Happy New Year plus one week after the long hiatus here at Things I’ve Noticed. Sorry to make you miss by blog posts. With Christmas being over and people coming to grips with the presents they’ve received, I just want to say don’t feel like you have to return any of your presents by falling for “receiver’s remorse” (or buyer’s remorse if you bought yourself a present.) Supposed happiness experts are tell us, “Buy experiences, not things.” That’s an oversimplification, not good advice. I would say buy experiences and buy fewer things, ones that make you happy and lead to experiences you enjoy.
Most things we buy create immersions in the moment that we enjoy. I bought specific speakers for my stereo because they sound great (to me) and they repeatedly create a wonderful musical listening experience. Objects continually create experiences until they break or age beyond their functional life. That’s value! I am particular about the cars I drive because to me, driving is about the experience and the feel of the vehicle that I encounter nearly every day. A vacation or a zip-lining experience is a one-and-done affair. Objects can make part of each day a mini-vacation whereas you can only go on a real vacation every so often. We have limited time and budgets. It’s not about the ownership of the item, but to get repeated experiences from an object requires ownership. For instance, I can’t rent the same bicycle 30 times a year. Ironically, memorable experiences can lead to the purchase of souvenirs or the creation of photographs, even if only stored on a hard drive.
Memories can’t be shared with a person who wasn’t there in the same way as a product can be shared. I can let somebody else drive my car or listen to my headphones to experience the objects. Conversely, although I can explain the memories of a trip, the other person can never fully understand what the trip was like. Pictures and videos help, but they are not the same. It should not be forgotten that attempts at good experiences can create bad memories that may be difficult to forget. I am able to get rid of something I buy that I end up not liking.
Objects can be stolen or broken, but memories can be lost to brain damage or memory loss from disease. And we will all die one day. At that time, our memories of experiences perish forever too. On the other hand, some objects can be passed on for generations and thus re-experienced.
In the end, we all have our priorities. I don’t mean to chastise people for getting rid of all their stuff and spending most of their money to take trips. I acknowledge that possessions are more of a burden. They require care and maintenance. They make us worry with thoughts like, “somebody at my party might ruin my beautiful television.” Objects must be placed somewhere, must be moved when we move, and when no longer wanted, we must make a decision on whether to dispose of them, donate them, or sell them. After going through so much of my own accumulated stuff, I realize that this is often difficult. The sentimental value for an object may get in the way of common sense. Although we an insure some items, the replacement is not always the same and it doesn’t have the sentimental value of what it replaced. Experiences usually don’t require subsequent decisions, don’t need to be worried about and do not break. That is liberating.
Material possessions aren’t always malevolent like many would have you believe. Go ahead and buy experiences and stuff that makes you happy based on priorites, but not in a never-ending quest to amass what you don’t really want, need or use. That’s my prescription for proper purchasing.