Do your possessions
possess you?

She's a warrior. If you're born and raised in New York City, you have to be one. Over eight million warriors—but no two warriors have the same weapon of choice. What's her weapon, you may ask? A machete.

Kim is a high school junior from Queens, and her favorite possession is her machete. Don't worry—it's never spilled blood. But it's in her blood. It was given to Kim by her grandfather. She was the first girl in her family to receive the heirloom. The machete is a point of connection—to her family, their past, their culture, and her future. Kim is a warrior.

Phil is a conversationalist. He is a post-graduate from Oxford, UK, and his favorite possessions are his language books. He became proficient in nine different languages because he wants to speak on your terms. It doesn't matter who you are, where you're from, or what language you speak. Phil never misses a detail. Being "lost in translation" led him to his life's pursuit: learning about the world.

Dina's a diplomat. She carries the world in her heart, on her back, and in a secret compartment of her wallet. Dina Yang, born, raised, and living in Beijing, keeps an original sketch of Mickey Mouse in her wallet. She thinks it's lucky. Every opportunity she has seized, every professional height she has achieved, every small-moment miracle she's come by, has been witnessed by Mickey in her wallet.

Most of us would agree that by acquiring possessions we express who we are. But we don't just possess things — they possess us. No matter how different the object—from a machete to a collectible work of art —across the world we are connected by a fabric of emotions and a great deal of these emotions are for our possessions. The things we own are a source of pride, belonging, knowledge, luck, but above all, identity. They aren't just "things". They are who we are.

But we want to tell you something different—that it is possible not just to love and value a machete, but to befriend it. The process of emotional connection to possessions is a long one. Just as you would approach a future friendship, you begin as strangers. At one point in time, that machete was simply a functional piece of steel. Over time, it began to develop meaning. Now, its loss would be like the passing of an old friend. Everyone can sympathize. Think back to when you were younger: did you ever have a stuffed animal that you needed in your arms to fall asleep? At one point, it was just sitting on a shelf amongst hundreds of other identical toys. But when your mom told you it was time to start sleeping without it, you probably threw a fit. You probably felt lonely. You probably felt lost. Just think about that: you turned an inanimate object—something that can neither think, speak, or reciprocate any sort of love or affection—into one of your closest friends. That's the power we bestow on our possessions.

Similarly to other goals in life such as love, happiness, peace, etc., the development of strong emotional ties to our most cherished possessions comes from engagement, rather that from the initial acquisition. It seems that, as shopping has become easier to do online, we buy more and put more faith in the joy that an expensive or brand-name product with bring. But, as the stories above show, the magic happens not when we have what we want, but when we want and use what we have.

So, what's on your bookshelves? How about the back of your closet? In the basement? Under your bed? When was the last time you gave it a chance to teach you something, warm you up on a cold night, or to show off to your friends how stylish you really are? This weekend, spend some time and take a look at all you own. Make some plans to use it, wear it, fix it, share it, value it, even give it away! Above all, don't just let it sit there while going on one more shopping spree. As buyers and as people, it's time that we do better.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS: Iva Teixeira is Co-Founder and CEO of Nestead. Her favorite possession is a folder with photos of her children, Marley and Kalina. Julia Lauer is a Harvard University student pursuing an honors concentration in government, a secondary in economics, and a citation in Chinese language.
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