I No Longer Want to Buy Things – And That’s Incredibly Liberating

Hong Kong by night

A few months ago I was strolling through a fancy shopping area in Hong Kong, when a realisation hit me: I don’t want to buy anything at all!

Had I been in the same street three years earlier, I would be frantically running around from window to window, looking, gazing, examining the beautiful, tempting stuff in the stores. I would eventually convince myself I need one more branded shirt in my already overstuffed closet. Swift swiping of credit cards would have ensued, providing a quick hit of Impulse Buy High for a few sacred moments.

That fine watch store on the street corner would seem aspirational to me. I was blended by the allure of the precious metals, the insane price tags and the eccentric Swiss brand names – Patek Philippe, Jaeger LeCoultre, Vacheron Constantin. One day I’ll own one of these beautiful watches. I just need to achieve a lot first, to earn it, to be and feel worthy. For now, I had to be content with a fine watch picture as an “inspirational” screensaver on my computer (I kid you not!).

I was living a consumerist dream. Buy, buy, buy – accumulate, accumulate, accumulate. Eventually, I’d be happy, right? After all, the job of all the stuff was ultimately to make me happy. The eventual happiness was the underlying, yet unspoken promise of this quest for more, more, more.

The eventual happiness was the underlying, yet unspoken promise of the quest for more, more, more. Click To Tweet

Looking back, all of that is ridiculous. But back then, it was all I knew.

After embarking on a journey into minimalism a few years ago, everything has changed. The most obvious aspect is the stuff, of course – I own A LOT less than I used to. I probably got rid of 80% of my clothes, to take one example.

But the less visible benefits are the most important ones. My priorities have changed. My psychology has changed. Which brings us back to the shopping street in Hong Kong. I didn’t want to buy anything at all! 

I walked around the bustling street without the slightest inclination to buy, shop, purchase, splurge. Instead I kept thinking that I have everything I need already, which is indeed the case. This felt incredibly liberating. I felt like a modern day Houdini, I had broken out of the psychological shackles of consumerism once and for all.

Like a modern day Houdini, I'd broken out of the shackles of consumerism once and for all. Click To Tweet

That said, I did walk past the fine watch store. I stopped for a brief glance at the window display. Sure, those Pateks are gorgeous, and I can certainly appreciate Vacheron’s craftmanship and sense of detail. But that’s it.

I no longer have a desire to spend $10,000+ on a piece of metal to glorify my wrist. My $100 Seiko shows me the time, and my self-worth is no longer tied to shiny objects around me. The material accolades are not important to me anymore.

I still have a genuine interest in the fine mechanics of wristwatches, and I might indeed buy a fancy one in the future. But the underlying reason for doing so will be fundamentally different from my motivations three years ago. And for me, that makes all the difference.


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