I saw a billboard for Coke that said, "Open Happiness." I think that sums up all ads, "You're unhappy, and you need this to feel happy." We're raised on this concept and we end up believing it. We believe there is something wrong with us and we need things to be better. It's made to seem that things are the antidote for our problems.
That's one of the reasons it can be hard to let things go. They seem too precious to toss. It's not a conscious belief. Because the joy-bestowing-properties-of-stuff concept has been around us for our whole lives, we don't think to question it. It's almost impossible to consider that getting things to make us happy might be wrong because our entire society lives with this approach to life. How could the supposed solution to the problem be the problem?
But there's a point where the advertising and marketing of the magic of things starts to lose its sway over us. It's when we don't feel comfortable in our homes amidst all of our things. Or we go into a store and the presence of all the stuff in there makes us feel overwhelmed. Or when we stand in our clothes closet and feel like we have nothing to wear. Or when we hear about a new product and get really excited and then it feels like we were drugged.
I have an iPhone that I bought two years ago. When the new iPhone came out three months after I bought mine, I felt a strong need to get it. I didn't even know all its features. I had a strong sense that, "When I get this, then things will be okay." It actually felt painful not to have it. I could tell what was going on because my work is helping people let go of this feeling, but I still felt pulled in by the sway of the strong feeling of need. Essentially it was, "Something is wrong with you (the pain), you need this iPhone to get better."
I ended up talking with my sister about it. She said, "It's natural that you want something new. It's what the mind does. It's always looking for ways to feel better. That doesn't mean you have to do what it says." The clutter busting gene runs in my family's blood.
My desire for the iPhone dropped away. I realized it helps to notice the thought and feeling of, "I need this thing so I can feel better" without judgment. Maybe it's like noticing a barking dog on a chain. It can seem fierce, but at the same time it's harmless.
I do know that I felt a tremendous sense of relief when the need to have 'this thing' was gone. I felt a lot of quietness. In a simple way it felt like happiness. Not the kind where there's a tremendous rush, but an easy and kind and friendly happy. It felt like an acceptance of things being okay as they are.