Why stickers are the best souvenirs

So this is a pretty silly post. Silly but crucially important to your future happiness and the fate of mankind.

One of the great paradoxes of our time is that as society has become wealthier, people, as a whole, have not become happier. So much more stuff, but it’s not translating into joy. A flood of recent research into happiness outlines many, many potential causes of the paradox. The good news about this academic research is that much of it is really actionable – kind of like a Facebook “Do these 10 things to be happy” post, but like actually based on smart people doing massive amounts of research and synthesizing their results in peer reviewed journals.

One of the nuggets I’ve taken away from my reading in this area is that accumulating possessions has little impact on happiness, whereas accumulating experiences does. While the causes and consequences of this finding are complex, it can be (poorly) summarized as such:

Things depreciate. You enjoy your car, watch or television more on the 1st day you own it than at any other time. Things also have carrying costs (insurance, gasoline, storage space, etc). So you continue to pay for these items forever, but like them less and less every day.

Experiences appreciate. You’ll think fondly of your last vacation / surfing lessons / marathon for the rest of your life. Even if the experience itself wasn’t that great in the moment, you’ll actually like it more in retrospect.

Summary: Buy experiences, not things.

Awesome Wife Kelly and I have begun to adopt this philosophy into our lives, deciding to aggressively prune our possessions and declutter our lives (also after reading Marie Kondo’s fascinating book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” which is equal parts self help guide, practical advice for living a simpler, tidier life and mystical treatise. In the US they would have her committed, in Japan she’s a celebrity). We have gone through everything we own and decided if this is something that makes our lives better or if it’s something that sits here and makes our lives busier and more crowded. Even following round after round of discarding unwanted items, this perspective helped us clarify a lot of decisions that used to seem hard.

The point here isn’t to preach or even to persuade. It’s simply to give you the necessary background for why stickers are the absolute best souvenir.

photo 1

I’ve pasted stickers over a good portion of my personal possessions (always in a tasteful way). They’re on the crappy Ikea dresser that I see every morning. I’ve got a sticker from the Virginia 24 Hour Run for Cancer on my coffee grinder (one of the all time essential pieces of equipment in our house). My Kindle has a sticker I brought home from Finland. Every day I see these stickers, they remind me of the great moments of my life and they make me happy.

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They do not take up room. They do not cost money. They do not provide stress.

Sure, running shirts from the marathon are cool. So are branded water bottles that say “New York Marathon 2009”. But too often these great reminders of life events require too many trade-offs. I have so many damn running shirts piling up they are overflowing my drawers. And now I can’t throw any of them away simply because it has the name of a race on it? Even worse, these shirts are usually of pretty mediocre quality. So now not only do I have an overflowing drawer, but bleeding nipples. That’s a whole different type of experience and one I choose not to repeat / remember.

Forget it. Buy a sticker. Peel, apply and enjoy.


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