Gretchen Rubin

Do You Suffer from the “Easy to Buy, Hard to Use” Phenomenon?

Do You Suffer from the “Easy to Buy, Hard to Use” Phenomenon?

I love gathering Secrets of Adulthood. I have hundreds of them by now.

A thoughtful reader, Adrienne Wiebuch, sent me a great one: "Easy to buy, hard to use."  As she explained:

It made me think of all the potions, lipsticks, kitchen gadgets, candles, therapy gizmos for my son, cookbooks, and more, that I buy in a flicker of inspiration about how they'll enhance my life in some way.  Yet, because they don't really fit my life the way I actually live it, they sit unused on the shelf and guilt me about the money I spent or the aspiration I failed to achieve.

I battle this tendency, myself. I'm an under-buyer, so I don't tend to buy things, but even an under-buyer like me sometimes falls into the trap of making a purchase to reflect some kind of fantasy life, or the life I think I "should" live.

I remember one day, when I was shopping with my mother, she said, "Oh, look at these great linen cocktail napkins! They're beautiful, and 50% off. You should get them!" I actually considered doing this for a moment--until I thought, "Whaaaaaat? Linen cocktail napkins are something I would never,  never use."

A friend of mine falls into the "easy to buy, hard to use" with tech gizmos. He buys a lot of devices, but then doesn't take them out of the box. In the store, they seem alluring, but once they're home, and he has to figure out how to set them up and work them, they seem like too much trouble.

And exercise equipment! Buying a treadmill isn't enough to get exercise. The treadmill has to be used.

In my own head, I often talk about my desire for an "upgrade." I want something to get better; a sense of progress; some aspect of my life to get easier or more beautiful.

The First Splendid Truth about happiness holds: To be happier, you have to think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth. That atmosphere of growth, or the feeling of upgrade, rarely comes from a mere purchase.

Plus then I have to find a place to store the darned thing.

How about you? Do you fall into the "easy to buy, hard to use" trap? With what kinds of purchases?

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