Identity through non-ownership

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Good Old Trend

As a follow up to my last post I thought I’d write about the trend that has interested me the most lately. The urge to own as little as possible, but at the same time have access to everything. This fits me the best at the moment.

Trend consultant Kristina Dryza (who I’ll be meeting for tea tomorrow!) wrote an insightful report on this issue. You should definitely read all of it, but before you do I’ve broken out a few key passages:

Ownership is all about attachment, dependency and possession. The impulse to possess leads us to develop habits of being attached to both people and things. By trying to possess, by mentally holding on, we live in fear. The temporary induces detachment, while ownership sustains attachment. It’s about mentally letting go – defining a new relationship with your external objects that will set you free.


Therefore, the usage of products, not their possession, is becoming increasingly more important. Owning objects binds us to the past and the future, while the joy of temporary is in the here and now, this moment.


If you own something, there’s always the potential to lose it, while if you own next to nothing, you won’t worry about ending up with nothing

Seen from this perspective, it is strange that anyone would want to own anything that has an instrumental use. A lot of people rent their apartment. I’m one of them, but why don’t we rent our clothes, computer or television as well? Price? Partly, but not entirely. I think the price and therefor the believed value of owning is assumed to be so much higher, and therefor some feel that they are losing out every time they pay rent instead of paying off a loan. Rent isn’t an investment. But is ownership?

Not necessarily. In strict economic terms, real estate and housing tends to be good investments, but they also tie you up in a lot of ways that people have learnt to accept. That you are supposed to live in one place, for instance. Once that is established it also makes sense to have your own place to stay. But if we break that connection, where does that leave us? For me, it’s a state of serenity. I can move freely between cities and countries without feeling that I should be anywhere.

I see this trend cross several generations. My parents lease their car, simply because they don’t want to worry about paying for expensive repairs or people scratching their car door in parking lots. It’s not important for them to own the car – what is important is that the car works, and that it’s there when they need it. Ownership is not required for these two factors.

What do you think? I’d love to hear some thoughts on this.

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