Have you tried The Minimalists’ 10/10 material possessions exercise? In a recent article for The Times, Barbara McMahon explains how it works.
Write down those ‘big ticket’ items
Write down the ten most expensive material possessions you have collected in the past decade such as a car, a house or other “big-ticket” items.
Then consider what adds most value to your life
Then, make another list of the ten things that have added the most value to your life. This will include experiences such as watching your children play, enjoying a family meal or watching a sunset with a loved one.
McMahon quotes Joshua Fields Millburn who says, “Quite often you find that zero things overlap on those two lists. The things that people thought were important may not actually be that important.”
I beg to differ on some of these.
My ten most expensive ‘possessions’ in the last decade
I don’t really class this as a material ‘possession’. It’s our home. It’s an investment. Is it something we possess? I suppose we own it, but we also live in it. Can you live in a possession? Yes, it requires maintenance and upkeep but I would argue that something you inhabit is more than a mere possession. I’d also say that the house is an enabler; it facilitates social and familial connections, in particular.
OK, you’ve got me on this one. Money expert Dave Ramsay says that our car is the single biggest purchase we make, which also depreciates in value. In fact, I’m planning on going car free next year, using public transport or pedal power for a while. We’ll still share a single family car, but this will be one less material ‘possession’ I’ll own.
Nonetheless, owning a car is – in my mind – a significant enabler. Holidays by the sea, for example, are made possible by virtue of the car we choose to pay for. Likewise, it would be hard to sustain family connections if we didn’t own a vehicle. Local hobbies are also more readily accessible through being able to jump into a car.
Perhaps if you live in a city where transport links are good, you might disagree with this. Here in woody Warwickshire, access to a car is still important (and I’m not yet in the habit of calling up an ‘Uber’).
Dining room furniture
Our 19th Century French dining set was our first decent purchase in our current home. In fact, this table and 6 chairs is probably one of the most expensive single item we have ever bought. It came from a local antique dealer/restorer, who takes regular trips to the continent to acquire beautiful items of furniture to restore and sell. Ours is cherry wood, elegant and beautiful. I love it.
But, does it add value? Well, actually, it does. In the introduction to Nigella Lawson’s current television series, At My Table, Nigella points out that, “A table is not just a piece of furniture, just as food is more than mere fuel.” She continues that the table she first bought was not just to “eat at, but to live around.”
That’s the point. Time with friends and family often occurs round that dining table. In truth, gatherings of this nature don’t happen as frequently as I’d like, but that’s not the point. This weekend, we welcome two house-guests, who are homestay visiting students from China. Around our table, we will get to know our visitors in a way that wouldn’t be possible if we didn’t sit down together to ‘break bread’.
Is a pet a material possession? Like anything you need to maintain (back to the car analogy), you have to feed it, look after it and exercise it. And owning a dog isn’t without cost.
Yet, any dog owner will tell you how much joy dog ownership brings into your life. Indeed, this has been the subject of academic research including a recent work by Nickie Charles at The University of Warwick looking at animal-human interactions, notably how pets become ‘kin’.
I thought you said it was 10?
Well, this is supposed to be ten items, but I am struggling to think of any other significant material possessions we have bought in the last decade that fall into this category.
So, I’m curious. Can you think of 10 ‘big ticket’ material items? Or even just a few? What are they? And do they cross over with the things, people or experiences that add value to your life?
In my case, it seems they do. What about you? I’d love to know your thoughts – let me know by replying to this post in the comments box, below.
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