Are material possessions a burden or a joy? How much is enough and how much is too much? Some wisdom quotes about material possessions:

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The crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism. Our whole educational system suffers from this evil. An exaggerated competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to worship acquisitive success as a preparation for his future career.

— Albert Einstein

The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges and to beg in the streets and to steal bread.

— Anatole France, 1894

Treasure your relationships, not your possessions.

— Anthony J. D’Angelo

As things are now going the peace we make, what peace we seem to be making, will be a peace of oil, a peace of gold, a peace of shipping, a peace in brief, without moral purpose or human interest.

— Archibald Macleish

We must learn that competence is better than extravagance, that worth is better than wealth, that the golden calf we have worshiped has no more brains than that one of old which the Hebrews worshiped. So beware of money and of money’s worth as the supreme passion of the mind. Beware of the craving for enormous acquisition.

— C. A. Bartol

A child’s appetite for new toys appeal to the desire for ownership and appropriation: the appeal of toys comes to lie not in their use but in their status as possessions.

— Christopher Lasch

The model of ownership, in a society organized round mass consumption, is addiction.

— Christopher Lasch

No abundance of material goods can compensate for the death of individuality and personal creativity.

— Coretta Scott King

The more we simplify our material needs the more we are free to think of other things.

— Eleanor Roosevelt

You can never get enough of what you don’t need to make you happy.

— Eric Hoffer

Many wealthy people are little more than the janitors of their possessions.

— Frank Lloyd Wright

L’Oreal’s slogan ‘because you’re worth it’ has come to epitomise banal narcissism of early 21st century capitalism; easy indulgence and effortless self-love all available at a flick of the credit card.

— Geoff Mulgan

Ask me not what I have, but what I am.

— Heinrich Heine

If a man walks in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer. But if he spends his days as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making the earth bald before her time, he is deemed an industrious and enterprising citizen.

— Henry David Thoreau

Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things. They are but improved means to an unimproved end.

— Henry David Thoreau

Nothing is so hard for those who abound in riches as to conceive how others can be in want.

— Jonathan Swift

Most of what we take as being important is not material, whether it’s music or feelings or love. They’re things we can’t really see or touch. They’re not material, but they’re vitally important to us.

— Judy Collins

The most pitiful among men is he who turns his dreams into silver and gold.

— Kahlil Gibran

We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a comparative few, but we cannot have both.

— Louis D. Brandeis

The perfection of wisdom, and the end of true philosophy is to proportion our wants to our possessions, our ambitions to our capacities, we will then be a happy and a virtuous people.

— Mark Twain

We must rapidly begin the shift from a ‘thing-oriented’ society to a ‘person-oriented’ society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

— Martin Luther King Jr.

There are only two families in the world, my old grandmother used to say, the Haves and the Have-nots.

— Miguel de Cervantes

Our philosophy is to rob everything as much as possible and forget about tomorrow… But it makes a certain sense if the sole human value is making as much wealth as you can tomorrow. You don’t care what happens down the road and you don’t care what happens to anybody else. It makes perfect sense. If it destroys the world, well, it’s not my problem.

— Noam Chomsky

The world has to learn that the actual pleasure derived from material things is of rather low quality on the whole and less even in quantity than it looks to those who have not tried it.

— Oliver Wendell Holmes

By attaching our identity to things only a few can have, we ignore the intrinsic preciousness of all human life.

— Parker J. Palmer, The Promise of Paradox

I want my children to have all the things I couldn’t afford. Then I want to move in with them.

— Phyllis Diller

Men have looked away from themselves and at things so long that they have come to esteem the religious, learned and civil institutions as guards of property, and they deprecate assaults on these, because they feel them to be assaults on property. They measure their esteem of each other by what each has, and not by what each is.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Worldly riches are like nuts; many a tooth is broke in cracking them, but never is the stomach filled with eating them.

— Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

If the level and amount of consumption and waste of the western ‘rich’ countries ever reaches the poor countries, it will mean the end of humanity. The big world corporations are busy doing it…. The production, selling, consumption, accumulation, waste and advertisement explosions in the western ‘rich’ countries and the continued population explosion in the poor countries will turn into major catastrophes.

— Robert Muller

Perhaps it is this specter that most haunts working men and women: the planned obsolescence of people that is of a piece with the planned obsolescence of the things they make. Or sell.

— Studs Terkel
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