We are doing some home improvement projects this spring so my annual spring cleaning has intensified. Since we need to move things out of one large closet to a bunch of smaller ones, I have come face to face with our excessive consumption and worse, our desire to hold on to stuff we forgot we even had. After wading through all that we possess, I am keenly aware that this is a problem of a privilege.

Why do we spend time buying things we don’t actually need and then buying bigger containers, cars, and homes to store those things in? We squander even more time sorting through this haul when a home improvement project, a flood, a fire, or a move to another home necessitate it. All along, we wonder why we are stressed and why we can never seem to find the time to do the things we really want to do?

What hole in our soul are we trying to fill when we buy things we don’t need, when we eat things that go far beyond just nourishing us, when we escape with drinks or drugs, when we lose ourselves in other addictive behaviors such as gambling, video games or losing ourselves on the internet? The world is filled with so many beautiful things, why can’t we just enjoy them without laying claim to them and making them our exclusive domain?

The answers to these questions are at once simple and very complex, particularly when focusing on items for which we do have a biological need: food, clothing, shelter. Not all of the ways we fill the holes in our souls are biologically based. We don’t have a biological need for drugs, alcohol or video games or a collection of vintage pieces. Even where there is an underlying actual need, if we are not mindful, we find ourselves returning for far more than we actually need.

We are hungry. But what we reach for does not sate that hunger. A large cheese burger and fries, though often an easy and delicious way to address our hunger, is nutritional overkill. The remedy we choose for what ails us is often far richer than we need because we misdiagnose ourselves.

We find escape in drugs, alcohol, food, TV, video games, ‘retail therapy’ or trolling the internet because we don’t want to be alone with our thoughts. We don’t want to be alone with the hole in our soul. Perhaps if we allow it to speak to us, it may tell us that we are truly lonely, that we feel unloved, that we had thought we would have accomplished more in our life by now, that we are trapped in a relationship that no longer nourishes us or that despite our desire for control, we are unmoored or that we are afraid that we are not good or worthy.

Feelings of inadequacy are often the real reason why we rationalize our indulgences: we deserve these things-not as rewards but rather, for validation that we are in fact good and worth it whatever it is. Will we ever realize that validation must come from within ourselves? No amount of indulgences can fill that hole until we heal it with our own understanding of the value and goodness within ourselves. We are more than enough.

The next time you feel yourself wanting to fill that hole, perhaps by buying things to cram into your dwelling, ask what you are truly craving and what you may be avoiding dwelling upon.

Originally published at medium.com