A recent podcast on StuffYouShouldKnow.com explored whether objects or experiences make us happier. Research indicates that the happiness people feel after acquiring a new object fades after time. This isn’t surprising, but it got me to wondering, after the happiness fades, what’s left? And is that next feeling that comes along a good variable for helping us make decisions about what we choose to keep?
Here are some of my eventual responses to acquisitions that I initially felt happy about:
- Regret–I’m not using this. I didn’t need it. I shouldn’t have spent money on it.
- Disappointment–This doesn’t work the way I had hoped. (I include gifts of things that I don’t want in this category. I’m disappointed with the object, even though I may appreciate the thoughtfulness of the person who gave the gift.)
- Gratitude–This makes my life easier. This solves my problem. This is a joy to use. I love to look at this. I’m glad I have this. I appreciate the memories this brings.
- Grief–This served me well, but it’s not doing the job anymore.
- Resignation–I don’t like having this, but I could get in big trouble if I don’t keep it.
I’m going to experiment with using these feelings to help me make decisions when I’m de-cluttering in my own home. Items that evoke regret, disappointment or grief will go. Some of them will be merrily chucked into the trash and others may be mourned as they are passed along, but the bottom line is they will all go.
Items that evoke resignation will be carefully scrutinized. How bad would the trouble be if I didn’t keep it? Would I go to jail? Pay a hefty fine? Lose my home? Or would I just be mildly inconvenienced, or maybe risk hurting someone’s feelings? Do the risks outweigh the inconvenience or negative feelings associated with keeping the item?
Items that evoke gratitude will likely be kept, but I’ll still be asking myself some questions. Will I take the time and energy to properly maintain this item? Is it worth giving up storage space for this item? Will I remember I have this item and use it when I need it? Will I regularly see this item and experience the joy that it brings? If I were to put this item in deep storage for 10 years, would I be grateful to still have it when I eventually see it again?
Curious to hear what emotions you may now feel about items that once made you happy. Please feel free to share.