The weird rabbit hole that is materialism

Jon and I have lived in our current apartment for almost a year. The year prior was the culmination of our wild one, in which we lived separately, and then together again, but in a different apartment, and then finally in the one we’re still in now. We really, really love it. After a few years of living in good but not great spaces (for a variety of reasons), this is one with which we find little fault, relatively. Except that it doesn’t have outdoor space, and we’d love an extra bedroom for all of the people who currently sleep on an air mattress on the living room floor. And the windows don’t open (Jon’s largest issue). And we’re renting, which for anyone who doesn’t enjoy lighting their money on fire, isn’t exactly ideal, from an investment perspective :)  But honestly, we love the actual place. It’s open, full of natural light and old character details, with a great big living space where we spend all of our time. 

But, we always look for houses. We’re always open to the idea. We regularly peruse Zillow like it’s Zara, bookmarking homes like we’re adding them to our virtual cart. We go to Open Houses, slowly creep by For Sale signs like we’re scanning the contents of a yard sale, and drive through neighborhoods just to window shop and think about the future. And at the same rate, we crawl onto our old lived-in couch in our apartment at night, with the sun setting outside our high-up windows, and the muffled but certain sounds of city outside, and say to each other, “I love it here.” And in the very next breath, we travel to other cities and states and towns and say, “Let’s move here. I love it here.” (PS: Are we alone in our suitcase-heart nature?)

A few weeks ago, amidst some of this aforementioned online “shopping,” we found a listing for a home just outside the city. In fact, it’s in a really good location (from a future perspective of kids and schools and all of that). We weren’t wildly moved by its pictures and description, but we bookmarked it, mentally. And plus, we were feeling zero sense of urgency to move, let alone buy a house. A couple of days later, when driving in its vicinity, we decided to make a quick detour to look at it. Since it was vacant, we took the liberty of peeking at the backyard, and in all the windows. I even climbed on Jon’s shoulders and fell slow motion over his head in a really bizarre attempt at getting down. We’re really out of shape.

We were really, really intrigued by it. So, we called about it. And after a couple tours of it, some meetings with the bank, calls with an attorney, and one offer and one inspection later, we’re in the process of hopefully buying it.

Exciting, I know! We’re actually thrilled.

But there’s more to the story. Buying a house holds promise, I began to think, subconsciously. It holds your hopes and dreams, your starry-eyed image of what the future might hold, what tomorrow’s tomorrow might entail. The loan you receive from the bank feels like a loan for future bliss and a shiny new lease on life. The bank doesn’t consciously try to give you anything more than a mortgage, but you feel like that’s what you’re getting.  Walking through our apartment door suddenly felt different. It’s old news now; a relic from a vintage life. It’s an old dog, and we’ve started looking at puppies. We’re onto better things. Our old apartment isn’t shiny with promise and opportunity of new adventures and new countertops and new fireplaces and new patios. The couch nights quickly turned to nights of pinning farmhouse sinks and tile flooring. And it’s exciting, and it’s fun.

And then the negotiations for the home-buying started taking longer and longer, and becoming more and more convoluted. And the prospect of not actually getting this house starts to feel really real.

But wait! It’s not fair. I want this house! We deserve this house. We need it, it’s perfect for us and the life we plan to have…

And this is the exact moment I realized that I had fallen deep, deep into a rabbit hole of the trap that is materialism.

Nothing about our life had changed, at all, since stumbling upon this house. I had my person, and my people, and my same old, happy life, just like I had a couple of weeks prior. I hadn’t actually gained anything by this pyramid scheme I had set up for myself. Buying a house doesn’t hold promise of anything. A house is nothing until it’s a home, and a home is only a home because of the thoughts, chatter, love, laughter, and sleeping silences inside of it. A house is a structure to hold all of this stuff, but it is nothing without these guts.

Yes, dreaming about the future is healthy, and fun, and normal. But if the dreaming starts to impact how you’re feeling about what you have currently, then you’ve gone way, way too far. You’re comparing some made up image with what is true, and that takes all of the joy out of living right now.

I was so happy with my life, until I fell down this rabbit hole. And buying a house isn’t the rabbit hole. Buying into the notion of what it means to buy a house is the rabbit hole. Making a perfect looking house is a superficial hobby, at best, and that’s not to say it shouldn’t be done, but it should be kept in very healthy perspective.

Whether we get this beautiful, inviting house, or whether we don’t, means nothing about the life we can have for ourselves, and the love our life will be filled with. Obviously, we hope we’re able to call it our own. But the best way to make it our own is to be realistic and keep perspective about what’s important, and what isn’t.  But I am really, really glad I caught myself in this whirlwind of a couple weeks to right my mind again. It’s just a house, after all, and not winning this one doesn’t kill any plans or dreams that we had or may have. I hate that happiness can so easily feel tied to material things.

I had plans to take a picture of the house and excitedly post about it on the blog. We bought a house! Something like that. And honestly, it truly does feel that exciting to us. It’s so exciting to think about everything it can become to us. But it’s really important to me that it also be known to readers and friends that it’s just a house. It’s one of those announcements that if I read it on a blog, I’d be comparing my own life to it—to this happy, cheery, perfect life-milestone news. None of it is perfect! And it’s certainly not an indication of any blissful perfection behind it, so don’t be deceived :)

We’re really excited, and we’re happy. But we’re also realistic, and living in the present.

PS: Hierarchy of Needs



Our beautiful Airbnb in Portland, Maine