The Hidden Costs of Things
“The value of a thing sometimes lies not in what one attains with it, but in what one pays for it — what it costs us.” — Nietzsche
I am not a minimalist.
I’ve got too many books to be considered minimally hip. (do people still say hip?) But I do follow some minimalist principles.
For example, over the past few years, I’ve adopted the principle of only buying things I love. (Socks. My sock game is strong.) If I don’t find an item useful, enjoyable, motivational, and relatable to who I am, what I'm learning and what goals are, then I’m going to get rid of it.
Everything we own has an undercurrent of powerful hidden strings attached. I call it the hidden costs of things.
When you buy something — say for a hobby or skill you’re learning — you’re not buying the object — your buying the lifestyle. We don’t just buy a thing, we’re investing our time, attention, emotions, energy, money, opportunity, health and a host of other things as well. Even throwaway items have a hidden weight to them.
If I commit and invest myself into photography, I’m not just buying a camera. I’m buying the additional necessities. Lenses, straps, a bag, different kinds of cameras. (Gotta have me some sweet-sweet drone shots yo) Photography books, perhaps lessons. I’m investing in attention to the art of photography. I’m investing into the world of photography. And if I'm building a business around photography, I'm investing time in clients and relationships.
You are what you own.
Well, not really. 'You are what you own' is a good headline (or poster), I'm generalizing here. But you are influenced by what you own and how much you own. Not being aware of the hidden costs attached to your purchases can turn you into a slave of what you own. I'm not talking about bad purchasing impulses (although bad habits contribute to your amount of hidden costs). There is an emotional, physical, mental and spiritual weight to what you own and how much you have. The more you have, the more your attention is split. There's only so much time and energy we have give to what we own. You're time spent writing away on your computer is time you could be practicing piano or washing your car.
How much stuff do we own that we never use? Not only do thing take up physical space, they take up emotional and mental space as well. Are you holding onto something from your past? A photo of lost love, mementos you don't love, but don't want to get rid of. Go around your house and you will find closest and garages full of things you don't need that are taking up mental space.
When you surround yourself with skills you want to learn, businesses you want to build, activities you want to pursue, you’re surrounding yourself with subconscious todo lists. Everything you own demands your attention. Some things weigh heavier than others, but everything has at least a piece of your attention. I don’t know about you, but when I have too many things demand my attention I feel completely overwhelmed and end up dropping everything.
One of the key benefits on minimalism is it keeps you focused on what matters to you.
When you’re attention isn’t split between a thousand things you wish you would, could and might do someday (something I struggle with a lot), you give yourself space and clarity to be sharp and focused in on your most important things. Most of the time we're not even aware of how much the weight our todos are barring down us and holding us back.
Unless you can afford it, buying into too many lifestyles at once is a great way of setting yourself up for not being able to give the time, money and energy each skill requires. It’s better to focus on one or a few pursuits at a time, that way you are able to give each the attention it requires to reach mastery.
I’m not wealthy (...yet). I don’t have multiple houses (h👹ll I don’t even have one house) but if I did, the weight of all of my stuff would pull me in a thousand different directions. I would worry about my stuff in my one house, forget my stuff in the other house and be everything but present in the moment.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not telling you to forgo all of your belongings and run naked in the streets. Instead, focus on what’s important to you. There’s nothing wrong with buying things you love. But Its good to pause and reflect on the hidden costs of what you have and are thinking about buying. By surrounding yourself with only the things you love and need, you will free your focus and energy to what truly matters to you.
Consider the hidden costs before buying. "Am I buying this because I want to, or because this is important to me?"
Touch and pick up things you own. "Do I love this?" "Do I find it useful or enjoyable?"
— Josh Waggoner