A lot of people out there, myself included, put out there the idea that stuff doesn’t define us. “Stuff” is not what we should be using to measure ourselves. “Stuff” does not make us who we are.
In my adventure into a simpler life, my relationship with stuff has changed dramatically. I don’t have a lot of stuff and most of the things I do acquire are usually not even new. I like not having too much stuff. I like that when all the laundry in the house is clean, there is a place for everything.
Ridding my environment of things that were just taking up space and serving little purpose feels good. I like that when I want or need something new, that I put thought into what will make its way out of my house in return. I like giving careful consideration to where something is going to go, what the purpose of it is going to be and how beautiful I find it before I decide to aquire it.
Here are some things about things that I have been thinking about.
- things do not define us
- not having things does not define us either
- if people are defining us by what we have or don’t have, should we really be worrying about what they think anyway?
- are we seeking to put out to the world and people we meet who we are through “stuff” because it’s become a world in which we’re moving too quickly to stop and learn more about people than what we think of them based on how they are dressed and what they are driving?
Here’s the thing about things. I truly believe that I am more than my stuff. I am more than being defined by new gadgets and a big house and new cars. But whether I like it or not, the life choices I make DO define me. Am I living a small, debt-free, simple life? Yes. Will people see that when they meet me? Depending on the situation, sure. I don’t meet people at the park and say “Hi, I’m Emily. I grow my own vegetables, line dry my clothes and have no debt. Wanna be friends?” Those may be parts of who I am, but do I consider them to be top notch things that everyone should know about me the moment they see me? I think not.
Can you imagine if all the people that you saw that you thought “Wow, look what they have!” had to provide you with their entire financial picture to go with it? Some probably look good, others probably have pretty ugly financial pictures. But the same is true of people living just like I do. A person living what looks just like my life could also be buried in debt and have no money. The point is that while a lifestyle can give a decent glimpse into what someone’s life really is like, it’s not reliable.
What does all of this mean? People will make judgments either way – some will love you for having lots of stuff and a big new house and others will think you’re wasteful and everything in between. Some will love you for living so simply and small and others will feel bad for you.
When you’re living your life, one that you are content and happy with, the details don’t matter. You can have things that I don’t and that is great. You can feel bad for me for the things I don’t have, but it doesn’t matter. I am not about to start getting more stuff to make you happy. I am not about to sacrifice my future to buy a house that is bigger than I need and hogs up money I can put toward tomorrow.
In all honesty, I don’t know anyone who just doesn’t care one iota what anyone else thinks. I think most of us enjoy a little validation, some compliments and a pat on the back from time to time. For me, I would rather be commended for being a nice person, caring about others, thinking about the environment, planning for the future, being a great mother and having an ability to make people laugh and smile from time to time. I don’t want people to commend me on a job well done signing those mortgage documents. “Nice signature, Emily. Now can we have your arm and leg please?” But that’s just me and those are my values.
Be true to who you are. Don’t try to live up to what you think other people expect of you and will think better of you for having. And on the flip side, don’t get rid of stuff that you enjoy just to impress people who live with less. BE YOU. If you are content in a big cozy house and can afford your life and aren’t a slave to the messages around you but are simply living out who you are and what makes you feel good, then that is what matters. People will see that you are a happy and content person because of who you are, not what you have or don’t have. Find your motivation for the life you live and ask if it’s what you want. Are you motivated by impressing others or do you feel insecure about your lifestyle compared to others? Things aren’t going to solve that because there will always be new things and new expectations and there’s always the upgrade. Set your limits. Live within them and be content. It’s worth it.