Column - A moving lesson

THE New Year has once again brought winds of change. I recently moved house, and suddenly nothing is quite so familiar any more. But new surroundings aside, the process of moving has brought with it an important lesson.

Unless you've taken the KonMari path and cleaned up a fair bit, packing up an entire home is not an easy task. As I sat on the floor surrounded by all my earthly possessions and dust bunnies, I had a wake-up call that I wish had come much earlier. I have too much stuff.

My family has at least 200 pencils collected over the years from hotel stays, goody bags and random places. They are now bunched up and ready to be given away.

While packing my clothes, I found new dresses I'd never worn, hardly used tops and bottoms stuffed in the back of my closet. Most of these are now in four big bags, also ready to be given away.

I found more than a dozen lovely notebooks in mint condition but infuriatingly partly used. I had scribbled on the first few pages of each but never reached the last page of any. I've always had an appreciation for notebooks, but I saw how wasteful I could be.

It was an exhausting few days, weighing sentimental value against space limitations, and need versus want. But it was also sobering. I realised how materialistic I could be, and how I chase after pleasures that are temporal and quick to pass.

Understanding the importance of material wealth is not a bad quality, for it is essential to comprehend the value of money and possessions. It's necessary to survive, and work towards ensuring life's comforts for you, those you love and if you can, those who face more challenges than you do.

But in our pursuit of happiness and relationships, it's easy to get swept off our feet and find ourselves being carried away by the consumer culture. But studies have shown that sometimes, being too materialistic can cause us to place disproportionate expectations on our material wealth in bringing us happiness.

This means when things do not go our way, we feel dissatisfied and empty. The world is shouting that we need more, but it is an endless pursuit. Sadly, the destination isn't always what we thought we were looking for.

Psychologists have made the connection, pointing out that materialists may tend to experience more loneliness, depression and anxiety. They also fare worse when it comes to facing traumatic or negative experiences.

These days, parents are looking for ways to "de-programme" their children from materialism. Others seek help because their children demand more every day: the best, the newest, and the most expensive. Never happy, they must constantly be pacified.

The answer to a fulfilling life, research suggests, is having a grateful heart and spending quality time with those you love. It also means expanding our horizons to become more aware of and lending a helping hand to those who have less, or little.

As I packed up, I remembered what King Solomon, once wrote, "Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle." It's time to give away more things.