Memories over material goods

I received 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People for my birthday. It’s a great book with lots of fantastic information about our thought patterns and behaviors and there are many tips for using this to your advantage when trying to sell a product, tell a story, or just create good design. The author, Susan Weinschenk, has a great site that also tackles this subject.

A recent post deals with a study that shows that we’re happier with experiences than possessions. It’s a great post that talks about the importance of finding ways to sell your product as an experience and talk about what your company does, not just what it makes.

I was really intrigued by the research and wanted to read more about the findings. I ran across a bit more on the study here. I was particularly interested in the fact that we become less satisfied with our stuff when comparing it with others, but comparing experiences doesn’t create the same response. So if the Jones’ have a bigger TV, you’re depressed about the one you have but if they had a great vacation, even if it was better than yours, the effect isn’t the same. This means you don’t have to have the penthouse suite to enjoy yourself and create lasting memories that will continue to bring you joy.

In all honesty, I’m not particularly surprised by these findings. When I was packing up our in house in preparation for the move to South Carolina, I couldn’t believe how much junk we accumulated over the years. I was faced with boxes of lovely things, some that I had saved for and others that were purchased on a whim, but all were things that I *had* to own. The joy I felt from possessing these objects was fleeting. When faced with the prospect of paying to have these forgotten items moved to the new house, I sent most of them to Goodwill.

It wasn’t hard to get rid of these things. For several years I have felt myself moving away from buying things and toward buying experiences – travel, events, attractions, dining…. I began to realize that our zoo or conservatory membership brought me more happiness than a piece of glassware or new gizmo.

Now, I can’t tell you that I still don’t love buying shoes or that I don’t want a new camera. Of course if you think about it, even these items are more related to experiences (dressing up for a night out, enjoying my photo walks) than to simply possessing something. I’m just interested, and a bit encouraged, by the fact that we’re starting to realize that things can’t make us happy.

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