“‘Cause it’s a bittersweet symphony, this life / Try to make ends meet / You’re a slave to money then you die”
- The Verve, Bittersweet Symphony
When we first began talking seriously about downsizing and simplifying, my husband and I often discussed feeling trapped by our lifestyle and by our stuff.
Once you have all this stuff, you get accustomed to it. Things that at first seemed like luxuries begin to feel like necessities.
Middle-class and affluent people who seek more wealth are often stuck on what psychologists call a ―hedonic treadmill‖—a perpetual pursuit of material goods, which reduces the available time for personal relationships and yields minimal emotional rewards. While, initially, a person may view regular international travel as a luxury, once acclimated, not only is it viewed as essential, but also the person now strives for first-class or, better yet, a private jet. Once we adapt to new material products, we strive for ever-higher aspirations; the more we get, the more we want. The kick of owning a big house or a giant flatscreen television tends to be short-lived, as these possessions become the next, unexciting norm. [The Psychology of Happiness; Stanford School of Business]
“It’s heartbreaking when we hear stories from friends that lament feeling “trapped”, having to turn down opportunities because their traditional home mortgage limits their choices.”
- Logan Smith
Maybe you practice mindfulness and gratitude. Maybe you’ve succeeded in feeling thankful for what you have instead of wanting more and better stuff. You may still be feeling trapped by debts, as well as the amount of stuff you’ve already accumulated.
Downsizing to a smaller home may help solve the debt problem, but then you have to move. And you have all that stuff. It’s hard to move when you have a lot of stuff. So you stay.
Or maybe you feel embarrassed by downsizing. You don’t want to tell your family and friends. They may think less of you. You have a reputation as someone who lives in a certain type of home with a certain amount of stuff.
You don’t see how you can move. You stay. Feeling trapped becomes the norm.
“We were tired of feeling trapped. We were tired of selling back pieces of ourselves to monthly payments and new kitchen tables.”
- Adam Baker
You continue to go to a job you hate or work more hours than you’d like because you have bills to pay. You become more anxious. More depressed.
You toy with the idea of making changes, but feel defeated. And trapped.
Then one day, you decide to go for it.
Maybe, like me, you start making gradual changes. Or maybe you’re more of a do-it-all-at-once person, and you spend all your free time for a couple of months sorting, selling and donating your stuff.
Either way, you wake up one day and realize you feel lighter. Freer. Happier.
Just do it.