It’s Not About The Stuff

by Kristina on August 6, 2012 · 5 comments

stuffOne of the main reasons why people get into debt, other than buying a home, purchasing a car, or going to school, is because people spend more money than they need to on things that they don’t need.

Living beyond our means is a main reason why people get into debt, when people spend more money than they make they are forced to live on credit.  This can be a dangerous financial habit and it can also be a very hard habit to break. Buying stuff may make us feel a sense of self worth, it may be a way for people to determine their self status, or it may be a way for us to spend time while shopping. Therefore I ask you DINKS…What is it about “stuff” that we love so much?

My father has recently let his girlfriend talk him into downsizing their current multi bedroom home into a small apartment.  In the next two weeks my father and his girlfriend will be selling their home, giving away all of their stuff, and taking only the essentials to their new smaller apartment.  I always knew that my father was a “pack-rat” but I never actually realized how much stuff my father has until he started giving it away.

Maybe people love stuff because accumulating stuff makes us feel self worthy.  Some people (such as my father) did not have a lot of stuff while they were growing up; therefore they accumulate a lot of stuff in their adult lives.  My personal theory is that my father never gets rid of anything he owns because he never wants to be without anything ever again.  Even though my father lives in only a two-person household he has several of the same items (such as televisions) in his home which are not being used. I believe that my father enjoys looking at all of the stuff in his house because it is a symbol of his success in life; it is also a symbol of how far he has come from his youth.

Maybe people love stuff because it is a status comparison between ourselves with our family, friends, and coworkers.  Think about the last time that you purchased a new car, did you purchase a luxury car for the status that comes along with it, or did you purchase an economically friendly and cost efficient car because it was a good deal?  Many people buy stuff because they enjoy the status that comes along with it as well as the bragging rights that come along with having expensive stuff.

Maybe it’s not the actual stuff that people love so much, maybe it’s the art of accumulating stuff (i.e. shopping) that people are so attracted to.  I know that I very often use shopping as an activity to celebrate something good that has happened or to drown my sorrows when I am sad because something bad happened. Shopping is an activity that I enjoy, although accumulating stuff that I don’t have room for, and spending money on stuff that I don’t need are not things that I enjoy; unfortunately the two sometimes go hand in hand.

How much stuff do you have stuff in your house?

Photo by buzzfarmers

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 William @ Drop Dead Money August 6, 2012 at 6:28 am

My wife and I had a vivid lesson about this about 30 years ago. At the time we were the consummate yuppies (urban dictionary time for young ‘uns) – the Joneses everyone had to keep up with. Then the company I worked for got sold. I was blessed to have been given a small stake, so we had a windfall to consider what to do with. We decided to retire at 30 and move to a different country. (I know, but we were young then, what can I say?)

So after we sold and gave away all our stuff, we did the usual round of good-bye dinners with all the friends and family. One night, as we sat and chatted after dinner with a couple, they remarked as to how they liked us so much more than before.

Why was that? we asked. They said that when we were so into all the stuff we had, they felt intimidated and unworthy, because they couldn’t keep up. Now that we didn’t have the stuff, they saw us as more accessible, more “normal,” more like real friends. Light bulb moment.

What made us feel good made them feel bad. We had never thought of it that way.

We vowed never again to own another BMW or Mercedes, even if we could afford it. Same with houses, clothes and other stuff.

Since then, the reach and quality of our relationships: each other, family and friends has only gotten broader and richer. We spend much more time laughing and having fun. And that feels a whole lot better than the imaginations of vanity we served before.

Stuff owns you or you own it. There is no middle ground really. Freedom feels great!

Great article!

2 Lauren @ LBee and the Money Tree August 6, 2012 at 9:19 am

My mom is a pack rat, I think it’s because she used to have to work so hard for everything she doesn’t want to let anything go that has any kind of monetary value attached to it. Makes me so mad sometimes, but I’m a hard-core purger because of watching her. I don’t keep anything.

3 John @ Calling the Puts Guy August 6, 2012 at 9:21 am

An excellent article. I know that I like to accumulate stuff (well, rather I don’t want to throw away stuff) because I grew up poor and I always want to find a way to “save” the stuff for later. But with my wife, I learned to keep things simpler now.

@ William, what a great insight! Maybe I should think about being “accessible” although I don’t think that I am that rich or anything, but maybe I shouldn’t have too much expensive stuff around at the house because I love my church family.

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