How to stop wanting things – 11 Habit changing tips

Do you find yourself looking at something your friend has and think, “I wish I had that?”

Whether its their car, their home, gifts for their kids, or something else entirely, most of us fall into this mindset.

We live in a culture that is constantly reminding us of what we don’t have.

Pushing us to seek new things in order to add joy to our lives.

As if materialistic things will fill some void.

But the hard truth is that constantly wanting things isn’t doing any of us any favors.

Buying things isn’t making our homes, families, or friendships any better.

Sure, they may make our social media more enticing, or even allow us to feel spurts of happiness with our new gadgets. But the fact that we continue to want things shows us how short-lived that feeling of fulfillment and joy can be when material things are our focal point.

So how is is that people do stop wanting things?

Hint: most of them start by changing their habits. And their mindset.

Couple sailing on yatch
Couple sailing on yatch

Comparison is the thief of joy

One of the biggest hang-ups people face on their journey to stop wanting things is a struggle to focus on their own present moment.

When we stop comparing our life to the world around us we can find it a lot easier to focus on the things that matter and living more intentionally.

It helps to start connecting with people, being helpful, and to start really paying attention to the people in our lives without comparing our lives with theirs. 

When our energy is primarily on these types of things instead of on our desires to be like everyone else and to have what everyone else has, there’s a lot more freedom there.

Evaluate need vs. want

Take a moment and think to yourself, why is it that I want this thing?

Maybe you want a new shirt.

Do you want this new shirt because you are need of a new shirt?

Maybe your weight has fluctuated, or perhaps your shirts aren’t in great condition anymore.

Both of those are reasonable excuses to purchase a new shirt. There’s a good reason that you need this item and there’s a genuine purpose to the purchase.

But what if you want it, not because you need it, but because you saw it one someone’s social media and thought it looked good and you wanted it for yourself.

That isn’t necessarily a reason not to get it — only you can weigh out whether or not its something worth adding to your closet.

But if its strictly based on desire and not on usefulness, then that’s something to take into consideration.

Marinate on it

We as a culture seem to love impulse purchases.

And companies are good at making sure we give into that urge by saying things like “act now” or “buy now to get this great discount.”

But if you really want to stop wanting things, then you need to start tuning into yourself and your needs.

Really think about if this item you’re being tempted to buy is something that will add to your life rather than take away from it.

Focusing on whether or not the item will add or take away from your happiness is a worthwhile consideration, and sometimes you really need to take a step back and regain control so that you’re not letting the company you want to buy from bait you into purchasing before you’re ready.

Woman on phone and computer with credit cards
Woman on phone and computer with credit cards

It’s OK to want things — within reason

Look — it’s totally normal to continue to want things. Even after you minimize your lifestyle.

But as time progresses, you’ll likely also find that you feel content with the items in your life and you don’t have the urge to add more things in order to achieve happiness.

And finding balance is key here.

Are you someone who can purchase something every once in a while and find joy in what that item adds to your life? Or does it snowball into a desire to add more and more stuff until you finally forget the purpose you had to buy things like this in the first place?

Wanting things isn’t in and of itself wrong. 

But be practical with your wants — perhaps you want to purchase something that can double duty (like an instant pot) so that you can make room in your kitchen. Or you want new shoes you’ve been eyeing and debating over for a while. 

These aren’t necessarily things every person (or minimalist) will find value in. But if you have the ability, find the balance for yourself. You can determine if this item you desire is best as something you want without actually getting it, or is it something that will contribute in a reasonable way to your life.

Will this add to my happiness?

Here’s the funny thing about the happiest people, it’s not the things in their lives that make them happy. 

Which is why this question isn’t “will this make me happy” (because items won’t), but “will it add to my happiness.”

When you think about how to stop wanting things there has to be a focal point on knowing that these things aren’t going to create happiness for us. 

Things have the ability to add to existing happiness if your focus on building a happy life primarily revolves around things like friends, family, and yourself. Things like being present in the moment, practicing gratitude for what you do have, and working on your own personal growth.

If you have these things as your foundation, then you will be able to better evaluate money and tangible items and determine their true value for you.

kid playing guitar while mom sings and dad watches
kid playing guitar while mom sings and dad watches

Declutter your home

This might sound counterintuitive at first, but it’s a really helpful tip when you’re first trying to get your mindset focused on trying not to add more to your home. 

You won’t immediately just wake up and no longer want things (at least, most people don’t).

But if you’re taking a focused approach on decluttering your home you may find that a lot of peace comes with that process.

Removing things from your home can really make you feel a lot lighter and be better for your overall mental state. 

When you feel the benefit that comes with getting rid of the things that you previously purchased (either with intention or impulsively) that are no longer serving you, it may really benefit you as you evaluate how to stop wanting things. 

Additionally, while you’re purging some of your belongings you may find items that you already own that can be repurposed or provide you with the same functionality without the added money being spent.

Evaluate your why

This sort of ties in with the part about happiness as well as a want vs. need. But really, this boils down to evaluating your desire to add more stuff to your life.

Do you find yourself shopping when you’re upset and hoping to manage those feelings by purchasing new stuff? 

If so, that’s actually a pretty normal response. 

But just because it’s a pretty common response to stress or difficult feelings, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a healthy and productive reason to purchase something new. 

On the other hand, perhaps you need a new car because yours has been totalled and you can reasonably say, “this is something I need because I have obligations that require me to be able to drive to meet them.”

At the end of the day, only you know why you want something new.

The key here is being honest with yourself during the evaluation process– why do I feel the need to buy this thing?

It’s ok if you’re “why” ends up being a totally appropriate reason to bring something new into your life.

But you’re not going to change your habits unless you’re really honest with yourself and focus on practicing gratitude for the things you already have.

What do I have to give up to get this thing?

Do I have to give up money?

Is it time to make that money?

Does the money you spend on this thing leave less for a family vacation and therefore less focused fun time with the people you love?

Let’s face it, these questions hurt when the item in question is a genuine necessity. 

They pour salt in the wound when you’re weighing purchasing a new refrigerator or finally taking a vacation with the family.

So maybe don’t focus so much on this question if you’re working on a genuine necessity that has to be purchased.

But for the other stuff. The stuff that’s strictly for fun or desire, these are questions that can really help you when you want to know how to stop wanting things. 

What things will truly help you to have a happy life?

Consider the example you’re setting

Whether it’s for your hoarder parents or your impressionable children – what kind of example is your lifestyle of constantly bringing new stuff into your home contributing to?

To be clear, your desire to stop wanting things should be focused on your and the impact you have on your home. It shouldn’t be out of a need or desire to impress or influence those around you.

BUT, we’d be lying to ourselves if we didn’t have to take into consideration that with nearly all that we do, our decisions do, in fact, have an impact on other people.

Perhaps your children have more time with their parents than ever before the focus isn’t tied to giving them new stuff, but on giving them new experiences.

Maybe your parents have been slowly building stacks of objects in their home that are overwhelming their place and they see the newfound joy you have in changing your own attitude. 

Don’t do it for the ‘gram. Do it for you.

And the people directly impacted by you and the way you experience the world.

Father daughter reading and lounging
Father daughter reading and lounging

Be grateful for what you do have

It may sound silly or overly hyped up, but focusing on gratitude and living a happy life can really be a game changer when you’re trying to reframe your habits and desires for new stuff. 

Whether you have a lot or a little currently, the idea here is the same.

When we focus too much on what we don’t have, we frequently find ourselves losing sight of all the wonderful things we do have. 

And the “things” you have don’t have to be actual material items: they can be loved ones, health, spirituality, etc.

Recognize that giving into want inspires more want

The unfortunate truth of giving into these desires for more and more stuff is this: stuff seems to create a desire for more stuff.

It’s that why you’re in this situation, looking for a way to stop wanting new things in the first place?

Having a lot of things doesn’t keep us from wanting more things, it just keeps us in a constant state of wanting more and more and believing that this “more” will make us happy.

And if you’re here, you likely know this fact to be true: more stuff doesn’t create happiness.

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