientialism when it comes to gift-giving but I’ll admit that we could do a far better job. We also have the privilege of having few real material needs (food, clothing, housing, “toys” and tech, etc), which admittedly does make it easier to eschew the siren call of consumerism. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with gifting a meaningful material gift; where we run into problems is with excess.

A meaningful gift doesn’t have to equal expensive or a bombardment of items. It just requires a demonstration of thoughtfulness.

Not only does the materialism it’s caused by have a disastrous ecological impact, the argument goes, it’s keeping us from leading more fulfilling lives.

The first step toward recovery is recognizing that more stuff doesn’t equal more happiness — something Wallman says is already happening. The second is finding something more meaningful to replace material items. That something, he argues, is experience: doing things instead of buying things.

Something that I think of that help me resist the impulse to buy all the things is that when I look back at past years’ gift-giving occasions, the things that stand out the most and have stuck with me are the memories created via experiences. Most material goods, aside from things that are highly meaningful to me, tend to fade more quickly.

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