Things You Own End Up Owning You.

The title of this post is one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite movies – Fight Club. The quote is from Tyler Durden, (and without telling you too much in case you haven’t seen the movie) who is anti-establishment and anti-consumerism…making it one of those movies that every person who feels the same should see just for his quotes alone! I have quoted another line from the movie in my Money Quote Friday series a while back – “You are not your khakis“…so you can see what kind of guy he is – a lot like me in a lot of ways. I guess that is why I identify with the movie so well, as I too don’t believe that what you own or buy makes you who you are or can make you happy. It’s just stuff! Even if you can pay cash for everything you own and not pay on credit, you still have to store, clean, move, maintain, repair, and replace your “stuff” eventually, so it gets you either/or both ways!

Tyler Durden

But back to the title of the post – “Things you own end up owning you“. To me, this means that your stuff can own you in a few different ways, depending on your personal situation:

  • Your stuff can force you to live in a place you would prefer not to, just for a high-paying job.
  • Your stuff can make you keep a job you don’t like, just for the money to pay the bills.
  • Your stuff can make you send your kids to a specific school, when maybe they would be better off at a different one.
  • Your stuff could make you pay for a storage facility or continuously move to bigger houses, just to keep a roof over it.
  • Your stuff could make you take on a second job just to impress your friends.
  • Your stuff could require you to work well into your retirement years.
  • Your stuff might cost so much every month that you cannot take your family on a vacation or send your kids to summer camp.

I could go on and on, but I think you get the gist of it, right? Even if you have the money to buy something in the first place, guess where that money normally comes from? Work. And the more stuff you have, the more money you need to make and/or continue to make to support your lifestyle. I am not innocent of this behavior; far from it. I used to live high on the hog too, even though it was a lifestyle built on a pyramid of debt and minimum payments just waiting to collapse. And now, even though I make way more than I did when I was 25 years old, I spend less – on housing, on cars, on clothes, on stereo equipment, on my entire lifestyle. I have a nice place to live, I have a car to drive, I have clothes on my back, and I have food on the table. No need for much more, especially since it allows me to work for myself in a small, remote mountain town. But because of the changes, I do still have a little extra money to take vacations or make special purchases when I need to without going into debt. I learned from my mistakes, and I am hopeful that my mistakes can help you learn too before your stuff ends up owning you like it did me.

After all, it’s just stuff – and this is life we are talking about. You get one shot – do it right. It took me years to figure that out…hope you get it faster than I did!

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Comments (8)

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  1. Kevin C says:

    This is a great article and I think this is one of the many reasons people should work to gain control of their personal and financial lives so they aren’t owned by these things. It is a sad existence to forgo great experiences in life because you are a slave to your debt and money!

    I am actually dealing with this exact same issue right now and just started a blog which will detail my experiences to financial freedom!! how does money serve us and our causes and goals compared to how do we serve our money? I think we all serve it to much.


    Any insight you guys have is definately welcome.

  2. Chessiq says:

    I have been decluttering the past couple of days. My main reason was just to get organized and have a cleaner area both at home and at work. This now gives me further food for thought regarding my reasons for decluttering. I will revisit what I have kept to see what the cost is, in terms of maintenance, storage, etc. Nice blog. (Led here by Todd at the personalfinanceplaybook)

  3. Moneymonk says:

    I don’t have stuffidis but I can see easily how people are slaves. I live simple My expenses cost me 40% of my monthly income.

    However I cannot stand idle time. That’s why I have a job. Still searching for the dream job.

    Some people work just to maintain, not just for stuff

  4. Hanna says:

    ahh..i just recently saw that movie..

    Anyways true and I think the top things that end up owning you are clothes and your “style”. Everyone has a style even the people that have no style has one.

  5. Matt Jabs says:

    Ha ha… yes! Believe it or not I JUST watched this movie for the first time last week. I loved the financial concepts put forth in the movie… they’re all so true.

    I am in the process of “relearning” how to live – similar to your description above. I pretty much have the concepts nailed down, now I’m just working on getting rid of the debt and making positive moves toward a more desirable profession (blogging 🙂 ) and a more desirable place to live.

    Things are going quite well… I just CANNOT wait until the debt is gone and I’m working for myself full-time!

  6. Craig Ford says:

    Sometimes when we shop we simply buy based on the feelings of the moment. As your post points out that is a bad plan for the long term. Thanks for making us wonder about what will really end up owning us.

  7. DB says:

    Hmmm…I guess my “style” is cheap shirts from sales at Belk and shaving once a week. Don’t go imitatin’!

  8. david says:

    DB – Got you beat, I don’t shave. Ever.

    Matt – If I have learned anything about you, I know you will get there asap!