Is Upgrading Always Worth It?

Moving is fun... or is it?

Upward mobility. We're geared to seek it as goal-driven professionals, as Americans, as humans. Our innate sense is to improve our circumstances, otherwise we run the risk of becoming weak and irrelevant. In modern circles, though, this evolutionary holdover has morphed into a ridiculous constant upgrading of our stuff.

There's a misconception that upgrading will make us happier. In fact, there was a 2010 Princeton study with a large polling group that found people's happiness did not increase further as they advanced to incomes beyond $75,000 per year. This has been re-analyzed multiple times and put through different cost-of-living lenses, but the general result is the same: more is not better. The book Happy Money also points out that after the initial excitement of a new car/bigger house/shiny material purchase, people's happiness level when encountered with that thing tends to fade over time. The original situation prior to the upgrade provided just as much happiness.

We just recently moved, to a different house in the same neighborhood where we already live. We have owned this house for over 10 years, but we had been renting it. People often ask, "Why are you moving? Oh, is it to get a bigger house?" Quite the opposite; we're actually downsizing our home and simplifying our assets. So far it has been a fairly extreme exercise in decluttering. We gave away and sold lots of things, and when we actually moved we identified even more extra stuff that we couldn't find a place for in the new house. Not once have I felt sad when parting with the superfluous items; in fact, I would definitely say the happiness brought by decluttering has offset the stress of the move.

Baby's getting older, sleeping better, on the verge of walking and becoming a little more independent every day. But I'm not increasing my hours in the OR as a response. Instead, my group at work has finally become flush enough with staff for me to slightly downgrade my clinical commitment. Not enough to feel like I'll end up rusty, but enough to have a little more "me" time in my weeks. I've finally felt excited to push myself athletically again (more on that later), so this extra time has helped facilitate opportunities for that. And after our big international vacation, I can still afford some short time periods off this winter to get out of the cold weather, another time-tested happiness booster for me and my family.

What about you? Can you think of a time you've downsized or downgraded and it brought you more happiness? As always, share your experience here!


  1. Once we got to two kids, a bigger space became important...but the best thing is having our kitchen done so it's a pleasure to cook in! Trying to keep Christmas limited this year - kids love toys and the goal is to get enough to be fun without being too much stuff. We'll see :)

  2. Yes, totally agree with that. Toys are like clothes, I feel like: you need to get rid of something if you add a new item to a full closet (or toybox). Enjoy your kitchen! The most important room in the house!


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