Liana Satenstein is a fashion writer for Vogue- which is a LOT to be proud of. It’s absolutely amazing for you to be published with strong brands of your interest. And I very much appreciate it and believe that her work must really be astonishing. I had never been a Vogue (or Femina) reader ever, but I’ve devoured them a ton in the past year for consumer research. This means I always get alerts from Vogue on Facebook in my newsfeed. And Liana’s post “30 accessories you should own by age 30” screamed at me. I’m a fan of listicles for quick web reading. It wasn’t the format but the emphasis on the should that really disturbed me. It made me think about ownership versus experiences as a person growing up and seeing young adults influenced by it.
Ownership versus Experience: What I owned by age 30
The overestimated ownership argument
Leading up to my 30s, most people around me owned a variety of things, most typically:
- clothes/ accessories/ shoes/ equipments/ tools/books/ electronics/furniture etc.
I owned consumables (clothes, shoes etc.) and books. I have bought books each year from the time I started making money. I buy books made of paper. I do not read on a device. I also owned a personal computer, a gifted iPod, an iPad, a smartphone. The only piece of furniture I had ever bought was a massive wooden shoe rack. I either lived in furnished (shared/ studio) apartments or with my parents, so I never had to buy any. The accessories I inherited or was gifted were things my mom bought for me over years thinking I’d be married one day. I like them, but I hadn’t necessarily invested heavily in them (if you count out Meena Bazaar- which I have not yet learned how to resist). I never needed a car because I lived in cities with infrastructure and trains. I also didn’t really want to buy a house with any urgency.
Research shows that any sort of ownership or acquisition (materialistically) has a diminishing marginal utility. In plain words, the Chanel bag feels great on week 1 and then slowly we get used to its niceness, so that it feels just regular afterwards. Here’s what the Atlantic says:
“Thinking about acquisition provides momentary happiness boosts to materialistic people, and because they tend to think about acquisition a lot, such thoughts have the potential to provide frequent mood boosts, but the positive emotions associated with acquisition are short-lived. Although materialists still experience positive emotions after making a purchase, these emotions are less intense than before they actually acquire a product.” (source, source)
Not taking the high road here, no
I have no fake pride or an agenda to prove that I’m less of a materialist person compared to others. Or that anyone owning things is better or worse than someone who doesn’t. I even believe in the benefits of retail therapy. When I am tired of my remote working long days at home, I do feel better with an Amazon buy (I still hate visits to the mall though). And, I understand our “need” to buy things that make us feel better. Like new active wear just to feel more excited to visit the gym. But, the thing I question is competitive ownership.
I know that perhaps people are trying to Google for what they need as a 30 year old, or a 40 year old, and Vogue’s just answering that question for them. But, why must we care about standards set by others on what we need to own? Or what makes our lives complete?
Before I had turned 30, I had…
- Lived, studied or worked in 3 countries and 9 cities
- Traveled to over 30 countries for work and pleasure
- Bought everything pretty at Meena Bazar (ha!)
- Read everything that George Eliot and Jane Austen ever wrote
- Read through Gulzar’s screenplay and a complete translation of the love sonnets of Ghalib
- Written a book, numerous magazine articles, papers and hundreds of blog posts
- Fallen in love with Purani Dilli
- Watched all of Pankaj Kapoor/ Vishal Bharadwaj and Anurag Kashyap’s released films at that time
- Made friends
- Learned 3 new languages (other than English and Kashmiri)
- Listened to all of Meena Kumari’s self composed songs
- Cooked a meal
- Traveled alone/ eaten alone
- Made a goals list (where I checked off most items)
- Met someone from Sicily and Macedonia and Malta and Chile and Nigeria
- Not owned anything from the Vogue list (no it’s not sour grapes, I just didn’t even think of it despite disposable cash, all I wanted was a little more travel and reading)
And I could keep adding, but that’s the list that I am happy with.
The car I own now was a gift from my husband. I don’t want us to jump into buying a house till we feel settled. I just miss listening to songs with my mother. And watching my nephew dance.
I don’t think I’m going to be 40 wondering if I had owned a fancy bag or shoe.
Having said that, I have a different theory on gifting. I believe people who gift cheaply (not defined by $ amounts) or don’t gift at all (ever) have poor intent- like not being able to think beyond themselves. What do we make money for? To eat, travel and create happy memories, no? Many people (even with enough cash) just lack the ability to spend on someone else. And I find that appalling. Gifts are not about needs, they’re about showing that you care enough to think about someone else’s emotions. It’s not materialism, it’s actions for words. I love gifting. And maybe I will use that list after all. I don’t think I would want people to get into depression thinking about how they don’t own anything on that list. But it’s a good guide to gifting something nice, right?
< going back to the list to explore> 😉