Below is an article I wrote recently for A Lust for Life.
“People were created to be loved. Things were created to be used. The reason why the world is in chaos is because things are being loved and people are being used.” John Green
I remember the first time I came across this quote. I thought it was so deep and profound, yet extremely simple and true in it’s sentiment. Why do we have things so backwards?
In the last year, this quote has become even more glaringly obvious to me. Out of the blue, my relationship fell apart (read full story here) and as well as having lost my relationship, I had also lost all of my ‘stuff’ (clothes, shoes, bags, jackets, electronics, toiletries etc.). I was at home on a holiday at the time and was left with just the medium sized suitcase of items I had brought with me for the trip. My ‘stuff’ was meant to be shipped back to me, but that never happened. Dealing with the break-up was one part of the equation, but dealing with not having all my ‘stuff’ was another. I hadn’t been working abroad and had sold my car and cancelled all bills before leaving. The idea of having ‘nothing’ (i.e. no job, no savings, no car, no place of my own, no income, no bills, etc.) was overwhelming.
Society (more namely capitalism) projects that in order to be happy, successful, powerful, confident, earn respect and be taken seriously by others, we need to have a high performing career, earn lots of money, own a car (or two!), have a house (or two!) and buy the latest trends and gadgets so we don’t appear lacking or inadequate to our peers. We’re fed a notion that chasing all of these things lead to success and happiness. But we all know that isn’t true. It’s that old saying ‘Money doesn’t buy you happiness’. It doesn’t come from constantly chasing outwardly things and obtaining ‘stuff’ to fill voids.
What initially paralyzed me with fear, actually turned into a blessing and a highly enviable position – for probably the first time in my adult life, I had no bills! This wasn’t a curse; it was a source of great joy and freedom. Yes, it was still an extremely difficult time but I managed to change my thinking and appreciate this time. It has been very liberating and a valuable learning curve, and although I wouldn’t have called myself very materialistic before, I’ve certainly changed my whole perspective now. Here’s what I’ve learnt from detaching from possessions:
Life becomes less complicated (and more enjoyable) when you release the need for things. Thinking becomes much clearer as well.
- The thrill is in the chase. Buying the latest trend/gadget offers instant gratification/buzz but then this wears off and the cycle continues. Next thing you’re working crazy hours, stressed out and in major debt. All while trying to accumulate more ‘things’.
- Happiness is a state of being, not having.
- The person you are is not connected to the things you own. I shifted my perspective back to this notion. Things are just things and like the quote above, they are to be used, not loved.
- It’s amazing how few things we actually need in life and how we can survive and even thrive on the basics.
- I developed a heightened sense of discernment and awareness, which helped me to detach from feelings of ‘want’ & ‘need’.
- The value of experiences and building memories became much more important to me than material things (i.e. going on a weekend trip with friends, meeting for coffee/dinner/gig, doing a fun activity etc.). Experiences feed the soul and provide a lifetime of memories and happy feelings.
- I actually gained more time. It’s amazing how much time I saved when I didn’t have as many choices (think about how many times you’ve looked at your overflowing wardrobe, tried on 20 different outfits and still complained you had nothing to wear!).
- My sense of gratitude grew enormously. Even in the shit time I was in, I was so happy and grateful for having family & friends who loved & supported me. I was also extremely grateful for the learning’s that I was being taught.
- Best of all, I grew in self-belief. Stripped of possessions and removed from societal pressures, I became more confident in the real me. I am not what I wear or what I own, I am me, and this realization has been more rewarding than any ‘thing’ could offer me. Less is truly more!
Even though this ‘detachment’ was initially forced on me, I would highly recommend people doing this of their own accord (don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be so dramatic & all in one go!). Although I’m back earning and have bills, I still use the discernment I developed and when I feel like I’m being suckered into an impulse purchase, I stop, breathe and ask myself if I really need it – 99% of the time the answer is no! Life truly is amazing and works in mysterious ways!
Give it a go, de-clutter, start small and donate a few things, with the intention of building up over time until all the items you haven’t used/worn in ages are no longer clogging your life. I bet you will feel lighter and think much clearer.
During the process you can also ask yourself the question Kim Coupounas asks in her TEDx Talk ‘The Joy of Less’; why are we so afraid of having less?!