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The Medium Chill: How to Have Enough Without Having More

We know more stuff won't make us happy. So what will?

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Getting to medium chill

Whatever policy or technological advances we may see in coming decades, some part of getting to sustainability is going to be voluntarily living with  less space and stuff. We’re going to have to scale down our material expectations and get off the aspirational treadmill. So how can we do that? How can we make satisficing a respected choice, even a source of status itself? How can we make it okay to prioritize social connections over money and choice hoarding?

Good questions! I sure wish more people were thinking and talking about it. This post is already way too long, but I’ll conclude with two tentative thoughts about the answers.

First, we won’t get there through shame and guilt. We won’t get there by morally bullying people into giving up stuff they love. People will only downscale materially if they are also upscaling in social connections and positive experiences. So rather than focusing on the former, let’s focus on the latter. We have all sorts of infrastructure and institutions available for people who want to learn how to get a better job or make more money. But we have lamentably little for people who want to know how to foster more and better relationships, how to find meaning and a sense of accomplishment.

Second, if you’re going to de-emphasize the material in favor of the social, you’re going to be talking about  places. If we want people to own and consume less privately, we need to provision safe, accessible, pleasant public spaces and resources. But you probably knew I’d say that.

Anyway, that’s the medium chill. I’d love to hear your thoughts and, best of all, your stories about what the medium chill looks like in your life.






David Roberts is a staff writer for Grist. You can follow his Twitter feed at

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