The Real Meaning of Things

Something to PonderWhat do you really want?

You probably have a few things in mind. We all want things.

But what is the underlying reason for wanting those things?

Most people spend their entire lives accumulating stuff, which George Carlin describes best in his classic bit (warning if you’re at work or easily offended, it is Carlin here, folks).

But Why?

Unfortunately most of the time it’s to fill a void. A big gaping hole, right in the middle of their soul.

Think about all the folks you know caught up in the cycle:

  1. Work 60 or more hours a week at a place they hate.
  2. Spend and hour or more a day getting to a place they hate.
  3. Use their free time to buy things to make up for the fact that they hate their lives.
  4. Need to make money to buy those things.
  5. Go to item number one, and repeat.

Things can’t make up for what’s missing. They can sooth the pain for a short period of time, but the pain comes back. Things are anesthetics, not a cure.

Finding the real cause, and changing direction to eradicate the void rather than just fill it, creates a whole new perspective.

Once you are on track, things become something else. They become a novelty, and fun. They no longer are tasked with fixing the pain, and can just be things.

Make sure you know why you want the things you want. Things can’t make your life worth living. But when added to an already fulfilling life, they can enhance it. Things are the seasonings and the condiments — not the entire meal.

Don’t give things more meaning than they deserve. They’ll never be able to live up to those expectations.


  1. One of my favorite mantras has always been Thoreau’s “Our lives are frittered away in details. Simplify. Simplify.” So I couldn’t agree with you more. We’ve never even owned a house–apartment living is just too carefree to give up.

  2. I always loved the proverb, The more you know, the less you need. It seems that the better you know yourself, what you really want, the less “stuff” you need to buy.

  3. Are you saying materials won’t make us happy? If so, I kind of disagree because of those things that you can do more with your life that make you happier.

    If you are poor then you can’t live to your fullest potential…funny how people think that having things make you happy (like diamond :lol:) it is what you can do with it.

    We want materials because of what I describe above…

  4. So, I have a made a wrong choice. I hate my workplace

    What are the choices:

    a)Think of an innovative idea and get out of my choice (only if I am a good thinker and lucky too)

    b) (Probably I am not, and am not able to think) I start loving my choice. Improvise that.

    So most of world population(I am in majority), can not innovate, a hard realty. They cannot take risks right away. So a viable option is to take your choice as your baby. Love it, improvise it , stay with it. It will pay.

    If I am a programmer, and a very regular programmer, I can either declare myself as independent and start struggling again or I can do good in what I do, get appreciation, innovate within my scope and be satisfied and calm, as to what I am getting is what I deserve and I am doing my best.

    Happiness will come from inside. One has to get into habit of being happy. One has to be happy about what one has chosen. One has to appreciate about what others have chosen and doing it with complete surrender to it.

  5. I’ve been going through a stuff purging phase for probably about a year now. It’s amazing how much stuff I could accumulate, and how, even now, I still find stuff I don’t need. Books I hadn’t read in years, little arty things I didn’t look at any more, clothes I hadn’t worn.

    I limit myself to 3 hobbies now. The rest of the stuff I had accumulated was for “someday when I have time I’ll try this out”. I get my books from the library mostly, and if I buy them, I sell them back when I’m done. I can say I don’t miss most of the things I gave away. The ones I do miss, it’s sort of bittersweet, like a memory of a childhood toy that slips up on you.

    I still have stuff, but it’s stuff I use, stuff I enjoy, stuff I LOOK at, not let my eyes glide over it. I will admit my house looks a little bare now, but I’m getting used to it


  6. Jean – There are many very successful people who prefer to use their good fortune to simplify and actually prefer less.

    Aimee – That’s absolutely right. When you stop trying to fill what’s missing with stuff, you find that the stuff you want has more meaning.

    WarriorBlog – Just like money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy freedom — stuff can’t make your life better if it sucks, but it can enhance an already fulfilling life.

    Awanish – “Happiness will come from inside. One has to get into habit of being happy.” Excellent observation. Success means different things to different people.

    Joann – That’s a great approach. It’s a sure way to find those things that have real meaning for you.

  7. Basic feng shui tells us that clutter and cr.ap in our lives isn’t any way to live. While I agree having “stuff” is necessary, I think the point is why we have what we have, and do we really need it all? I look around and am thankful that I’ve managed to pare down my life. While a shopping spree once in a blue moon can be fun, taking anything to an extreme is just that… extreme.

    Thanks! I enjoyed the post and the other comments. I also like the way you respond. Not many blog owners take the time.

  8. Everything you say is so true, Tony. I really agree with Fran, too – unclutter! Unfortunately it’s tough to do because our culture is so incredibly materialistic. Where I live, in suburban Chicago, it’s wall to wall strip malls and billboards. How do you get away from it? How do you keep all this preoccupation with “stuff” from rubbing off on you?

  9. Fran – Good point. Limiting your stuff to things that have real meaning for you, tends to remove clutter by design.

    Brad – I think it all comes down to making conscious decisions. Paying attention to why we’re accumulating and doing it for the right reasons.

  10. Brad,

    I get away from owning things by looking at them. I love to look at sales circulars, catalogs, museums, online stores, billboards, window shopping. It fills my need for new visual stimulation. I get ideas for my jewelry from looking at these things. But I choose not to buy most of it. If I really want to look at something more than once, I keep the picture.

    Always, buying is a choice. Even when you are buying something you need, you are choosing the brand and style. That’s why there are so many cereals in the grocery store. But the often forgotten choice is choosing NOT to buy.


  11. Hi, Tony I found your site a few weeks ago through Liz’s Successful-Blog. I’ve really been enjoying it.

    Excellent post, and I agree wholeheartedly. I had my moment of reckoning about 7 years ago when I was getting tired of the rat race. Dug out of debt (remain debt-free) and quit spending. I realized the more I spent, the more I must work to pay for those things, which kept the cycle going.

    It’s a wonderful feeling to feed my soul with things that have meaning for me now, rather than items. It also forces me to find what I truly want in my life. Thanks again. 🙂

  12. Nice post. There’s a great book called ‘Swimming with piranha makes you hungry’. One of the key ideas in that is to work out your real hourly wage (factoring in costs of working and time spent commuting) and then use that when considering purchases. eg – ask yourself if it’s worth working an extra three hours to buy a new pair of jeans etc. It’s about making sure you get good value for time.

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