Experientialism – finding more happiness and status in experiences than material things.
Suitcase full of stuff, or mind full of memories? This could be the poster question for materialism vs experientialism. Finding greater meaning, purpose, status or happiness through experiences is a growing consumer trend. Some may say it’s a fling; after all the negative news of the last two years, of course we’re going to go out for the evening, or book that holiday, get me a cocktail! But there’s evidence to suggest experientialism is here to stay.
In the UK, a 2017 study by Barclays found that consumer spending on material goods has been dropping. Spending on cars, household appliances and department stores have all fallen since early 2016, while shelling out for the likes of restaurants, theatres and cinemas has all been on the rise. Suggesting we’d rather go and see a film than buy a bigger TV.
Some research suggests the trend goes even further back, with a study by environmental writer Chris Goodall proposing we might have reached ‘peak stuff’ as early as 2001. Even the head of sustainability at Ikea, one of the biggest producers of material goods, agrees with the notion that we may have reached this point already. If experientialism is already happening, then what next for this millennial movement?
We might have reached ‘peak stuff’.
Not so long ago, showing off meant rocking up to an event with the latest car, suit or handbag. In the modern world of social media however, the video of our awesome experience, will get a lot more love than the picture of what we were wearing.
The fear of missing out has become a powerful influence on the choices of young people, so the more we share our experientialism online, the faster we’ll move away from a materialistic society in the future. We only need to observe the boom in popularity of festivals, gap years, and holidays, to see that millennials would much rather focus on fun than manage a mortgage!
Series one is all about finding balance. Maintaining calm in our hectic modern lives, and parity as we each seek to thrive. Experientialism is an influential movement for our minimalist thinking, but like everything, should not be taken to excess.
Social media brings joy, builds friendships, and can battle the conventional, yet the pursuit of approval and constant comparison is another path to the same trap of material consumption.
There is however, a noticeable difference. It’s easy to compare two objects, your car might be faster than mine, her phone might be newer than his. It is much harder to compare experiential purchases though. Two holidays might be opposite ends of the budget scale, but can bring equal enjoyment. Each experience is unique to us, and nobody can compare that.
Suitcase full of stuff, or
mind full of memories?
Quiz: Are you an experientialist?
- Do you like to collect lots of your favourite things (shoes, jewellery, fridge magnets…)?
- Do you compare yourself to others a lot, including celebrities?
- If offered, would you choose your dream shopping list over your dream bucket list?
- Are you more likely to save for your next car over your next holiday?
- Would you rather own your favourite designer’s clothing, over visiting their fashion show?
- Do you perceive success and wealth as having more expensive possessions?
- Would you rather your partner bought you a watch than a weekend away?
- Would you share with someone your best picture, rather than your best story?
- Can you think of 5 things you need to buy, quicker than 5 things you don’t use?
- Are you more likely to choose your dream house over your dream location?
If you answered no to most of these, you’re probably an experientialist!
For more minimalist thinking, exploring the power of less through topics like lifestyle, economy, travel and more, sign up for future series and exclusive content. Join the journey.
Delight – Small is beautiful