Some of the items I unpacked had only recently (it felt like) been packed up to ship to England, where they were unpacked and sat on a shelf for two-and-a-half years then repacked and put into a box in the attic while our sabbatical sub-tenant occupied the rest of the home. Never once was the item touched or used during my time in England. Why was I carrying these things around? I had seen the TED Talk by Graham Hill: Less stuff, More Happiness. I know about the High Costs of Cheap Fashion. I was prepared to defend my recent addition of the cheap didgeridoo pictured here on the grounds that it would satisfy one of my highest Maslow needs for creativity. But what needs were these other items satisfying? None, I deemed. Out they went. The saddest of these - and by far the worst thing I've ever bought - was a digital camcorder I purchased in 2002 for about $850. I carted that thing all over the world. Literally. It went with me from California to graduate school in Michigan, to the Peace Corps in Ukraine, to my job in DC, and finally here to England. It's gone around the world one and a half times - further than almost everyone else I know. Yet I've used it to record one Ukrainian music concert, a couple of golf swings at a driving range, some cats wrestling once, and a herd of bison crossing a river in Yellowstone. That's all I remember using it for, none of those videos are worth looking at now - even if I could now that the tapes got tangled in the recorder when I tried to play them) and all our phones take better video now, too.
Things have use and meaning. Buy or use things that are useful, especially if they are useful for furthering your personality and life happiness. Things that signal status are useful only in a competitive society. The emotional rush we receive from buying things of status is a short-term benefit left over from the need to win in a competitive primitive environment. Actions focused on feeling these short-term rushes (retail therapy, indulgence in luxury goods, piling up of debt to keep up appearances, etc.), must be recognized for what they are, considered wasteful, and mastered. In a cooperative civilized society focused on the long-term, status and hierarchy have no meaning. Attempting to maintain high status and create a hierarchy among 7 billion individuals in a finite world leads to runaway competition and unstable societies.