zen habits : breathe

Fear Is Why We Have Too Much Stuff

By Leo Babauta

While we might want to get out from under the mountain of possessions we have, and have all the best intentions of simplifying our lives … the truth is that we continue to have too much stuff.

Part of that is laziness, an attitude of “I’ll get to it later” … but the real driving force behind our too-much-stuffitis is fear.

Fear is what causes us to buy things we don’t really need. Fear keeps us holding onto stuff we don’t need.

Consider:

I could go on, but nearly all our possessions that aren’t absolute necessities (shelter, a bed, very minimal clothing, food, personal hygiene stuff, etc.) are bought and kept because of fears.

We want these items to comfort us, to help us cope with fears and anxieties, to help us feel prepared and more secure, to help us feel that we’ll be OK, to help us feel more certain about the future.

And of course, these items don’t actually do any of these things. We hope they will, but they never do. We never have more certainty about the future, and we continue to want more things to cope with fears that we’re not good enough, that things won’t turn out OK, and so on. The cycle doesn’t end.

So what’s the solution?

A Better Way to Cope With Fears

If we could find a different way of coping with these fears and anxieties, we wouldn’t need the stuff. We could pause before buying something out of fear, and decide not to buy it. We could finally get rid of much of the stuff we have lying around taking up space and mental energy. We could downsize, and live a more minimalist life.

So what’s another way to cope with these fears? Try this:

  1. First notice that you have fear. Notice that you’re being motivated out of fear. Notice that there’s some anxiety, some worry about uncertainty or insecurity, some desire for comfort.
  2. Stay with the fear. Our tendency is to run away from the fear, to try to seek comfort by buying something or eating comfort food or doing something relaxing. Running from the fear is what causes many of our problems. Stay, sit still, face the fear, breathe. Find the courage to go to the places we’re afraid of.
  3. Smile at the fear. Face this fear and smile at it. It is just a scared child inside you, nothing to run from, nothing to be upset about. It’s perfectly OK, perfectly natural, for fears to arise in us. Accept this fear in front of you, and smile at it. This smiling dissipates much of its power.
  4. Develop a friendliness with it. Be open and curious about your fear, see how it feels in your body, what is its quality? Investigate it with friendliness, get to know it like a new friend. Once you really learn what this fear feels like, really become unconditionally friendly with it, you begin to trust that you’ll be OK, that it will float away eventually like a cloud in the wide open expanse of the sky of your mind.

Friends with this fear, you can now decide how to act, unencumbered by the need to alleviate the fear with possessions. You can close the tab with your favorite online shopping site, you can put it on a 30-day list to look at later, when the urge has faded and the fear is no longer with you. You can let go of the possessions you do have, finally freeing yourself of this burden.

And in the end, you’ll find that you’re perfectly OK as you are, without needing to change, without needing anything to “express” who you are or improve you. And that’s worth more than all the possessions in the world.



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