Self Help Now: A community blog

Dr. Jacqueline B. Sallade offers advice for maintaining your mental health.

The Pride of Ownership vs It's Just Stuff

Written by Dr. Jacqueline B. Sallade, Community blogger | Mar 5, 2014 9:26 PM

I remember an old friend, much wealthier than we were then, enjoying all the houses, land and other possessions he had. Every piece of artwork, every article of furniture, meant something to him. He was orphaned at a young age and inherited his parents' property and wealth. It's all he had of them. In looking at my messy, two-tone Toyota (yellow with an unpainted gray door, a replacement after an accident), he asked if I had any vestige of "pride of ownership." I had never heard the term.

All throughout my first marriage I liked the sense of utility of the things we had and I felt proud that we had spent almost no money on everything in our house, having been given odds and ends over time by our parents. Some of it was nice and some didn't go together or was totally not my taste. But, so what? Instead of buying stuff, we invested, traveled and hired people to do anything we didn't want to do, thus, buying time. There was no pride of ownership there..

Then, life changed drastically. I married someone who loves good cars, stylish decor and I accumulated art for my own satisfaction. I learned to find comfort in nice material surroundings. However, I still didn't feel pride. In fact, I always thought that pride of that kind was kind of a dirty word, signifying selfishness and egotism.

Just recently, though, we splurged and traded in our 2005 Accura SUV for a 2012 Mercedes SUV. I found myself vacuuming the floormats after I got sand on them. I started to think about always parking within the lines in parking lots. I knew my husband was driving OK but didn't want him using the phone while driving (not a bad idea, anyway). All of a sudden, I became infected with the pride of ownership.

I rarely write about myself and my personal life, but the reason I bring it up is to illustrate how people's values and needs change with life's stages and transitions. It's not always a bad thing. However, the changes should be seen in context , understood and not damage one's perspective.

Believe me, a car isn't that important and I could live without it. People who have some extra money can use it for security, adventure, help, or stuff. As someone in our condo complex in Florida said, "it's just stuff." Many retirees here have let go of their big houses full of stuff and feel quite happy with a small space, each other, the sunshine and ocean. We have both, so far, since I work mostly in PA and we live there most of the time, so far.

However, the most satisfying use of money, as anyone who really has a lot (not me) will tell, is to give it away. It's in charity and sharing that we gain fulfillment. I'll do my share, I promise.

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