‘The things you own end up owning you.’ — Fight Club
Money makes the world go around and makes people go crazy for it.
Since the 1950s, shopping was a social activity and for some, a form of therapy.
I have friends who love shopping, and as soon as they get something new, they feel ecstatic, would jump and say, LOOK AT WHAT I BOUGHT TODAY!! Most people have this reaction…
Women actually account for 85% of consumer purchases. I used to go on shopping sprees, but I’ve actually given up on that.
Being A Global Nomad Made Me Stop Buying Things
When you live on your own, a lot of your perceptions change. My feelings about materialism and consumption have altered since moving around the world on my own at 14.
Everything I buy will at one point end up in a suitcase for me to take back or store somewhere in the world. This means that any products, makeup or clothes I buy will be thrown into the trash bin if that means I would have to pay extra for excess baggage on the plane. And trust me, this has already happened to me a few times. I didn’t want to add to the heavy weight that I had to carry by myself over train stations, staircases, roads, buses, airports from Berlin to Paris, Chile or Bangkok — oh, it was a nightmare.
Not only did I have to think twice about what I was buying, but it made me reconsider what was truly important in life.
I realized that the new things I accumulated didn’t add to my happiness: a brand new piece of clothing turned into an old item just like my other clothes very quickly, and anything I bought lost its excitement and feeling of ‘newness’ from when I first bought it.
This was when I started to embrace minimalism, a movement that started online, which is, for Leo Babuta, (one of the OGs of minimalism) ‘a way of eschewing the non-essential in order to focus on what’s truly important, what gives our lives meaning, what gives us joy and value.’
As I moved away, I began to donate more things and decluttered my storage space since I had to take everything with me wherever I went. Everything that I had to get rid of over the years made me want to own less.
I started to put less value in the items I owned and gave more importance to my wellbeing.
When I moved to Athens, I kept everything minimal. I have minimal kitchen utensils, a small wardrobe and no books — only a Kindle. I was even reluctant to buy new things unless I really needed it.
What Money Actually Buys
It’s easy to think that rich people are the happiest. They can afford to go on luxurious vacations, drive expensive cars and go to the best restaurants in the world.
The biggest contradiction is that although they might have it all, they don’t seem the happiest. I am convinced though, that they are in fact the most miserable people in the world.
Most people don’t know this. A lot of people think that accumulating more expensive, lavish things will bring them long-term happiness.
But this cannot be further away from the truth.
The real reason why people get so obsessed with buying the most expensive brands is so that they can gain approval from others. They buy things so they can brag about it to their friends and invite envy.
It’s all about keeping up with the Joneses, gaining social status and prestige. We accumulate things, not because we like the actual product itself (or maybe that may be the case), but because we want other people to think of us highly, and respect us. I mean, that’s what social media is in a nutshell.
For generations we care too much about what other people think. This is what has fueled consumerism. We want to be awed and oohed at so we can be accepted in our social circle.
There’s an iconic scene in American Psycho, where the protagonist Patrick Bateman takes out his business card to show to the rest of his coworkers and there starts a childish competition on who has the best-looking, most aesthetically pleasing business card.
It’s incredibly petty, banal and trivial thing yet so symbolic of what our culture is like. We’ve become materialism obsessed.
The reality is that you can still have incredible experiences without having loads of money to blow. You can travel the world on a budget and meet amazing people.
Of course, we all need enough money to afford our basic needs, take care of our loved ones, and pursue our interests but after that, additional happiness hinges much more on love and connection.
If you look to others for fulfillment,
you will never be truly fulfilled.
If your happiness depends on money,
you will never be happy with yourself.
- Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
Originally published at https://chloelingmason.com on November 17, 2019.