Your Value isn’t in the Things you own, it is in the Things you do.
We all do it. We place value in our things. To be fair, there is value in things, of course, We may value some thing we own because of the amount of money we spent on it or it may hold sentimental value for us or we use this thing regularly and it brings us happiness.
But are these things used to assess our value as a person?
A while back we had a blog post called, Declutter or Rearrange – The Grey Zone. I highlighted my own struggle with the grey zone between decluttering and rearranging (or reorganizing). I think that we choose to rearrange in order to keep the things we think give our lives value and struggle with getting rid of them because we think our personal value will be lost if we do.
Our society puts so much emphasis on what we have. The quote by Yvon Chouinard, “He who dies with the least toys wins, because the more you know, the less you need” says something that I think I have always felt but recently have put into more practice. I read his book, Let my People Go Surfing, about 10 years ago and his thoughts really resonated with me and what I had thought was important. To put this into practice isn’t always easy, especially in our society where value and things are held as proportional.
I suppose if I were to be honest here, I am probably considered frugal when it comes to purchasing items like clothing or other personal items. In fact, at the moment, I take a weekly trek to the laundromat, and have for the last 4 weeks since our washing machine died. I honestly don’t mind the hour it takes me to do it there and it gives me the time to read, catch up on emails or do a blog post. I am sure the novelty will wear off but for now, I prefer not to buy a new one.
The fact of my frugality may make it a little easier for me to part with things or not to purchase them in the first place but nevertheless, our family has accumulated a lot of stuff over the years. There were many years where we had to have the latest gadget, the best sports equipment, or the coolest clothing. We have spent our share of money shopping (although I never did enjoy this outing) in the quest to have things to make us happy or to give our lives value. After the shiny newness of the object or clothing wears off, we are just left with more stuff and we set off on the quest to feed the need for us to feel valuable once again.
We equate the value of these items to our value as people.
If I have the newest phone….
If I have the coolest shoes…
If I have the nicest car….
If I have the best wardrobe….
We admire those who do have the newest, coolest, nicest and the best of things in life. We watch their lives on social media with varying levels of envy. We assume they must be really happy, because they sure look happy in the photos with all their new stuff. We give them a value as people because of their stuff, not because of what they do.
The quote by Yvon Chouinard really makes a statement to the contrary of what we are told throughout our lives. Chouinard is a visionary and has run his business, Patagonia, while weaving his ethical fibre throughout it. Although he is monetarily successful, he hasn’t waivered from his ethics and what he sees as valuable in his life, or the lives of his employees.
So here is the question I have for you. What makes you valuable? Is it the new car, the big house, the new cell phone or the impressive job title? Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with any of these things. But where people inevitably find stress in their lives is when they assume they more valuable because of these things and when they can’t be achieved, we feel like we have failed.
Value of one self is not because of the things we have. What are the things you do that makes you valuable? Not your job title, but your actions. Are you a good friend? Are you an honest person? Are you willing to help out when needed? Are you happy to propel others and support them when they need a boost?
There are so many ways to find value in the things you do. The more you put value on your actions, the less you put value on things. So as I circle back to that Grey Zone of decluttering or rearranging, the easier it is to release myself from some of the things I felt gave me value, when in fact, my value was there regardless of these things.
Our value as humans cannot be quantified. We can only strive to be of value to others, to the world and to ourselves. The things we own do not add to the value we hold as human beings.
As we go along this trek through Minimalism, we realize this fact more and more. Now, that doesn’t mean there is an all or nothing rule inforced. Just because you choose to keep things in your life, doesn’t mean you hold no value. There are plenty of things we have chosen to keep that bring us joy or are just plain functional in our lives. But, by asking the questions, we can be assured (at least for the time being) that the things we choose to keep are important to us. We also know that if they were not there, our lives would go on and we would still see our lives as valuable.