When my husband and I first moved from Texas to London three years ago, we sold his home, both of our cars and almost all of the furniture. It is difficult to put into words how freeing it was to let it all go. We found ourselves with no car insurance payments, no house payments, and with few possessions in hand. We took part of the money from the sale of these things we realized we did not need anymore to buy two plane tickets to South East Asia. We now have grown accustomed to this lifestyle of living in a smaller space and getting to travel so much more as a result of living where we do. Traveling has always proven to be worthwhile to me though there are times when I have to remind myself of what I really want because I am once again lured by the bigger and newer home that would hinder this freedom. Perhaps the most surprising thing is that this temptation never ceases to stop, not matter how much we own.
I remember hearing a saying that you actually do not ever own things but that they, in fact, own you. They take your time, money, and space. The more things you buy, the bigger the space you need to hold them. You have to maintain these things and you have to spend energy on them. At one point in my life, my weekends were spent working in the yard or on the interiors
of my large home, a home that I bought with my then husband. We were preparing for a family and we thought we needed the space. We did not. When he died, I was left with a four-bedroom home to take care of. It took years to sell and was one of the biggest thorns in my side. It taught me the valuable lesson on living more in the moment and buying what I need when I need it.
How much do we need? Truly need? Society tells us we need incredibly more than we do and they have to, it creates the economy that we live in. However, study after study and story after story proves we benefit from owning so much less. Research has shown that as countries get richer, they do not get happier. Luxuries become necessities and we lose gratitude. Stories say the same. Recently I heard a man talking about his experience getting to know a relatively poor man in Africa and he said about him, "Though he had not much materially, he believed that he lacked nothing. And that, that is what I wanted." What is it that you want? Truly want? For most, it is happiness, love, contentment and meaning. Many argue that things have a sneaky way of actually getting in the way of what we truly long for.
Money is a good thing. We need it to survive and having a bit of extra can make life easier as it provides us with the wealth of having options and security. However, it can also control us and alienate us from others if we hold onto it too tightly. It can be a problem for both rich and poor. It all depends on how much time and value we place on things.
Traveling has taught me that there are many ways in which to live out life and that you certainly do not need nearly as much as you think you do. We all need a certain amount to live and some luxuries are nice to have. We all need to continue to ask ourselves if we are wasting hours working hard only to buy more things? Are we neglecting family, friends and ourselves in the chase for more? Is what we own or the focus on what we want to own causing stress? Are we trying to buy status or image based on possessions? Studies have shown time and again that those who are materialistic are much more depressed and unhappy than those who focus on experiential living. Materialism affects both rich and poor as it creates selfish and lonely people. Experiential living promotes community and relationship.
Live simply and live more engaged. Be mindful about what you purchase and how you spend your precious resources of time and money. Live aware of what brings you true meaning and joy. Invest in people instead of things. You will be happier you did and this is a reminder we all need.
Your life is a story. Live it fully. Do not let what you own keep you within walls. Break free and get out there. Experience the world and those in it.