Why I don’t want to own a couch.
This piece of writing came about from two discussions, one with my partner Maeghan, and another with my friend Josh, about my personal anxieties around owning too many things — specifically around owning a couch. I told Maeghan last night that I would pay for 50% of everything we need, so long as she owns 100% of everything that we purchase. For example, I don’t want to own a couch, but if we need a couch for our home, I will gladly help pay for my share of the couch, but I don’t want the burden of ownership for that item — in the event that we eventually have to move, store, or sell the couch.
Owning a couch makes me uncomfortable because I don’t see myself ever wanting to own a home, which means I don’t think that I will ever have the secure, stable, living space for me to accumulate possessions. Therefore, I want to have my possessions as minimal as possible in the event that we might have to move at some point in the future. I get the same feelings whenever I think about eventually inheriting everything inside my mom’s house and having to do something (anything) with all that stuff — the thought scares me. Suddenly I’m responsible for storing, moving, selling, or throwing away an entire lifetime’s worth of material possessions and I don’t want to deal with that.
I don’t want to continue living the way that people in western, colonial, capitalist societies have been doing for so long. I don’t want to perpetuate the historical behaviour of accumulation, or property ownership, because I think that those issues tie into many of our greater societal problems that need solving. If nobody makes an effort to change or resist the system, then how can we hope to make any improvements upon the way we exist with the planet and each other?
I know that most people don’t agree with my perspectives on ownership though, so I try to keep them to myself, because I don’t want my opinions to come off as a criticism of their lifestyle. I don’t mean to attack how others choose to live their life, because I understand that this is just how we have been taught and raised. I have a personal utopian ideal that I wish society would aim for — collectively, but I understand it’s just based on my personal values and might not apply to others. I shy away from talking about this with many people, so I only share these thoughts with people who know me well or understand where my criticisms lie (i.e., how our society has been shaped), because I don’t want them to feel criticized on a personal level, this isn’t their fault.
I also struggle with the fact that I have the privilege of affording access to meet my basic needs (e.g., housing), which others do not. I believe that everyone deserves a home, so I think that housing should be a universal right, and nobody should be forced to live their life on the street. Yet, if I purchase a home (the way we currently do), I’m just committing myself to the same system of individual property ownership and wealth accumulation that keeps everyone from having an affordable place to live. I have a hard time justifying home ownership to myself when I want others to have the same privileges that I have. Housing shouldn’t be a privilege or a luxury — it needs to be a basic human right.
Others might argue that global inequity isn’t my personal problem and won’t be solved by me depriving myself of the perks and security that come from property ownership. But if we all assume that systemic issues are someone else’s problem, then who takes ownership of the situation, and who forces people to think differently, or change? I see this argument as a way for people to remain willfully ignorant about or systemic societal issues and as an easy way out for people who want to ignore the morality of how we exist with one another.
I also hate that our entire system of property ownership in much of the world exists on land that was taken from indigenous peoples who are still fighting for their own autonomy and survival within a colonial system of oppression. I feel that if I were to own any land or property in Canada that would just continue the cycle of violence against Indigenous peoples, and I don’t want to perpetuate those crimes.
I understand that I’m very likely alone in many of these feelings, but they’re what consume my thoughts on a regular basis, especially anytime I start thinking about property ownership. I recognize that this issue is not my responsibility, since I didn’t create our society to function this way, but I feel a sense of moral obligation to try and change things, or bring awareness to these issues, so that maybe things can be better for others in the future.
I also recognize that without home ownership, long term financial security would likely be precarious, and giving it up when I have the privilege of accessing it could result in some level of anguish for myself and those who depend on me. I understand that owning property brings financial and life security, which means that most people think that’s the way that life should be — you grow up, you buy a home, that’s all there is to it. But I would rather live a more uncomfortable existence for the rest of my life and resist this stupid system that doesn’t take care of everyone, than adhere to, and maintain our system of self-interest which has gone on for far too long.
Our society has created a system where to ensure your own self-interest, you almost need to own property or capital in some manner, and that is my main issue. If housing (and other basic needs) were provided for everyone, then how we define self-interest could be liberated to the realm of our spiritual needs or literally anything else other than survival. I think that to be self-interested can be a positive thing — to an extent, yet it’s a shame what self-interest has come to mean under our current mode of existence. Self-interest can be incredibly healthy, but in our society, it comes at an expense to others and that is the moral issue here.
Just know that if I ever own a couch, or a home, it was against my better judgement.