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Symbeline's avatar

How important are material possessions?

Asked by Symbeline (30767 points ) July 26th, 2014

More often than not, people will agree that material possession isn’t important, yet we all own shit. And most of us, if not everyone, own a lot more than needed.
How important are material possessions for you, how much importance do you put on the things you own? Could you do without? How much of your life is consumed by consumerism?

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26 Answers

marinelife's avatar

Not very much at all. I treasure some family photos.

I don’t particularly like to shop. I don’t have a lot of things.

El_Cadejo's avatar

I say not important at all but it’s not entirely true. When I went to Central America for 7 months I brought two back packs with me. About 2 months into the trip I forgot about half the shit I owned back in the US. Clearly if I was forgetting about it, how important could it be? Then about 5 months into my stay in Belize I went to Honduras for a month. I didn’t feel like bringing all my stuff with me so I downsized to 1 back pack and left the other stuff with a friend in Belize. Well two weeks into Honduras I couldn’t remember half the shit I had in Belize.

By the end of this trip I thought I had really changed and when I went home things would be different. NOPE. Fell right back into it.

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dappled_leaves's avatar

Sometimes very important, for me. There are some things I own that I simply love – certain blankets, certain plates, certain artworks, certain books, etc. Of course, everything is replaceable to some degree, and I would survive the loss of any of my things. But I tend to wait to buy specific items until I find just the right thing, and some things have been brought from very distant places, so they do have meaning for me.

It’s not necessarily the same thing as consumerism – monetary value is very seldom related to the value I place on things personally.

Coloma's avatar

I enjoy aesthetics for the beauty certain objects give but in and of themselves material items are not important. What is important to me is enjoying my surroundings so this is the main role objects play for me. Not an ego thing, of status thing, but a beauty and ambiance thing.

Pachy's avatar

I don’t think of my possessions as “shit” but rather the spoils of a lifetime of work. Do I need it? Most of it, no. Could I survive without it? Most of it, sure. I’m just like Navin R. Johnson (Steve Martin).

Navin: I don’t need any of this. I don’t need this stuff, and I don’t need you. I don’t need anything. Except this.

[picks up an ashtray]

And that’s the only thing I need is this. I don’t need this or this. Just this ashtray… And this paddle game. – The ashtray and the paddle game and that’s all I need… And this remote control. – The ashtray, the paddle game, and the remote control, and that’s all I need… And these matches. – The ashtray, and these matches, and the remote control, and the paddle ball… And this lamp. – The ashtray, this paddle game, and the remote control, and the lamp, and that’s all I need. And that’s all I need too. I don’t need one other thing, not one… I need this. – The paddle game and the chair, and the remote control, and the matches for sure. Well what are you looking at? What do you think I’m some kind of a jerk or something! – And this. That’s all I need.

The ashtray, the remote control, the paddle game, and this magazine, and the chair.

[outside now] And I don’t need one other thing, except my dog.

[Dog growls at him]

I don’t need my dog.

jca's avatar

There are some things that may qualify as material possessions but are necessary in my life.

My car, my bed, my washing machine and dryer, my kitchen appliances like refrigerator, stove, cell phone, computer, TV. Who would argue that those things are not important? When coming out of the shower, is a towel important? When making food, are pots and pans important? It sounds lovely to say “Material possessions are not important to me” yet all of the things I discussed are classified as material possessions, and they’re all critical parts of my life.

Bethanfluther's avatar

Not important at all. When a loved one is ill, nothing matters. You realise that. Family is the most important.

stanleybmanly's avatar

It is extremely difficult to avoid accumulating stuff. It’s annoying, but there’s no pretending that I’m not defined by the crap I own. In fact my life is virtually determined by the effort devoted to its maintenance. The house is being painted now, and I stand in front of the thing puzzling over which of us owns the other. My stuff tries very much to own me. I figure as long as I know it, there’s a slim chance that I can resit its taking me over.

boffin's avatar

How does the saying go?

He who dies with the most toys, wins!

dxs's avatar

Not very important. I’m bare minimum, believe me. I can pack all the clothes I own in one bag.

Coloma's avatar

@Pachy Best. Scene. Ever. !!! haha

Jonesn4burgers's avatar

Important? I want more than a shopping cart and some clothes I found, “Around”, you can be sure. People get all uppity about life being the only real value, but I am aging, and in poor health. I WANT STUFF! I want comfort stuff, pretty stuff, happy stuff, unusual stuff, and stuff to poke bratty little kids with when they come traipsing into my yard.
I want secret stuff, safety stuff, and stuff I can share with friends. I want stuff I can share with people I don’t know. I want stuff I can share with people I don’t like.
I want stuff I can play with. I want stuff I can sit back and look at.
Do I want to trade any of my kids away for stuff, no, but so long as it doesn’t interfere with them being okay, I WANT STUFF.

Anyone having stuff they want to be rid of can send it to me.

SavoirFaire's avatar

“Enough is abundance to the wise.”
—Euripides

“It seems that perfection is attained not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to remove.”
—Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Obviously, we all need some amount of money and stuff to get along in life. This is especially true as the world becomes less and less of one in which you can live completely off the grid. While clothing and shelter have always been material necessities for the human animal, we now live in a society where not being able to access the internet can make you essentially a second-class citizen. That may be fine if you choose to live such a life, but those who want to be more in touch with society are more or less obliged to have possessions that go beyond what is necessary for bare survival.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with this, though. Bare survival is not nearly the same thing as living well, and I think just about everyone wants to live well rather than just live. Nor do I think there is any great virtue in poverty for poverty’s sake. Living without can certainly teach you some important lessons, and making do with less is great when you’re a resource hog, but I wouldn’t wish a life of desperate poverty on anyone.

So to answer your questions, material possessions are less and less important to me all the time. There was certainly a time when I thought of life in checklist terms: get these things and you’ll be all set! I started growing out of it in my late teens and early twenties, however, and finally got over it when I found myself in actual poverty and recognized that my situation was still better than that of so many others. So now just about all of the stuff I have is a holdover from the past.

I’m trying more and more to live by the Antoine de Saint-Exupéry quote above and rid myself of the things I don’t need while buying only replacements for things that have fallen apart. This isn’t always possible. There are books I need that aren’t in any of the libraries to which I have access, and sometimes technology is just too useful to pass up. And beyond that, sometimes new things allow you to get rid of a greater number of old things. My computer and scanner have allowed me to get rid of all sorts of old notes that I had in hard copy only. So I try not to get into the mindset where minimalism means shunning newness.

But I do still own a lot of swords.

Khajuria9's avatar

They are important, sure they are, upto a certain fair level. Beyond that, they don’t carry much significance!

hearkat's avatar

I am mostly pragmatic, so I like stuff if it has a practical purpose in my life. Stuff that I can not fathom are ‘collectibles’ and things that people have to keep track of or dust.

mazingerz88's avatar

As I age, I find it less and less important. Although I could use more pillows like @Symbeline. With marshmallows inside. In case I get hungry while sleeping. : )

Araphel's avatar

As you become older I can say that its easier to shed the old skin of kept things that simply just take up space, now on the other hand, some things become special depending who they came from, I guess you would call that a “Hallmark” moment.

CWMcCall's avatar

Any material object can be replaced, people in your life can’t. My memory is my most prized possession, if I lose that, I won’t know any better anyway.

majorrich's avatar

material possessions can indeed be replaced and not terribly important, but I am very fond of my iPad.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

My guitar, motorcycle and camping gear are not negotiable.

Coloma's avatar

Well right now here, people are evacuating their homes with nothing but their animals and a few important things. A lot of folks are going to lose their worldly possessions as this 4,000 acre wildfire continues to worsen and rage out of control tonight in the parched Sierra Nevada foothills here. :-(

bossob's avatar

I’m 61. Sometime during my fifties, I lost interest in buying ‘stuff’. I could walk out of my house right now with nothing but the clothes on my back and a few important papers, and I wouldn’t miss a thing. My shop full of tools, and my man cave therein, are all I need. (Don’t tell my wife!)

cookieman's avatar

I like my stuff. Of course my loved ones and my health are more important, but I like my stuff.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

We must be in tune @cookieman. As I was reading the previous posts that’s exactly the phrase that was going through my mind. ‘I like my ‘stuff’. I’m not ‘defined’ by my stuff so I don’t consider myself to be materialistic. Certainly, I don’t need much of it and I could live happily without it, but I have things I just like. I don’t have them to impress others but because I like the things I own.

talljasperman's avatar

I need my stuff to survive, most of the other stuff I wish I didn’t need to keep , like tax and employment records, report cards and assignments from K – 12 – Bachelors, and diplomas I keep for fun.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

Material possessions facilitate experiences, which are ultimately all that matters. My most valuable and valued possession is my car. I could have a fulfilling life without it, but the experiences it has brought me are unforgettable, and I keep spending money on it for the sake of the experiences that are to come. The same goes for my TV, in a manner of speaking. I could quite easily live without a TV. It really isn’t that important in my life. But the experiences I had tonight of watching Australia win the Rugby 7s at the Commonwealth games, and then Daniel Ricciardo winning the Hungarian Grand Prix, are truly special.

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