Not Owning Stuff Is The New Owning Stuff

I'm becoming less and less a consumer and more of a minimalist.
Publish date:
May 28, 2014
cost of living, buying stuff, throwing away old clothes

I haven't lived in the same place for over 2 years since my childhood home. I've had to change my address countless times over the last 10 years. I've spent months at a time living out of a giant suitcase and being amazed that I didn't need all my "stuff" to be comfortable. I watch "Hoarders" and spend 99% of the show yelling at the TV, screaming "WHY CAN'T YOU JUST THROW IT AWAY?!?!" The word clutter makes me uneasy. My mom would obsessively clean our house when I was growing up. Oh my God am I turning into her?

I read recently about how more people are living a "Pay-as-you-live-lifestyle," which means we're not so focused on ownership. The percentage of homeowners between the ages of 30-34 has declined 7% since 2005. Owning a house still sounds like a symbol of success, and for some reasons it can be, but the thought of being responsible for a home terrifies of me. The same goes with vehicles. Car ownership for people aged 21-34 has declined 11% in the past 10 years. We're much more likely to consume media digitally rather than keeping shelves of CDs, DVDs and books. Companies like Spotify, Netflix and Zipcar are capitalizing on what the article called an "asset light" generation, by providing access without ownership. Even clothing can be borrowed through companies like Girl Meets Dress and Rent the Runway.

When I moved to NYC a few years ago, I obviously couldn't take my entire apartment since I was moving into my boyfriend's house. I packed a couple giant suitcases and was surprised at how little I missed my things. All I needed were clothes, makeup, and a toothbrush. I eventually purchased more things, but initially my life fit into a suitcase, and it felt weird. I realized that I didn't really need a thousand bottles of moisturizer or books or shoes or nail polish to feel content. Those were objects that I thought said a lot about my personality, when in fact I barely missed them.

I even threw away my high school yearbooks because I didn't have room in my brain for memories of people I no longer talk to. Wow, that sounded dark, but it's true.

My last roommate loved her stuff. I don't blame her, she had a lot of awesome stuff -- thrift store finds from over a decade that could only been thrown away by tearing them from her cold, dead hands. But I've found that I ultimately value portability over having that unique possession.

For instance, I own this awesome vintage record player that I found on Craigslist for $100. It weighs about 200 pounds but sounds like how music was meant to be listened to. When people would come to my house and see my record player it would make me happy because I was excited to show it off.

When I moved out of my apartment, I brought the record player to my sister's for storage, but I'm going to keep it there because it looks nice in her house (and it's way too heavy to move). I'll get a new record player eventually, but it will be minimal and portable since I live on the 3rd floor of an apartment that I'm not going to spend the rest of my life in. That record player did not define my personality, and I'm completely the same person I was before I moved it to my sister's.

I'm becoming less and less a consumer and more of a minimalist. Having a ton of "stuff" just seems less and less relevant. I think twice about buying most things, and won't get it unless I truly absolutely need it .(I NEEDED to get that Rachel Zoe sample sale dress). I'm not crazy cheap, I just enjoy being able to live lighter. There's a crazy psychological addiction to objects that correlates with the "American Dream." We really don't need all the stuff we want. I took one suitcase to London last year and it was more than enough to last me four months. I didn't even wear some of the clothes I packed. I value the things that I have, but I enjoy having less to lose.

Whenever I take a vacation, I find the feeling of being somewhere with only a suitcase very freeing. The addiction to "stuff" is one of the things that always brings us back to our chaotic lives. It's exciting at first, then the real world sucks you into a basin of anxiety and inadequacy about the quality of your "stuff."

Are you a stuff-lover or part of the "lightweight living" movement? What's your most unwieldy possession?