Your Wants Are Out of Control

Very few admit to being materialistic; if they do it’s said that they are only on occasion. The term carries with it visions of wealthy men and women lounging by a pool sipping wine after a long day of shopping at Gucci, Rolex and browsing the Aston Martin showroom. By such definition, most Americans wouldn’t see themselves as resembling such extravagance. But our conventional definition of the word has us living in a way that is far more detrimental psychologically, and financially.

What’s worse than being financially wealthy and frivolously throwing money around? Not being financially wealthy and frivolously throwing money around. The former exists when you have a sizable amount of wealth and can afford to spend it liberally; the latter has you living outside of your means and digging yourself deeper into debt.

Thanks to globalization and the advent of cheap consumer goods, Americans are able to enjoy a luxurious lifestyle even with a very modest income. This is made possible by outsourcing the production of goods and forcing factories into wage wars by driving labor costs down to compete for business. But you and I never see this – we’re far too busy buying our new $3.00 t-shirt from H&M to bother with where it came from or how it was made. With such a system in place, the appearance of wealth and status is well within reach of just about anyone.

Since we are able to acquire cheaper versions of a product vs their expensive counterpart – we also acquire the false feeling of having gotten something special; because the expensive version is desirable and rare, hence why it expensive which makes it even more desirable. The correlation between status and well being is triggered the moment we get that new car, watch, purse, wine, tv, cell phone or any other product that is a cheaper version of its luxury equivalent.

But here’s the interesting part, I just mentioned items that are synonymous with being materialistic: cars, purses, watches, cell phones – items that are used to convey status. But what if you don’t care about these things? Maybe you tell yourself “I’m not materialistic, I’d take records, books, and vintage clothes over luxury goods any day.” Thing is that materialism isn’t limited to a set criteria – it exists in all forms. A hoarder is materialistic, even though they often possess garbage, they are still placing an over inflated value on things.

The goal isn’t to replace one obsession with another, but to change the way we think about our wants – taking the time to better understand and refine them. The kid that buys a bunch of records to impress his friends with their collection is – at their core – no different from the billionaire with a collection of sports cars – both are trying to convey a similar message: “Look at me; look at how interested I am in *insert noun here*.” 

 We tend to not believe that someone is truly serious about something until they show it through their actions and purchases. Take for example someone who tries to appear environmentally conscious: drives a Prius with a “Coexist” bumper sticker on the back, shops for groceries at their local Whole Foods, recycles every week, votes Democrat, and only buys clothing made from organic cotton. If you saw this person you’d be safe in assuming that they cared about the environment. But do they? 

 I believe that if you are passionate about something you don’t need to follow the conventional blueprint others have laid out for you. You can be an audiophile without having a house full of records – do you even listen all the records you currently have? You can love fast cars while only having just one that you cherish and put blood, sweat, and tears into restoring; that’s more valuable than any “impressive” auto collection. And believe it or not you can be an environmental activist while driving an old civic, wearing Adidas you bought from Goodwill and shopping at whatever grocery store is closest to you.

 You don’t have to be a caricature – you just have to be genuine. The only attributes you need to project out into the world are the ones that make sense to you, and you alone. 


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27 thoughts on “Your Wants Are Out of Control

  1. What a different and COMPLETELY accurate way of looking at this:
    “We tend to not believe that someone is truly serious about something until they show it through their actions and purchases.”
    I love this statement, however am only now, at 40-something, able to see the light. I was raised to collect things. I have begun the process of digging out from under this legacy, and trying to educate my Mom at the same time….
    I am also aiming to raise my daughter differently, so that she understands that all this “stuff” isn’t what makes us truly happy.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. YES, my wants have been out of control while at the same time we’ve never been wealthy. When I finally stopped trying to keep up with the Joneses (and it was just me, my husband was never one to compare himself much with others), we had to start digging ourselves out of debt, not a fun thing to do as a middle aged couple, but my husband and I are determined! What’s nice now is our purchases are made with more thought to our budget, more consideration as to the labor practices behind an item, and an evaluation as to the life span of the item.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lol! That reminds me of my favorite story about the wealthy man who, on his deathbed, made his wife promise to bury his wealth with him. At his funeral, the wife’s friends and family asked if she had carried out his dying wish. She replied that of course she had……she wrote a check and placed it in the coffin with him!


  3. Interesting post about not living above your means or worshipping the god of other people’s opinion.
    Not all record collectors are about look at me! My daughter scrounges through old thrift stores for albums as she is a public radio dj. Our rural community has many cds and albums but certain catagories are slim. She plays them so that folks from Taos NM to Alamosa Colorado and beyond can enjoy these tracks.
    As conservation and environmental activists we aren’t buying food at Whole foods or GMO at chain grocers. We grow our food in a garden, hoop house and geodome high in the rockies off grid. We also donate food to an emergency shelter about 50 miles away. We repurpose things beyond normal usage and have zero food waste.
    I drive a 4 door Tacoma 4×4 as we get hitch hikers here so no one has to walk in the snow.
    Where I live the wealthy are more likely donating land, equipment, or time to help the community than wear a Rolex or sip wine by the pool. They drive trucks wear old Levis and dusty cowboy hats. Folks here aren’t impressed by anything but old fashioned honesty, integrity, Fairplay and community driven action.
    Just a little different perspective to add to your more urban opinion.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I guess, as a person looking for my life’s meaning on earth. It all seems that what I have now adds up to what I’ll have. i guess. I still am wandering why having what you have now will work just as the same as when you have more. why is that? and I think that is because somewhere out there I am meant to give value and not to just receive.


  5. The question I ask myself while reading is: Would I admit to being materialistic?

    The answer is probably simple, but I make it difficult. It’s hard for me to admit. I would probably say my actions speak louder than my intentions; I am a product of my actions, and those actions define me as being materialistic.

    I desire minimalism. I desire to reduce the belongings I have. I desire to place value on the few objects I have, and to care for those objects so they last.

    I agree with the idea that our current society places the “appearance” of wealth and status within the reach of almost anyone, and as a result, many of us desire to have the appearance of wealth and status. The problem is not all of us can afford it; only a select few can get the 4c diamond ring. The rest of us buy the cheap knockoff; or more commonly today, we finance the 4c diamond ring for 60 easy monthly payments.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I like the thought about being genuine and not a caricature of a minimalist or an environmentalist or millionaire or……whatever. I like having stuff and I will admit to being materialistic. Yet I’m also trying to minimize my belongings by passing on things to others that I no longer need, things that no longer hold meaning or appeal for me, things that no longer fit our lifestyle. But the hubs and I never bought into the keeping up with the Jones’ thing. Why would I want to have or live with stuff for the sole purpose of impressing other people? We’re not trend followers and I really don’t care if what I have, like or do is currently in style or fashionable or not.

    Anywho, I think most people are materialistic to some degree. And I don’t think that being materialistic is a horrible thing unless you’re not being honest with yourself about why you have and want the things you possess.


    1. Thank you for your comment! To touch on what you said about all of us being materialistic, I agree with you. We all have that in us. But, I feel that it’s important to channel our focus towards the “things” we value the most and leave behind that which doesn’t enrich our lives.


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