How to Silence the Desire to Acquire

We are bombarded with advertising from every direction. New catalogs show up at in the mail, even though we chose to opt out and the internet seems to know exactly what we want.

You work hard, so you deserve it. A little purchase is so easy to justify. Just a little something.

And then the little something snowballs, as you get that taste of acquiring something new. You might experience a mood boost, excitement with the thrill of the chase and opening up something shiny and new.

Unfortunately your purchase high is fleeting. The moment fades faster than you remember and all you are left with is more stuff.

How to Silence the Desire to Acquire

Write it down. Before you make an unnessesary purchase, write it down. Create a “want list” and jot things down that interest you. After 30 days revisit the item. Reconcile the feeling of wanting something with the urgency of owning it. It can probably wait. For most things on the list, desire fades.

Buy nada and see how it feels to put a complete ban on shopping. Just like eating sugar makes you want to eat more sugar. Shopping can spark a desire for more shopping. Stop the cycle.

Pay with your time. Before you make a purchase, do the math. Figure out how many hours you have to work to afford the item. If you find out that you have put in a days worth of labor or more, your item might not seem so attractive.

Be with people who have less. Spend an hour feeding hungry people and see if that brand new whatever it is matters as much. I promise it won’t.

Exercise. If shopping is your Valium, it’s time to find a new medication. Take a walk or go to a yoga class instead. That will make you feel even better.

Reject the allure of stuff and enjoy real gifts. Nothing that comes in a box will replace inspiration, joy, laughter, love, friendship or true happiness.

Desire is a powerful emotion that can motivate you to do all kinds of good. When you notice yourself struggling with the desire to acquire, ask this question: What do I want more? You can have what you desire most in life when you make it more important than something you can pick up at the mall.

You do work hard and deserve wonderful things, but when you realize that the things you most desire aren’t really things, you will finally silence the desire to acquire.


  1. says

    Like Sandra, I too don’t have a desire to acquire. And after my recent speaking engagement in Mexico (be with people who have much, much less) any funds I might have spent during the holidays turned into a family conversation where the general consensus was to send those funds to a wonderful non-profit there that turns the money into water cisterns and smokeless, ecological stoves for local people in need.

  2. says

    You describe so well how easy it is to be tempted to buy unnecessary stuff in the run up to Christmas. Maybe instead of a list of stuff we should create a list of more meaningful wants: time with friends, time helping others etc… I’m hoping your words will keep me on the straight and narrow as we enter December!

    • Courtney Carver says

      me too Claire. It is a challenging time, especially if our past included physical gift giving as the primary holiday event.

  3. Paula says

    That’s all i needed to hear today! I have been looking for the perfect down jacket that i need for this winter! But do i really need it? Maybe i can do without and just save that extra cash for a future trip or for a nice dinner with my family!
    Thanks, Courtney!

  4. says

    Great post Courtney,

    I really like your suggestion to ‘pay with your time’. Such a great way to look at how we spend our money, and especially useful for the holidays.

    We are pruning back on our Christmas spending, each year is a smaller and smaller celebration. Taking some time to consciously think about how we celebrate seems to both lessen the ‘need’ for things and also make us more appreciative of the actual celebration of Christmas.

    • Courtney Carver says

      Yes! Well done Dave. I am pretty sure the very first Christmas was simple and only celebrated what was most important.

  5. says

    I love your thoughts and ideas. I was folding laundry today and told my husband, “I am so happy I will not be buying one piece of winter clothing this year. I already have enough.” I was previously thinking it in my head but decided to say it out loud, so I could hear it and also be held accountable. I don’t think I’ll need the “Remember when you said…” but it never hurts to be extra sure!

    • Courtney Carver says

      Accountability and support is so important when changing habits. I am sure your husband will be gentle if he has to say … “Remember when you said…” 😉

  6. says

    Your post was fantastic and hit upon so many wonderful points about this season. I was just have this conversation with my sister about well…doing more with less :) …. but also this idea that we really do have all we need. While I love the tradition of this season, the cold weather, the excitement and joy I see in my nieces’ eyes at the first snow fall or just the thought that Santa will be coming, I am all too aware of how easy it is to get sucked into it in a negative way. We are bombarded with consistent messages to buy more … and more and more. Nothing is ever enough and we buy just to buy, to keep up with what everyone else is doing, or to feel good that we bought that such-and-such — you know, the one that EVERYONE wants — for someone who probably didn’t need another darn such-and-such.

    As a professional organizer I see first hand, all the time, how much stuff people have. They inevitably say “I have too much stuff” and my goal is always to help them realize that they have enough.

    I lOVE your tip of “Pay with your time”. So valuable and so, so rewarding. Thanks for all you share. It really is a wonderful blog. :)