The things we own end up owning us

What I know about acquiring the almighty stuff.

 

The things we own end up owning us.

 

I never understood it. Not really. Not back when I had more than enough things and space. Not now that I still have more than enough things and space—just rearranged into a less-conventional setting.

 

Was I too dumb? Was it too philosophical? Did only “real” minimalists get it?

 

A few nights ago, my best friend’s parents stopped by my parents’ house. It was my first night back in my hometown in over 6 months and my first time seeing them in well over a year. They kept saying how brave we are.

 

Brave for getting out there and doing it.

 

Brave for taking a leap of faith.

 

Brave for leaving everything behind.

 

Brave? I have cried while rock “climbing” up a “wall” that other people were walking up without so much as a helmet or a rope. On multiple occasions.

 

They talked about the big trip they wanted to take someday. Maybe to the mountains. Maybe to the South.

 

Imperceptibly, the conversation shifted to stuff. Their boxes that’d been gathering dust for a decade. My jeans I packed in the trailer the day we left Colorado and haven’t touched since. They’ll fit some day, right?

 

Later that night as I reflected on their visit, for a fraction of a second I understood.

 

The things we own end up owning us.

 

The dusty boxes. The too-tight jeans. The gifts from family. The expensive TVs. The backyards. The space. The non-wheeled floors underneath our feet. The false sense of security they give us. The false value we give them.

 

We can’t get rid of them! We traded them for money—and we traded our precious time for that! We need them because everyone else we know has them! If our lives aren’t like everyone else’s, we won’t know how to live them!

 

We signed on the dotted line and quite literally traded our lives for these cars and these houses and these debts and these slips of greenish, paperish stuff.

 

So we sit in our over-furnished prisons and talk about how we’re “so jealous so-and-so gets to travel all the time,” willfully ignoring the conventionalities they’ve given up, the discomfort they’ve faced, and the priorities they’ve shifted to do so.

 

So we use one of our unnecessary devices to watch YouTube videos about expats in Costa Rica and talk about how we “wish we could do that,” completely overlooking the fact that the people on the other side of the camera have given up all their stuff, adopted an alien lifestyle, and committed to producing content day in and day for a chance to scratch their wanderlust itch.

 

So I show off my little home on wheels and preach about what little I understand as I spend money I don’t really have on gifts no one really needs to stow in space that doesn’t really exist and the things I own end up…

 

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