mnmlist: on wanting stuff

There are people who claim never to want stuff anymore, who just don’t care about cool clothes and gadgets and bags and notebooks, who have moved past desiring things.

Those people are lying.

Unless you’re a certified Zen Master, you never move beyond wanting stuff (and even the Zen Masters have their temptations, I’m sure). We’re humans, and we have desires. When the new iPhone comes out, I lust over it just as most technophiles like me do.

I don’t, however, buy the iPhone. I’ve lusted after the iPhone since it first came out in 2007, and for more than four years, I’ve resisted getting one. Not because I like torturing myself, nor because I think I’m too cool for an iPhone, but because I don’t want to give in to the lust. I know I don’t need the iPhone, and I know my brain has been tricked into wanting it.

When we want things that are beautiful, cool, sexy (yes, we have semi-sexual desires for objects, and yes that’s weird) … we have been tricked. Not tricked because we’re ignorant, stupid, foolish, but because we’re human. Corporations have become good at tricking us, at tapping into our desires, and as a result we lust for and then buy their products.

Apple is one of the best at this, and it has done such a good job that when I tweeted a small observation about Steve Jobs, I got Hate Tweets for my stupidity, blindness, retardedness, pretentiousness. All those words and more. Because I suggested that Apple’s marketing has worked very, very well on us (myself included).

Apple is not the only one, but it’s one of the best examples. We lust over other brands, including shoes, laptop bags, jeans, coffeemakers, hamburgers and more. The advertising has worked on us.

But don’t be disappointed with yourself. There is no way to stop wanting, but there are ways to reduce the desires.

Stop going to malls and other places designed to get you to buy things.

Stop watching so much TV (or at least block all the ads) because it’s designed to get you to buy stuff.

Stop reading magazines full of ads designed to get you to buy stuff.

Stop reading catalogs, which are just ads.

Stop going to online sites that are full of stuff you might want to buy. Stop going to online shopping sites so much.

Stop looking at the things other people have, online and off, and learn to be happy with what you already have.

And when you do notice yourself wanting something (awareness is everything), pause. Pause some more. Put it on a 30-day list. Wait. The desires go away with time.

(Thanks to Jeremy Barth for the post idea.)