Recently I came across a great article from Joshua Becker (read it here) which captured a set of ideas that had been swirling around my head for a while. The article was called 7 things that shouldn’t impress us anymore. It talked about status symbols and how they shouldn’t be held up to such a high importance for us.
I think what struck me about most of the list is that ironic thing about the brand name of your clothing, big diamond rings, fancy cars and a big house is that most folks who these things are important to, can’t afford them. Most – read 90% of Americans – folks achieve these status symbols through accruing debt. I have a distinct memory of when my neighbors, who were very concerned with the things on Joshua’s list, one day fell on hard times.
The house of cards fell very fast for them. Their cars were taken because they were on lease, the home ended up in short sale and my neighbors lamented to me about all the credit card debt calls they got. While this is just one story about a neighbor, it is really the story for many people today. The truth is the average American household carries $15,762 (source) and 76% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck (source).
What is more, conspicuous consumption shouldn’t not impress us any more, but it should evoke a very different reaction – sadness or empathy – because it is almost always done on the back of debt. People are extending themselves in ways that has been shown to break up marriages, bring massive amounts of stress, and leave people in a hole they often can’t get out of.
Think about it – not only should they not impress us, but depress us. What does it say about the status of our culture when people are willing to take on crippling debt just to impress a stranger?
Obviously I’m preaching to the choir here: tiny house folks focus on small spaces to get out of debt, we re-evaluate our spending choices and have taken steps to shed our consumer culture. Inherently having nice things isn’t bad, even having brand names, nice cars etc isn’t a bad thing; we just need to know the why behind all of it. The trap is when people say “that’s what I thought I was ‘supposed’ to do.”
Live your life with intention, with purpose behind each decision, each choice. That choice could be living in a tiny house or it could be a 1,200 square foot house with a fancy car.
- What things do you think we shouldn’t be impressed about anymore?