Each year at Postconsumers, we dedicate January to developing content based around helping you to achieve one New Year’s resolution (though we prefer the term goal!). For example, in past years, we’ve tackled helping you to resolve to reduce clutter and to resolve to go on a media diet.  This year, we sat down and talked about themes that we often bring up in our self-help articles but don’t dig into deeply. The one that stood out the most to us was learning to separate emotion from “stuff”. It may seem so easy, but in truth it can be quite challenging and, often, people don’t even realize that they’re doing it in the first place.

We Have Talked About Emotion and Stuff in the Past

We did manage to find a few articles where we went into more detail on separating emotion and “stuff,” and those are a good place to start if you want to get an idea of the resolution we’re asking you to make this year.

  • Emotions and Your Holiday Kitsch: This is actually a great time of year to read this as you’re packing away – or possibly downsizing – your holiday kitsch.
  • When “Stuff” Has Memories: “Stuff” does not truly hold your memories, but getting to a point of understanding that can be challenging.
  • Can You Love a Thing? The short answer is no, but understanding that can be a journey that you need to actively participate in.

But while we have written a few stand alone articles and mentioned emotional “stuff” frequently, we’ve never taken a deeper look at it or given you enough great ideas on how to overcome it.  That’s what we’ll be tackling this January.

Why Do You Associate “Stuff” with Emotion?

The process by which individuals come to associate “stuff” with emotions and emotional fulfillment has been developing for many decades now. If it’s not a topic that you’re already thinking about daily (we are!), then just take a moment to reflect on many of the ways in which we as a society replace emotional attachments with material ones. One of our (least) favorite examples is the concept of “retail therapy.” What are you seeking therapy for, and in what way does retail shopping cure your woes? We’ve dedicated an article later this year to truly looking into that topic, but for the purposes of this article we think it’s a great example of the infiltration of consumer materialism into the emotional and mental health realm. Having a memento or a family heirloom is one thing, but truly manifesting emotional hopes and satisfaction onto inanimate objects is another thing. And that other thing is not healthy for individuals or society. Think of all of the media messages – both overt and subvert – that you receive regularly telling you that you’ll feel better and more fulfilled if you purchase item X, Y or Z.  Think of how, as a greater society, we naively work to associate happiness with how much stuff you have. Then wonder why so few of us are really happy, or as we prefer to say, satisfied. This ailment is what we’ll be hoping to help you resolve to heal this January.

Why Is It So Important for You to Learn to Separate Emotion and “Stuff?”

Is this process (and topic) important enough for us to dedicate an entire month of content to it? You absolutely bet it is! We could cite many reasons why you should do this if you haven’t already. Once you do, you’ll be helping to control your own finances, make decisions that are better for the planet and help support ethical business practices because you’ll buy smarter instead of more. But those reasons hardly matter at all when you stack them up next to the reason why you actually want to embrace the resolution and go on a journey to achieve it. Because at the end of this journey you’ll emerge a happier person. Yes. It’s true. Fundamentally, you cannot achieve emotional fulfillment through purchasing and holding onto “stuff.” It’s simply an impossibility. And if you’ve been wondering what to do about that aching, longing hole in your soul, learning that you can’t stuff it full of physical things is a great (and necessary) first step. We care about all of the reasons that you should embrace and embark on this goal. But we’re passionate about the reason that you want to and are helping to create a happier (and therefore more compassionate) society.

What Can You Expect from Postconsumers This Month?

We’re breaking the content up this month to help you both understand the history and psychology of why you associate “stuff” with emotions as well as to give you some solid, tangible projects that can help you begin to overcome emotional attachments to “stuff.” The best way to follow along, of course, is to follow us on social media where we’ll be posting each update as it goes live. You can also sign-up for our email list. At the end of the month, we’ll send out one email with links to all of the content from this month’s resolution project.

We’re excited to get started. And even though it’s a year away, we’re always looking for suggestions for next year’s resolution to tackle. Give us ideas on any of the social media channels below!

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Photo Credit: Peter Dutton via Flickr