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"The things you own end up owning you" - From Fight Club

A rail against capitalism and for always staring at a phone screen if ever there was one, but I feel it goes deeper than that. Cars, Homes and everything in them own us more than we own them. Time and money, acquired from trading time at work, go into keeping them clean and in good condition...

I hate everything I have but am too afraid to get rid of it all. I used to think I was setting up a home-base from where I could launch into any endeavor I wanted. No matter what I did I'd always have a home to come back to, but something is off; it's not my home but I am the home's owner.

Anyone able to relate? or counter?

DreadlySmart 5 Jan 27
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27 comments

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8

When I read "Walden" by Henry Thoreau, and he said basically the same thing, it made a big impact on me. I had just lost almost everything I owned in a divorce. It was a tough time, but it wasn't the things I'd lost that made it tough, it was the loss of the life I'd imagined I would have as I got older. The loss of possessions was kind of like a freedom, and I swore I would never accumulate stuff like that again. Even though I have accumulated stuff, even though I swore I wouldn't, I see it in a different way. I had a motorcycle for years, that Karen and I would take trips on. It was an expensive bike. Once we had grandchildren, I noticed we were entertaining grand kids a lot, and not riding. Most people I know would have kept the bike, but the minute I saw I wasn't riding it, I sold it. I try to do that with everything.

7

Fight Club was a satire of nihilism and anti-capitalism. Although the movie ends early, the story actually ends with the narrator trapped in the remnants of the possession-less life he tried to create, stalked by Tyler Durden and the people that still remember him and his ideals.

Whilst this doesn't directly help you, it's worth remembering that the alternatives to our collective situation are not necessarily improvements.

Yeah, it's really hard to tell people the grass isn't really greener on the other side. I'll take my heat, AC, fridge full of food, 52" LCD, and big comfy bed. Anyone complaining about the burden of "stuff" is welcome to live in the box my stuff came in.

"alternatives to our collective situation are not necessarily improvements.", which I know all too well and that is the root of my fear on getting rid of my possessions I'd be no better off, perhaps worse off, but then that just means there is no solution because mathematically represented my 'quality of life' or greenness of grass is f( x ) = -|x|, where x is the amount of stuff I "own".

@DreadlySmart So it appears then that the only thing that needs to change is your perspective. And this is not something that can happen without outside influence. I'm trying to be that influence.

@JeffMurray, I must have originally missed that point but yeah, that's a good point.

6

I get what you are saying. I also did take in the comments of it being a first world problem. What can really be mentally imprisoning, and cast a dark cloud over one's serenity, is getting yourself in so much debt that there is no way out of it. My ex was a spend thrift, and I remember day after day thinking of the debt we acquired and the money we owed. I would think about it first thing in the morning and last thing at night. Bankruptcy was a relief. We divorced soon after that. Other than my car, I have sworn off using credit for anything. I just live in a cheap apartment now and do not buy anything unless I can pay cash. I sleep better at night.

5

Some things are useful and some things that are useful require maintenance. I would not suggest getting rid of everything you own, however, you might consider thinking about what you actually need as opposed to what you want. For example, I might want a Ferrari but I do not need one.

Any lifestyle will require maintenance; it is simply a matter of personal choices. I have known people who worked very long hours every day to maintain a lifestyle that did not appear to bring them much happiness. Whenever they had any free time they were usually too exhausted to enjoy it.

If you feel that you are at some kind of crossroad in your life you might want to read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M Pirsig whom many regard as an outstanding writer and philosopher.

5

I think there is truth to that. The more things you have, the more they weigh you down, the less free you are. You have to have a place to store all your things, and wherever you store them, it costs money, so you have to work more hours. It's kind of a vicious cycle...particularly if you are trying to keep up with the Jones.

4

I doubt that you would ever hear someone on their deathbed say: "I should have spent more time at the office", "I should have spent more time cleaning my house", etc.

If you used 'what I'll think about on my deathbed' to shape all your actions, your deathbed will be a lot closer than you think.

It is just a comment my friend.

@jlynn37 So was mine??

4

a prison keeper becomes a prisoner of those he imprison.

Except the 128 hours a week other people are covering the shifts and the several weeks a year he goes on vacation.

@JeffMurray it went over your head... didn't it? It is not about jailers work week. In the old days the home of the warden was in the prison or very nearby because It was his responsibility to always be available 24/7 and accessible and it went beyond the work week concept. A warden is a slave of those he imprison, in some places it was required the warden ate the same meals. Cooked separate by inmates that served as his servants but the same menu. Many of us become prisoners of our job... wardens are not an exception. Vacation my ass!!!

@GipsyOfNewSpain I love using old sayings about the way things used to be to support the claims made in my social commentary. I just think it's disingenuous to compare the prison sentence of someone in prison with the "prison sentence" of someone who has extra responsibilities associated with their job (that they could quit at any time). That's as dismissive as someone responding to the plight of enslaved people by saying, "We're all slaves, man."

Sorry for not putting down a bong and claiming how profound and enlightened your statement was.

@JeffMurray accepted. but is not about legal system and sentences is about those chains that you don't see. The prison of a marriage for example comes to mind.

@GipsyOfNewSpain I get that. And I imagine some people really are trapped in their marriage, and that's very unfortunate (and obviously excluded from this), but a lot of the time it's manufactured plight, or more accurately, a belief that a near equal amount of displeasurable qualities would be realized if the "condition of chains" was undone. Either way, I still don't feel that these people are prisoners or slaves in any real way that doesn't diminish the plight of actual prisoners and slaves. I suppose we just need a better word?

@JeffMurray OK.

4

The same principal is not limited to materalism. Theism happens to be an excellent example of and idea owning a person as they become a emotive and cognative slave to it. Do they really own the idea of theism? Do they control it or is it like a drug that controls them?

No one controls their beliefs, so no, it controls them.

@JeffMurray It is particullarly sad when It comes to children.

@DavidLaDeau It kinda just is. I mean, it's not any sadder than when a child is raised to be a racist or homophobe or republican. From their perspective, though, it's sad when children are raised not knowing the love of Christ.

@JeffMurray, as a scientist I would initially disagree with "no one controls their beliefs" because I change what I believe based on evidence, but at the same time I wonder if the belief to change my beliefs based on evidence is the controlling belief...

@DavidLaDeau, I think materialism is itself a belief that just manifests physically so you've given me something to consider regarding "do I believe in the value of my material worth".

@DreadlySmart All changes to one's beliefs are directly caused by things outside one's consciousness (e.g. new information from outside sources). You also have no control whether said new information will change your beliefs or not. You have no control over how much you value information, if you will seek it, if you will understand it when you come across it, etc. etc.

4

It's not bad to put yourself into something. I think the problem might be that you're maintaining a home not your home. I don't pretend to know your situation but my short time in the army was largely about maintaining our barracks the "right" way. I only have an apartment now but I set up my furniture the way I like it, I'm investing some time and energy into an aquaponics system, have my art hung up in the few places I like them, and my kitchen is small but, to me, looks elegant enough for a 5 star chef. I see a reflection of me in my apartment so it feels closer to my home. I didn't start out making it mine I just put things here in there until I started to find where the me part goes. Maybe try a project to find your me?

4

I have "endeavors" in my home too. My wife and I enjoy thrift store shopping. I rescue bicycles like some people rescue lost dogs. I spent about a thousand dollars over 8 years, and only succeeded selling 7 of them. About 50 of the bikes were donated to charities for tax purposes. We both have accumulated "collectibles"...for the day that we will need to sell them for fun-and-profit. The collectibles are small, and take up little space. The bicycles had taken over the garage. The difficulty with aquiring stuff is spending time and energy to get rid of them...even for fun and profit.

3

Hmmm.... it's ok for me to be owned and to own. Tranquility of knowing I get paid for doing this or whatever I want to do. It's all paid for. I get to go here and there and its all paid for. Out of all the stupid shit i have done. I made sure i had a job with a pension. Ive always learned other trades to be eligible to be hired. Another words ive made it a point to be taken care of when I retire. I am retired now and I'm paid now to do nothing.

3

Perhaps you should join or consider starting a library of things? Borrow things and use them. Put them back when you are not using them so other people can enjoy them? I don't think it is necessary to own things, just to have control of items when you need them could be enough.

3

I have recently thought that if every American were to immediately clean out the excess "stuff" from their houses, attics and garages, and if every other America accepted and re-used it, then almost every store in America except for groceries would be out of business within 6 months.

Maybe that's why we are seeing so many re-sale shops ? We're already doing that, but at a slower pace?

twill Level 7 Jan 27, 2018

I rode the Metro train into downtown L.A. a couple times from where I was living at the time, about 50 miles north and west of there. As we rolled along, I noticed the ungodly amount of shit in peoples' backyards. Tons of discarded stuff, from old cars, to furniture, to who knows what. Stuff, stuff, and more stuff. Made me wish I'd invested in the storage business a couple decades back.

3

He said from his phone...

I don't know, this kinda seems like a dilemma only well-off individuals would have. I mean, could you imagine saying this to a homeless person living in Cleveland in the middle of winter?

First world problems indeed.

@Rufus_Maximus First world in the USA

Though I do not disagree it is only a problem that would arise for some one more well off in a first world country, the argument you pose is a fallacy of relative privation and unsound because it does not solve the problem nor does it make the problem cease to be a problem.

Ex of similar fallacies are if two men are dying, one of cancer the other of a gunshot to the stomach; one is a worse way to die than the other but the problem still exists for both.

Another is if a parent loses a child and I lose one of my fur babies, some would place greater 'pain' on the former but it does not make my loss any less detrimental to my mental well being.

@DreadlySmart I do not believe your examples are analogous. In your examples both individuals have varying degrees of a similar problem, not one with a problem, and one who thinks he has a problem. Starving and freezing on the street and feeling trapped by material possessions are not varying degrees of a similar problem. If anyone wanted to stop 'being a slave to their things' they could simply give up their things. Not even give them away, literally just walk away from them and never return. When your cancer victim can walk away from his cancer and your pet owner can forget all knowledge of their pet as if it never existed to escape the pain of loss, we'll talk. If, however, the OP talked about an actual problem that needed solved (e.g. my landlord hasn't fixed the heat or hot water in my building and I can't afford to move to a nicer place) and I said what I said THEN you'd have a claim of Relative Privation.

@JeffMurray, "Starving and freezing on the street and feeling trapped by material possessions are not varying degrees of a similar problem." I disagree because one is the lack of material wealth and the other is a perceived abundance of material wealth, how one came to acquire or lose that wealth is irrelevant as in your example of the inability to move because the same solution applies to people in 3rd world countries; to resolve their starvation or lack of shelter they could leave but of course cannot because they lack the means to.

However I think you missed the main point of the examples, it's not about what the solution is or how easy the solution is to achieve, it's about the legitimacy of the claim that the problem is a problem. Which is why the pets and deaths are in there, one could say the other has it better or worse than the other and that's enough to make it not a problem. Dying is always a problem but you'll see people(even the patient) try to dismiss the issue because they have more time or others will say "My child's death takes more of a toll psychologically on me than your pet's death does on you".

@JeffMurray, also, if the two are not varying degrees of the same problem then how could they perceived as relevant when arguing. I say my bit and you retort with "there are starving kids in Africa" or something, if my situation is completely disconnected to theirs then it should have no weight in the argument.

It would be like saying "I have too many apples" and someone saying "but there are people without cars" those are truly not varying degrees of a similar problem.

@DreadlySmart I disagree that you can claim both sides of the arbitrary point of equilibrium are varying degrees of the same problem. They would, necessarily, be degrees of opposite problems. In your examples you didn't say one person lost a family member and the other person had too many living relatives, or that one man is bleeding to death and the other man's blood counts are higher than normal. See how your examples were not analogous?

@JeffMurray, in other words you're saying that I am comparing an apple to an orange where in my intent is to compare an apple to fruit and an orange to fruit. The examples were to further the sampling of examples of fallacies of relative privation which are arguments that use some variation of "A is not as bad as B", doesn't matter if A (or B) has more living relatives if the claim is simply "Losing a pet is not as bad as losing a child" it is as fallacious as saying "That's a first world problem (i.e. you're condition of living is not as bad as someone else's)".

@DreadlySmart Look back, I never said "First-world problem" because although they may not be life-changing for most people, they are still problems. e.g. 'The driver's window in my Mercedes Benz CLK-GTR won't go down' may be scoffed at as a First-world problem, but is something that needs to be fixed, so to say, 'At least you have heat in your car, your problem is irrelevant' would be a fallacy of relative privation. If, however, you said, 'The windows in my Ferrari 575 Maranello go down too smoothly' and someone told you, 'Shut the fuck up, there are people that don't even have cars' that would not be a fallacy of relative privation because you are not comparing problems (you're just being a braggy douche and you would totally deserve to be told to fuck off). The thing you are complaining about is not a problem... unless you are complaining about mental illness that makes you perceive neutral (or likely advantageous) circumstances as problems. Of course, in that case, it STILL wouldn't be a fallacy of relative privation unless I said, "Your problem is irrelevant because there are people with way worse manifestations of mental illness than those you are exhibiting."

@JeffMurray, and "this kinda seems like a dilemma only well-off individuals would have." is not synonymous to "First world problem"?

Even if the answer is no, which I can kind of support, your original comment implies that the issue is irrelevant considering there are homeless people in Cleveland.

@DreadlySmart Even if we are to assume they are the same, which I don't think they are, that still doesn't get around the 'you don't have an actual problem' part.

3

No, my home is my "place", it is where I am for the present, I spend a lot of time at home, because there are many things I can do here, and it saves me having to interact with others. It satisfies so many of my needs.

Took the words right outta my mouth.

Nothing wrong with that. It can be a most satisfying feeling.

interesting... and upon minor reflection I wonder if my home does not satisfy enough of my needs, and in fact I feel at times it may retract many of them.

3

I like this idea there is a similar one about humans and the cultivation of crops. We believe we are masters of these plant species and we use them for our needs. It seems it's the other way around we spend countless hours taking care of these plants, watering them and keeping pest from them just so they can reproduce and fruit so who is really using who?

plants are clever

2

We are between apartments. In November 2016 we packed the previous one into 220 boxes (excluding furniture), took around 10 boxes with us to our temporary home, and put the remainder in storage. We won't move into the new one till this April or May, after an often-delayed renovation.

We miss our books, we miss our clothes, we miss our files, we miss our cooking stuff! People often say, "Aren't you discovering how much lighter your lives are now?" Yeah. We miss our shit.

I've had that with a few things as well, and I suppose those would be the things I feel I control that don't control me. But is there anything that is stored that you realized you don't need/miss?

@DreadlySmart , I'm looking over the spreadsheet right now and the answer is "nope." A sampling:

002: Books – atheism and religion, exercise and survivalist
003: Books – fiction I – x
009: Books – Josh work #3, children’s, Juliet art, fiction w – z, new york city, freak
014: Ceramics from living room – functional
015: Ceramics from living room – fine art
116: Manmade fabric: organza, cotton print, burlap, upholstery, velvet, shiny
119: Tea set, shadow boxes, small lamp, bronze bucket, egg, sailing cup
126: Antiques, backgammon, candle sticks, pocketbooks
142: Roto-Broil
152: Lasagna pan, pyrex measuring cups, 2 glass storage containers
168: Cutting boards, metal tray #2, bigger stockpot, Bundt pan, circular baking pan, baking stone, double-boiler insert, Tupperware #1 of 2
170: Kitchen - glassware
171: Kitchen - glassware
172: Kitchen - glassware
173: Turntables (33/45 and 78), ammunition-box cover, Josh office supplies’ steel wall plate
183: Portfolio materials: postcards, paper, rubber stamp, envelopes, cap for paper-cutting printer
187: Handspun and machine made yarn, stuffing, bobbins, core spinning yarn, small chains, threadbare jewelry, large beaded scarf
192: Sewing tackle and box, scrap bras, antique doll, long sleeve, tanks, stockings, leggings, skirts, night and swim stuff
209: Juliet art books, Juliet art inboxes, josh coffee mug, josh cold weather running clothes and dumbbells

P.S. I have no idea what a "scrap bra" is; she packed that one.

2

Recently had a similar discussion with another member about this topic.
I've lost everything I've owned more than once. that's forced me to learn that it's just "stuff".
Having a home is important to me now. When I was younger, I moved a lot so it wasn't
as important as it is now. I learned to travel light. However, now when I'm ready to sleep, I want MY bed. When I get up, I want to turn on MY coffeemaker, and drink from my own mug. I live a fairly minimalist lifestyle, compared to most, I think. I have 'crap', but it's my 'crap'. I tend to purge fairly frequently.
If I haven't touched it in six months, I tend to either donate it or pitch it. I don't own a car anymore, because I can no longer drive. I think of all the things I've had to get rid of, that's the one thing I miss most. Probably because I miss the freedom of being able to just get in and go. If you're hating everything you own, maybe it's time to do a purge. Start small. See what you can live without, and go from there. It gets much easier the more often you do it. If something is inhibiting your ability to feel "free", perhaps examining it's relative importance is in order?

I feel I have very little, like you I purge stuff regularly and don't think I have anything older than 4-8 years old, I'm not sentimental towards material things so I toss stuff with ease but at the same time I perhaps do not like that what I do have has such 'control', so I will reflect more on what exactly is causing the inhibition.

2

It's a constant war to Just Say No! to more stuff. One of my battles is dragging out stuff no longer wanted, necessary or in the way. I Try to give it away before I throw it out. As much shopping as possible is now done at re-sale shops. Years ago I told my kids...No More presents! We are going to start doing things instead! About a 50/50 success rate rate, but the good 50 part of it is fantastic!

When my ex moved out, I eliminated 5 or 6 vacuum cleaners. She spent a lot of her time organizing....like monthly re-organizing the house. It is a sickness. I threw out many many plastic tubs and lids. Car seats from when the kids were babies.

She liked to paint. The exterior doors were re-painted at least once a year. Most rooms every other year. So I suggested....."Buy cheap paint since you're gonna re-paint anyway" ( I am mean, I was told).

Definitely a sickness. Stay on top of it Dreadly.... Hoarders weren't born that way.

And yes, I have too many guitars and amps......i can only play one at a time.........
And yes, my pole barn has too much junk.

But still my favorite place in the whole world is my home. I'll always have "stuff"......I just refuse to build an addition

twill Level 7 Jan 27, 2018
1

I don't feel like I've ever been on the materialistic bandwagon. I passed on a job at 3 times the salary in order to accept a postdoc when I got out of Grad school even though we were a family of five. By the time the kids were out of college we could afford dinner out occasionally.

Still after retiring, I look around my computer room and see it filled with stuff. The garage is the same way and except for the clutter I have no desire to clean it up.

That said I think I could walk away from it all at any time.

Another thought occurred to me: We are also owned, paradoxically, by the devils we fight, e.g., religion, intellectual sloth, arrogance and the myth of the individual. To name a few too many. Perhaps best left to another post.

hhhmmm... I only tried one round of applications to get into grad school and have thought often that maybe I wanted to continue my education... I got to your comment last but now feel that maybe I missed my true calling and feel trapped where I am not by the possessions but by that one decision...

1

There are many things to rail against in life, if one wishes to do so. I am discovering that the more I go through, in terms of gain and loss, both in the material sense, and relationship-wise, the less I need. Perhaps that is "giving up", admitting defeat, however you want to characterize it; but, I don't feel defeated, I honestly feel liberated ala, "Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose," kind of freedom. My heaviest obligation now is my two dogs, whom I could no more abandon than step in front of a freight train. At this stage of my life (68 yrs old), I don't own a lot of property, most of it lost in the process of relationship termination in one form or another. However, I have quite a decent retirement income, and don't really worry about where my next $$ is coming from, so that's quite a relief.

I think that once you acquire the notion that you do not want to be burdened by material possessions, a way will open up for you. It may not be the way you had in mind, but that's often how life is, right? But, I realize, also that participation and immersion in the capitalist system got me to this point in my life, where I have the choices I have now. So, I will not curse "the system." But, neither will I encourage acquisitiveness. Having innumerable possessions obviously does not bring lasting happiness.

Typically, I make 5-year plans. Sometimes the plan changes, and may shorten or lengthen a bit, and sometimes that's due to unforseen circumstances. My current aim is to investigate other countries to reside in. I can live well enough here, in the USA, but I have become somewhat discouraged by the direction we're going here, politically, and socially. In another country, I could live at a higher level, and share what I do have more comfortably, and without the aggravation of those things that grate on me here. Now, before the criticism and denigration begins, if you have lived in another part of the world for an extensive period, I welcome your respectful comments on the subject. If you have not lived elsewhere, don't bother commenting, your opinion means nothing to me. Yes, I realize nowhere is problem free, and yes, I get that it looks like "running away" from problems, but, again, I'm 68 not 38, and have an inalienable right to do as I please, as long as I don't encroach on the rights of others.

1

Oh ya. Man have you ever said a mouth full! I especially like, "I am the home's owner". All of our stuff owns us more than we own them. You are a sage my young friend. We all become slaves to the great ecopolitico-machine. I didn't realize this until about my early sixties, and that was not very long ago. If I was single I would get rid of all but the essentials and live in an RV, and live in 2 or 3 long term RV parks a year, and enjoy life. I could get rid of maintaining things by 75%. Simplify, and enjoy life more.

I am considering at some point to potentially sell my house and move into a condo or apartment again, but there's always that "if I had/did this, maybe I'd enjoy it more". Right now that's a fence around the backyard for my dog and to potentially foster rescues and to have a more water tight basement... If those fail to satisfy it'll add to the value when I sell, but the idea of doing them myself or paying some one when those changes may not help my mental health is just a dark cloud of why bother? Though I am hoping to take a road-trip to the redwoods (and several stops along the way) so perhaps my home-base idea will come to fruition soon...

@DreadlySmart I love road trips, and the Sequoias.

1

We live in a 'first world country', and most would say we're lucky to do so. You really do have options. You're welcome to sell everything you have and go live the life of a homeless person. I understand there's a growing number of people moving to the remote forests and building a little make shift shack and living off what they can get their hands on.. I'm talking real deal hunting and gathering lifestyles. Is that so unappealing? If not, then go ahead... Nobody is stopping you. I don't think it's fair to ''rail against'' Capitalism, it's just a system you've decided you don't prefer.. It may not be for you, but others (and we're talking a shit load of others) do. Having the opportunity to work toward a goal of bettering your life and the lives of your family (and yes I understand, what you consider ''bettering your life'' may be different than others) is something people are dying to come to this country for. They sneak across our borders illegally on a daily basis hoping they're not caught, just to have a chance at experiencing this thing called Capitalism. I'm often amazed at the whole human mental phenomenon of wanting the things you don't have, no matter what the situation.. In your case you live in arguably the greatest country there is, have a job, a life, a place to live, I'm guessing a car, perhaps a hobby involving ownership of stuff like musical instruments or perhaps a bicycle, or a kayak, or what ever, and you're not happy. Others that live in countries where they could never even dream of such a life would literally give up body parts for the opportunity to have it. I'm guessing you've not spent any time in countries where having stuff like that is just a pipe dream. I'm not saying material possessions like this is what EVERYONE should strive for, perhaps it's just not for you... No need to knock it. If you don't want that life, by all means, give all your stuff away. Go live the minimalist life. Buy a one way ticket to a third world country where everyone lives that way, so you won't feel alone perhaps.. The options are many, just go do it. What's stopping you? Right. I hope you figure out what you want and you go make it happen.. It's one of the great things about the rights all who are lucky enough to be born in this country have, what this country was built on, the most important, to me anyway, is the right to the pursuit of happiness.. I hope you figure out what would make you happy, and you make it happen.. I'm guessing you're probably a really nice person, and deserve it.. Best of luck to you..

0

But for those who DO enjoy simplifying/decluttering (for which I'm not the best advocate, per the below) and even from benefiting from the savings, I recommend the Frugalwoods blog and book, [frugalwoods.com] and [amazon.com]

(Disclaimer: I worked on the book; it's more of a memoir than a how-to.)

And for those comfortable with 12-step modality -- though I complained about it in the discussion [agnostic.com] -- there's Clutterers Anonymous as an at least distant, yet internationally accessible, resource (here in NYC there have been barely any meetings for it):

[clutterersanonymous.org]

0

I'm more willing to rent than to buy: Camper, ATV, Boat..... whatever.
Not a better feeling in the world than ride it around and then hand the keys off to someone and then walk away! I had the fun, you get the headache.....and the payment

twill Level 7 Jan 27, 2018
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