How to become less attached to material possessions

by Martijn
How to become less attached to material possessions

What you will find in this article

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Life is ironic. In today’s western society you’re supposed to live the standard life. You’re born, you go to school, college, get a job, a house, a family, you retire, and you die. And in between your birth and death, you’re chasing material possessions, including money. But there comes a time in life you start to realize all these possessions haven’t made you any happier.

So, now what? You feel this inner craving to be happy and you’re starting to understand the happiness you associate with your accomplishments and material possessions is always very limited in time. Very soon after obtaining or achieving something you wanted, you can’t help but wanting something different, something more.

And you start to ask yourself things like: “Why do I care so much about material things?”

This often is a moment of reflection. After so many years, you want to change your lifestyle but that doesn’t happen in one day. To transition into a more minimalistic way of life it will be helpful for you to understand why you are so attached to material things and how to see what you truly value in life.

How to become less attached to material possessions

First of all, this article is not about how to stop being attached to material things completely. I think there are very few people in this world who truly desire to have no attachment to material possessions at all. In the end, we all want to have a roof over our head, a comfortable bed, and other basic material necessities.

But it will be very beneficial for your mental health and inner peace to learn how to become less attached to material possessions. It’s quite simple; feelings of attachment come from the fear of losing that what you feel attached to. So, you become less attached to material possessions by releasing the fear of losing what you have.

It’s also related to faith or a lack of it. Your faith in yourself and life to be able to provide for your needs and desires. If you would have faith, you would not be so attached to material things. Because you would feel confident you could obtain whatever possession you lost again and again.

Another reason you have fear of losing material possessions is that you don’t know who you are. And you might’ve made the mistake to identify your material belongings as part of your identity. Thus, by losing your possessions, you lose yourself.

This, of course, is not really possible. But as long as you believe the things you have define who and what you are, you will be confused and you won’t understand why you are so attached to all the stuff in your life.

How do you detach from material possessions?

So, the real question is not how you can detach from material possessions. The feelings of attachment to material things do not come from these things themselves. This means that as long as you keep your material possessions as the main subject while you are trying to deal with these feelings of attachment, you are not in the right place to solve the problem.

It’s like looking in the mirror and trying to clean your face by wiping the mirror.

A better question to ask would be: “Why do I get so emotionally attached to things?”. The things now are not the main subject anymore. Now you start to look at yourself and your emotions. This will enable you to sincerely look at yourself and understand where this attachment is coming from.

To detach from material possessions you must go within and realize that the attachment to material things is only an attempt to conceal your fear of knowing your Self.

In the end, that’s what all attachments are, an attempt to replace your spiritual wholeness with a dualistic perception of yourself and the world in which everything is separated. In which you can lose your possessions, relationships, love, and even life.

How do you break an attachment?

So, how do you get rid of emotional attachment? When you really want to experience freedom, you will want to break free of all attachments in life.

You must understand that attachment does not equal commitment. Many people often confuse the two. When you commit to a certain relationship, or a job, or a specific project, it does not have to mean you become attached to it. And not being emotionally attached to something does not mean you are not committed.

In fact, often it means you can allow yourself to be more committed. Because you have no deep personal investment in that what you committed to you can be more neutral and your thoughts and actions are not influenced by your personal preferences and priorities. This leads you to be able to make better decisions, without impulsive reactions based on your needs and desires.

Attachment is something that occurs in your mind. It’s a false belief of a personal necessity. With another false belief on top of it that says you will suffer a loss if that what you’ve attached to somehow ceases to remain in your life as is.

From a dualistic point of view, a human being will always have attachments. Even people that claim to have no attachment at all, probably are not being honest with themselves. Think about the air you breathe. Do you know anyone who is not attached to the oxygen the air provides and that allows us to live this human life on earth?

There are very few people who have achieved that level of freedom in their minds. Imagine remaining at peace and being able to fully accept whatever potential loss is about to occur to you. Imagine feeling so free that you are capable of riding those last waves of life in total peace and acceptance until you run out of oxygen and you slide into unconsciousness.

Minimizing material possessions

So, to get rid of the emotional attachment to material possessions completely, you will need to discover who you really are. And once you realize there’s nothing you can really lose in that original state of being, you will find it much easier to let go of any materialistic things. Because you’ve learned its true value to you.

Life without material possessions is not necessary when you have succeeded to detach from them. In fact, you’ll be able to enjoy that what you have so much more.

There is a very fine line between fully enjoying your possessions in total freedom and letting that joy surpass a certain point where it becomes the source of your pleasure and happiness.

Think of it like this; if you’re aware that the source of your peace, joy, and happiness comes from within, the material things in your life become the icing on the cake. They are there to be enjoyed and give your life that little extra. But without the icing, you still have the cake. You are still happy.

Going through this journey myself in the last couple of years, I’ve been able to see very clearly that, by going within, the need to fulfill my happiness with external, material possessions has become less and less. And I came to understand that wanting to minimize material possessions was never my motivation.

My motivation was to get to know my Self. And on that journey, I discovered I don’t need most of my material possessions to be happy.

Escaping materialism

And that’s how I suggest escaping from materialism. The main objective should not be to have fewer possessions. You can still have a lot of possessions but not be materialistic. It all depends on how you perceive it in your mind and whether you remain in total freedom or not.

Do your possessions own you? Or do you own your possessions? If you own them, you will not have issues accepting their loss. If they own you, you live in modern slavery, chained by your own perception of life and who you are.

Ultimately, even minimalists will still be slaves to the things they don’t possess if they have not discovered who they are.

It doesn’t matter where you believe the source of your happiness is. As long as you believe it has anything to do with having or not having a lot of material things, you’re looking for it in the wrong place.

Happiness comes from within, from the knowledge of who you are, and a non-dualistic perception of the world. Once you’ve come to that conclusion, you can have as many or as few things you like. Either way, you’ll be aware that joy and happiness do not come from the things you own, they come from who you are.

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