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You Don’t Have to Own Everything You Like

By Tara McKenna


While it may seem obvious that that you don’t have to own everything you like, we live in a culture that promotes the message that we should buy everything we want. Even if that means going into debt for it.


As a result, most of us are spending more money than we have on things we don’t need, trying to keep up with lifestyles that above our current means.


As Dave Ramsey eloquently puts it:


“We buy things we don't need with money we don't have to impress people we don't like.”

Plus, excessive consumption is cluttering our homes, requiring most of us to find out if the stuff we have sparks joy, as Marie Kondo has popularized the life-changing magic of tidying up. Let’s have less unnecessary stuff in the first place!


I like nice things just as much as the next person. But what I’ve come to realize over the years is that I don’t want to own all the things that I find beautiful. Yes, I do buy things, of course, but not everything. Instead, I can appreciate things that are lovely and move on.


For example, I used to love buying knick-knacks while traveling as souvenirs to remind me of my trips. Over time though, this started to create a lot of clutter in my home that I didn’t enjoy, and my fondest memories from my trips were available in photographs. I discovered that all I needed were the images from my trip!


If I do want to bring anything home from my travels, I prefer consumables (like a local wine or specialty spices) or something more prominent that I know I’ll enjoy for years, such as artwork.


Let’s take cars as another example. When we see the lives of the rich and famous, it seems that with more money comes more cars. Some celebrities have immense car collections!


Maybe I simply can’t relate to a desire for cars regardless of how much money I have in the bank, but for me – as someone who can appreciate a nice (preferably electric!) car – I’d rather go to a car show to enjoy the vast array of vehicles available to appreciate them rather than own them.


Similarly, we can enjoy specialty collections at museums. Fashion at fashion shows. Art at art galleries. Animals in nature or by watching documentaries. We simply don’t need to own everything that we see that we love, even if we have the financial means to make the purchase.


It can spark joy, but we don’t need to own it.

Here are some tips that can help you filter your future purchases through this new lens:


Buy consumables instead:

This is my favourite option because consumables allow me to bring something home that reminds me of my adventures near and far without creating a lifetime of clutter. Consumables can range from food and beverages to personal care products like soaps and bath salts to candles. If it can eventually “disappear” then it’s a consumable – just be sure it’s something that you will consume!


Purchase something you actually need:

Maybe you do need a new car, so of course go buy it if that makes sense for you. But do you need ten cars? Whether or not you have the means to buy ten cars, people still aspire to have car collections. Consider what you *need* and focus your energy there.


Ask yourself a few questions before making a new purchase:

  • Do I want this because I love it or because I want to show off? If you’re buying to show off, perhaps take a hard pass.

  • How long do I anticipate that I will enjoy and/or use this item? If you think it’s a short-term love affair, perhaps take a hard pass.

  • Do I want to maintain this item over the long term? If you don’t think you’ll want to look after the item over time, perhaps take a hard pass.

  • Does this item require that I make additional purchases? If this item requires the purchase of many more new items, perhaps take a hard pass (See the next tip on the Diderot Effect).


Be conscious of the Diderot Effect:

Back in the 1700s, Denis Diderot was a French philosopher who lived in poverty for most of his life until he came into money in his 50s. With the extra disposable income, he bought a new scarlet robe. Unfortunately, that robe didn’t match anything else he owned, so he started to upgrade everything else in his life.


This happens to us all the time. We buy one thing, only to need more things to go with it. A new cell phone might require a new cell phone case and new headphones. A new kitchen appliance might then inspire all new appliances to match, or heck, a whole new kitchen remodel. Be conscious that a new purchase may lead to more new purchases, you may be inspired to reconsider that initial purchase.


Rent instead of own:

My husband and I once rented a trailer from Outdoorsy to go on a road trip. I love that we didn’t have to buy the trailer to enjoy it. As a result, I don’t have to maintain a trailer, have it sitting in our driveway, or need to buy the other accoutrements that go with it.


When we were done using it, we simply returned it! (perhaps the only way I'd want to own a trailer is if we were renting it out and it became a money-making asset - which is something you can do if you have a trailer that you don't use all year-round!)


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The main takeaway from this post is to keep in mind that we don’t need to own everything in order to enjoy things that we love and could simply appreciate in another way.