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The Stress Of Possessions

Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants. – Epictetus

I bought a new car yesterday.

This is a BFD because I drive my cars until they crumble around me.

I’ve been driving a 1994 Accord since 1997.
(Those babies go forever.) By the end of our relationship, the bumper was held on with tape and it was in the throes of a two-year death rattle. Most of my friends had experienced some sort of breakdown adventure with me.

But I drove my jalopy with pride. It was my badge of anti-consumerism. (Plus, no car payment. I loved that.)

OK, I was a little embarrassed valet parking it at the Ritz-Carlton the other day, where I went for a business lunch, but at least when they brought it to me, the side with the taped-on bumper was facing away from the crowd.

But otherwise, I don’t need no fancypants car.

I’m not a particularly high-wants person when it comes to possessions. I’m greedy about experiences, but ho-hum about stuff.

Actually, the only time I really want is while shopping. Shopping malls are vortexes of desire, filled with lovely things that would change my life not at all, but that I can hardly imagine life without, at the moment.

And in moments of weakness I leaf through the catalogs that pile up on the kitchen counter this time of year and pick out things I want, seriously considering buying each and every one before (usually) coming to my senses.

At those times, I feel terribly, horribly deprived. Poor and scruffy. I can’t possible afford all the things I want and will never earn enough—because of course, once you start wanting stuff, it’s hard to stop.

I feel so much better about life when I don’t want anything, when I avoid malls, when catalogs go straight from the mailbox to the recycle bin.

But sometimes, you just gotta nut up and do what you gotta do. And I gotta have a car that starts every time I turn the key. I decided to buy a new car because as long as I’m going to drive my cars into the ground, I might as well get them when they’re young. (I’m50coughcough years old and this will be my first new car.)

So last night, I skulked off the dealership lot with a shiny, spankin’-new car.

I’m going to chalk this one up to “need” rather than “want” because I live in a driving city.

Even so, I’m going to feel less wealthy with my brand-new car. (Several hundred dollars a month less wealthy, plus collision insurance.) I’ll worry about it getting its first ding or scratch. People might want to steal it or break into it–something I never worried about with my old car.

And I have to readjust my self perception from someone who drives a beater (smugly) to someone who drives a shiny new car (sheepishly).

This new car will be fun, and it will feel like a burden. (Yeah, yeah. First-world problem.)

For me, the wealth of having few possessions is much less stressful than the wealth of having many.

The Stress Of Possessions

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APA Reference
Dembling, S. (2012). The Stress Of Possessions. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 20, 2019, from


Last updated: 25 Nov 2012
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 25 Nov 2012
Published on All rights reserved.