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Photo: Jason Wong

Now that I make less money, I don’t want things

Not because I can’t have them.

They create decisions and distractions I don’t think I need. Even the things that hold sentimental value burden me daily. Books are not things, but even those I lend and give and swap and share, because I can’t own knowing nor do I want to try.

I have little interest in the magic of tidying up, I just don’t want to be weighed down.

Thinking about things —wanting them, acquiring them, having them, storing them, tossing them— can dampen a good day and turn an okay day bad. I’m no minimalist; my existence is filled with indulgences of all kinds. I just try to make sure they aren’t things, because things stress me out.

It took me going freelance, moving to a place with a low cost of living and universal healthcare, and spending half of my savings on a passion project — the only thing-that’s-not-a-thing I’ve ever been remotely proud of — to realize this. But now that I have much less money than I did working a 9–6 corporate job, I don’t crave ownership.

I’m on Instagram. I see the things. I see people seeing and wanting and buying and posting the things. Hell, I even like the things. They look nice. I just don’t want them.

My only (small) regret of the last two months is that I bought a dress on a whim. Not the big meal I splurged on, not the unnecessary vacation I booked, not the monthly fee for a gym I visit 1.5 times a week at most. A dress. It’s hanging in my closet, tags still on, eyeing me every time I open those doors and close them without pulling it off the rack. I may never wear this dress. But it’s mine. And I’m not happy about that.

Am I trying to tell you buying is bad? No. Am I trying to tell you not to care about your style or your home or the skin on your face? To shed your materialism and wade into the lotus ponds of enlightenment? I don’t think so.

Aren’t I supposed to want more things, the less money I have? Isn’t that the point — to always be striving, to always be indebted to the system, to always be chasing that sparkly feeling you get when you’ve wanted something and it becomes yours?

If I get a new job with bonuses and benefits, will I want things again?

I’ll let you know.

Tired in Los Angeles. (Previously: Berkeley, NYC and Mainz, Germany)

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