The Happiness of Not Having Things….

“Frugality is one of the most beautiful and joyful words in the English language, and yet one that we are culturally cut off from understanding and enjoying. The consumption society has made us feel that happiness lies in having things, and has failed to teach us the happiness of not having things.”  – Elise Boulding

The above words by Elise Boulding have a very deep and spiritual meaning to me. The very core of our capitalism here in the U.S. is about having things. Without our constant desire to have more than we have our very way of life would be threatened. Not many people outside the Friends Society know much about Elise Boulding so I thought I would include a few words from Wikipedia about her.

Elise M. Boulding (July 6, 1920 – June 24, 2010) was a Quaker sociologist, and author credited as a major contributor to creating the academic discipline of Peace and Conflict Studies. Her holistic, multidimensional approach to peace research sets her apart as an important scholar and activist in multiple fields. Her written works span several decades and range from discussion of family as a foundation for peace, to Quaker spirituality to reinventing the international “global culture”. Particularly of note is her emphasis on women and family in the peace process.

 I discovered some of her writing before I realized she was a Quaker but after learning that I was not at all surprised. Peace and simplicity are two of the foundational items with Society of Friends.  But, let’s get back to the words for today.
Divorcing your happiness from having things is a life changing event. “Stuff” most often gets in the way of happiness instead of fulfilling it.  There is a happiness in not having things that, until you discover it, makes no sense at all.
  • How can you be happy when you see your neighbor driving around in the latest greatest car. Don’t you deserve it as well as he does?
  • You watch all those home improvement shows on cable and you are unhappy because your kitchen doesn’t have the absolutely necessary trio: granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, and cherry cabinets.
  • You are unhappy because your teeth are not as white as you see on TV.  Yellowish teeth make you very unhappy.

This list could go on and on.

Henry David Thoreau had a thing or two to say about how things clutter our lives in the famous novel “Walden”.  If you want to see how to have joy in the simple things read his words.  There is so much around us today to make us unhappy if we don’t divorce that word from material possessions.  If you really want to be happy learn the happiness of not having things….

4 thoughts on “The Happiness of Not Having Things….

  1. Yeah not having one hundred channels to clog your mind with their constant commercials is a big step toward being happy with less things. I just went through a round of removing things from my life; the more I get rid of the happier I seem to be. Maybe if I get down to nothing it will be total bliss 🙂

    I don’t know if it is a female thing but I have deep troubles trying to get my wife to get rid of stuff. She seems to “love” everything she has and can’t imagine living without it (ha).


  2. Your words are so true. However, I feel that getting different things whether it be the latest technology gadgets or the finest car is what motivates people to work their heart out. I am just asking politely if what you said were to happen then wouldn’t it hamper the progress of the society because people would be happy with what they have and there would be nothing more to work for.


  3. Hi saurav741 and welcome to the blog. You are indeed right in that our capitalist society depends on each of us wanting more and more. Without our constant consumption our system would grind to a halt. 🙂 Of course we have to have food to eat, a place to sleep and clothes on our back and a way to get to work so those items will always be needed. I think the idea is that we don’t need to be constantly wanting more and more especially of the things that are not necessities. That is what gets us in trouble with debt and such.

    Thanks for the comment.


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