A large house requires extensive furnishings; the extensive grounds require upkeep. Beautiful, exotic cars require maintenance, but not nearly as much as a boat. A designer wardrobe requires cleaning and storage. All purchases require some thought: How much should I pay? What are the tax consequences? Is this a good investment? Does it need to be insured? The more things one has, the more thought they require, and it’s easy to lose your freedom of spirit and the ability to focus on the most important things in life, which aren’t things. And so often material objects are simply expensive toys, designed to impress others and having little real value to the owner.
Once you have created value in some form, you have earned the privilege of consuming value in other forms; one of those forms is the possession of material goods. Each new acquisition should be considered carefully, as purchases have a price beyond money. Be like the gourmet, who carefully chooses each dish, rather than the gourmand, who devours everything. I am not arguing for a monastic lifestyle; simply a rigorous discipline. It’s not because material possessions are bad, but rather because they are often very good, that it’s easy to lose one’s focus.
As a producer, the object is to create value, both for others and yourself. As a consumer, your only object is to provide value directly for yourself, or, indirectly, by acting on behalf of others. When considering a purchase ask, “Will this really provide value to me?” “In what way?” An expensive car may be an object of great beauty and style, and provide you with esthetic value.
But do you need two such cars? Are you going to be comfortable in a big house, or are you really buying it to impress your friends? If the latter, is impressing your friends a value worth seeking? Does the expensive wine taste better than the inexpensive wine? Can you really tell the difference? As in all things, the difference between pride and vanity is critical — are your purchases designed to bring you pleasure or to impress others?
A wise policy may be to seek only material goods that have a special value to you. A book lover might have a beautiful library filled with expensive rare editions and drive a simple, inexpensive car. Almost everyone can derive some pleasure from material goods, often from the admiration of a well-made or beautiful object. But anyone of intelligence will have higher goals related to work or pleasure. By limiting consumption, one retains the ability to focus on more important goals and activities.
On keeping your life simple by seeking only those material objects which will truly add value to your lifestyle.