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4 stages of owning "stuff"

Danny Ruspandini - Impact Labs Australia
Danny R.

This is a re-share as we come up to the end of financial year, and all the EOFY sales that come with it.

The 4 stages of owning stuff is what I experience whenever I purchase something relatively large that will become a part of my daily life.

Eg: a laptop, a car, an appliance etc.

The stages are:

  1. Excitement
  2. Acceptance
  3. Eye-roll
  4. Dismissal

They happen in that order, but at long intervals (depending on what you've bought):

Excitement (right at the start)

There’s a buzz when you open or receive something you’ve just purchased. Even if it’s second-hand, it’s still new to you, and that can be fun!

Acceptance (a few months later)

This thing has become part of your daily life - it’s no longer exciting, it’s just another thing you own.

Eye-roll (some more months or years later)

Eventually, this thing will start failing - cars need servicing, phones run out of storage...

Dismissal (years later)

Some years down the track, you’re ready to be free from this thing that’s become a hassle to own.

How I've learned to manage it

Personally, I try not to give in to the dismissal stage too easily, but I know all the stages are coming.

Since I’ve been aware of them, I can skip through the stages in my head before I buy, to see if I can picture owning that thing and feeling those feelings.

What I’ve found is that I can blast past the Excitement stage pretty easily now. Having done this many times, it's a skill that's become almost automatic.

Going straight to Acceptance is my new default-mode. I just picture the thing sitting around the house. For example, when I upgraded my (12 year old) laptop, at first I was excited about the increase in speed and all the extra storage, but I knew it’d end up sitting on the coffee table where the old one usually sits, and would become just the laptop, rather than the new shiny laptop.

Sometimes I can skip through to the Eye-roll stage... maybe this is my cynical side coming out. An example of this is when new cars talk about fancy features like lane-detection and auto-parking. I just see lots of things that will eventually need to be fixed when they stop working. Queue eye-roll.

Why this is relevant now

Anytime there's a huge sale around the corner, I shudder at the thought of the emails and promos and–more visibly to me–the old stuff that gets discarded to make room for the new shiny stuff. Inevitably, the junk room in our apartment complex fills with old but perfectly fine TVs and appliances and couches in July just after EOFY, and whenever that Black Friday thing happens.

This fast-forwarding helps me to know if I really need something, or if I just want it. Usually I just want it, so I slip past the persuasive marketing and can see it in the real world that is my home. We’ve all heard a story of someone who tried on clothes at the store that looked great, but didn’t look as good once they got home. This is like skipping to the at-home bit without being seduced by the store bit.

And it's not just at sale time. ANYTIME I want to buy something, I take walk myself through this process. Obviously it works for personal purchases, but it's especially good for things like marketing or promotional items at work too. The question looks something like:

Will we still need this thing in a year, or will the burden of owning it and having to dispose of it responsibly outweigh any short term benefit?

Hope this helps.

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