Having everything you need, and enjoying everything you have. That is where you want to be.
Like everybody else, I grew up with the belief that more is better, especially when it comes to clothes. Why have two dresses when you can have ten? Or three pairs of shoes when you can have a dozen? It’s always better to have more, because more things meant more choices, and more choices is always a good thing.
Yes, up to a point. I didn’t realise it then, but I could only handle about 5 different choices, and anything more than that paralysed my brain. While staring at my bulging wardrobe, I’d get overwhelmed, and experience the inexplicable female problem of “having nothing to wear!”
In the end, I’d revert to the same three outfits that I’ve been wearing 98% of the time anyway, leaving the rest to rot in the depths of my drawers.
I had the wardrobe of a girl, but the attitude of a guy
When I moved homes, I came face-to-face with my accumulated clothes. They were harmless and benign when stuffed in the wardrobe and out of my way, but when piled on the floor like a miniature mountain, they became a major headache.
Combined with my mother, the only other female in the family, we had hundreds and hundreds of clothing items (I used to half-joke that the only mall I needed to visit was my mother’s walk-in wardrobe). And guess what? Each of those needed to be sorted, cleaned, stored, moved and then unpacked, sorted and hung again.
I spent weeks dealing with that particular task (WEEKS, I tell you!), and I have never been so stressed or used up my time so uselessly. I remember looking around the stacks and stacks of clothes that both my mother and I had forgotten even owning, and thinking to myself: How on earth did we get saddled with so much crap we don’t even need???
It took time, but I finally ended up giving away 90% of all those clothes, and tasted what can only be described as ‘freedom’. The boxes of clothes had loomed large in both my room and my head, and I never realised how oppressive they were until I cleared them out of my life.
I didn’t understand why I felt that way, though. Having more had always been a good thing… when did it become so stressful and annoying?
Let the Fulfilment Curve explain this phenomenon
The Fulfilment Curve is basically a chart, and it tracks the relationship between the money we spend and the happiness or fulfilment we obtain.
Let’s start from the beginning. We all have basic needs that need to be fulfilled. Money means being able to obtain food, clothes and shelter. Thus, each dollar we spend helps us to live through another day. Money and fulfilment go together in an upward, positive slope.
Once our bellies are filled, and we’re warm and protected under a decent roof, we start looking beyond mere survival. Now, more money means more comfort. Better food, nicer clothes, a decent house with cushy mattresses and a functioning car to make our lives a little easier. Money and fulfilment still go together in an upward positive slope.
Once we’re comfortable, we now want to upgrade to next level: luxuries. Gourmet meals, branded clothing, a holiday home, maybe a yacht or two… each extra luxury item brings us a thrill and makes us feel better about ourselves. We are now firm believers of the following:
More money = more fulfilment
Feeling down? Getting bored at work? Something else is missing? No worries, more money will solve that. We’re so entrenched in this belief that we don’t notice that the slope is slowing down and is starting to flatten out.
Once upon a time, getting a new outfit was a big deal. Now, you need to get five outfits to feel that same thrill again. Somehow, the second holiday home isn’t as exciting as the first one - in fact, it’s a bit of a headache because it requires more maintenance, more housekeepers, and more loan payments to manage.
To compensate, you seek even more thrills: each gets more and more expensive, but the thrill keeps wearing off more and more quickly, while the responsibilities of managing all of your possessions keep piling up.
The slope now tips downward - the consultants call this ‘diminishing returns’. It’s not all that fun anymore, and gets even less fun as time goes on.