How abundance can lead to lack

in selfdevelopment •  6 months ago

Watch video here

In my last video I was talking about abundance: the kind of abundance we have in the western, developed countries these days, where we really have more things than we actually need.

I think this abundance we have is actually leading to a kind of lack – which seems like a contradiction in terms. It's because when you've got relative prosperity, you also need to have the responsibility to know how to look after that abundance; to know how to maintain all your stuff.

I could compare it to someone who goes from being a tenant to owning property. So when you're a tenant, you always think, "If I was a property owner, all my mortgage money would be going to me." (OK, that's not exactly the case, and that's another subject…). But in the long run, once you've paid the mortgage off, you own your own property.


What people don't take into account is the amount of money you have to spend on looking after that property; on the responsibility to maintain it.

Source Property ownership brings responsibility.

If you're a landlord, for example, your tenant might need a repair, and you're the one who has to pay for that. So depending on what kind of property you have, what state it's in, it could actually be more expensive to own a property than to rent one.

And the same goes for abundance, for just having things. Those things need looking after! Some people seem to manage their abundance better than others. Some people maintain a kind of minimalist lifestyle, for example; they manage to keep their homes tidy and they always have just what they need – they don't need to hold onto lots of stuff.

Unable to let go

But other people will hold onto the most ridiculous things. They have two, or three, or more of everything, and they'll have rooms just full of clutter – myself included!

So why is it so difficult for some people to just let go of things? I think sometimes it comes from having lived through times of scarcity in the past. So if people come from a situation where they didn't have enough, then when they do manage to achieve the things that they need, or become wealthier, they have that mindset where everything seems so valuable that they are just unable to let anything go.

An example of this is my mum. She holds onto all kinds of things. She's actually a very tidy person, and she doesn't hold onto things for sentimental value, but she'll hold onto things that she thinks she might need again.

She actually holds onto used staples – the staples used to hold sheets of paper together.

She has a little jar of them. I've watched her putting the staples in the jar, and I've asked her, "Why are you keeping those?" and she answers, "I don't know!" Maybe she's going to have them melted down! Maybe some part of her thinks that metal is valuable.

My mum is not batty. She is really intelligent – in fact, she got a place at Cambridge University in the 1950s to study law, and she turned it down because she wanted to go to Edinburgh University. I only say this as an example of how bright she is. So it's not stupidity that leads her to store the used staples. It's because she lived through the Second World War.

Memory of scarcity

Mum is in her eighties now. She was a teenager during World War II, and she was a child in the 1930s, when things were very scarce. Then after the war, there was rationing.

So she has that mindset, that memory of scarcity. In those days, "make do and mend" was the watchword.

And that's actually very sensible. People used to hold onto things. If they had served their usefulness, they would maybe try to make them into something else. Nowadays that would be called "upcycling".

It's a really sensible mindset – except that it takes a lot of work, a lot of management.

I think that because our abundance is relatively recent, in almost every country that is wealthy today – whether it's in Europe, the US or Australasia… we all come from a situation where just a few generations ago there was real difficulty and scarcity.

In America and in Britain there was the Depression, and it wasn't really until the Second World War that we started having this relative wealth.

So you might feel that you're poor today – and I'm not trying to say that some people aren't poor. There certainly are people today who don't have enough money, but it's a different kind of poverty these days.

Forgetting what you have

Food is subsidised; most people can afford to buy food. You buy a lot of it, and you put it in the cupboard. And you forget about it. You might have things that don't actually go off, because they're in cans, and they're at the back of the cupboard... they can last for years like that! But because they're in the back of the cupboard you forget about them, and then you buy more!

So you might have a tin of pineapple chunks, and then you have a recipe that requires pineapple chunks. But you've forgotten all about that tin of pineapple chunks at the back of your cupboard, so you go out and buy more! It's not until you do a massive clear out that you find all this stuff, and some of it is past it's sell-by date, so you have to throw it out!

This to my mind, is why abundance can actually lead to lack, if you don't really know how to deal with it. And because this is a relatively recent issue in our society, many of us are finding it really difficult to know how to cope with this abundance. That's why books teaching people how to declutter or just tidy up are so popular, and people are even building careers from decluttering.

Chucking it away

And then there's the minimalist movement, and "feng shui", where you repeatedly rearrange the things in your house. I've got a friend who does that – and it's actually a good solution! Every few months she rearranges her home and possessions, and she chucks things that she doesn't like.

Source Minimalism is one way of managing abundance.

The only thing is, I sometimes think she throws things in the bin that are still in perfectly good condition. And that kind of annoys me, because I have inherited from my mum – and my dad (my dad had the same kind of issue; he grew up in a house where they were quite poor) – this horror of throwing perfectly useful things away. Both of my parents hammered that into me!

When I was growing up, if I discarded something that maybe had a bit of usefulness in it, I would not be told that that was a waste. I would be told that it was a wicked waste! I think this is very common in my generation, and it probably plays into the environmental movement. I feel absolutely heartbroken to see good things just thrown in the bin! I think it's great that these days we have the upcycling movement.

In fact, my mum taught me how to sew. Her mum didn't sew, but again, I think that because they lived through the Second World War and rationing, she learned how to sew as a young adult, and she passed that onto me. Though I don't do it very often these days! But if I've got a piece of clothing that I love, at least I know how to mend it.

Wealth management

You have to decide how much time you're going to put into that. The good thing is that in this day and age we have the internet, so there's a lot of things that you can sell on eBay or other local outlets such as Gumtree. You can even sell things that are broken – someone might want them for the parts, or because they can repair them.

I really think this is something that we need to look into: how to manage our stuff. And how to rediscover the wealth in our abundance, what we actually possess, instead of having this problem of clutter.

Source Real wealth comes from learning how to manage our stuff.

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My parents lived through the depression and the war, too. There is no doubt that's where I got my great reluctance to throw away useful items. My father grew up on a farm, so they never had a real food problem, but my mother learned to garden and sew and make do. She just loved living on the farm because there was ALWAYS something good to cook. And she could cook...

Thanks for the interesting and thought provoking article. I appreciate it.


Thanks @bigtom. I'm really glad you liked my post. I think tough times really shaped that generation, and they passed some of that learning onto us.

You are so correct. I have found minimalism to be so freeing. We we downsized a couple of years ago it was so difficult emotionally. Not that we had too much, we just had a emotional attachment to it. Now, afterwards it is amazing how much better you feel. I do think our parents who lived during depression and war time have such a different perspective. They raised us to be frugal, so we are frugal! love this @natubat!


Thanks @birdsinparadise! Glad you enjoyed my post. I have a tendency to hold onto things, and I definitely get that from my parents. It's so important to value your things, but also to know when to let go of them. And I'm pretty frugal too!

I think you hit the nail on the head. I am planning on scaling down. I don't have that much room so it forces me to do it.
I think rich folks know they can go out and buy whatever and people with less means think they better hold on to everything.


It's funny though - my parents became quite wealthy, yet they've always retained that sense of frugality because they lived through hard times, especially my mum. She hates eating in restaurants and hates ordering taxis, though she can easily afford to.

My father is a hoarder so it breaks me because I just want useful things around our house but there is a lot of clutter.


It can be such a difficult syndrome to break out of, especially when you've lived your whole life that way!