8 Reasons Why The Younger Generation Has Rejected Owning Stuff

tim f

Have you noticed how the younger generation seem to reject materialism? It’s really quite fascinating to me, and it’s been on my mind a lot recently. When millennials talk about minimalism, they aren’t of course talking about the 1960s art movement. They are talking about minimalism as a lifestyle.

Millennials haven’t always been given the best reputation, and have often been dubbed as wealth grabbing dreamers. Moreover, they’ve been subjected to many statements regarding their work lives, and have often been labelled as lazy and entitled. Now, we have been terribly overindulged. Even our dominant counter-culture movement, the illustrious yet strangely infamous hipster trend is ultimately based on consumerism. The perfect set of clothes and attractive yet meaningless tattoos, which symbolise a hollow sort of rebellion. But there does seem to be more to the millennial than meets the eye.

It’s certainly not true for everyone, but this general sort of social activity sway towards a minimalist style of life is truly as revolutionary as the generation itself. At the heart of this movement is the desire to shed all ancillary items. Through this process of elimination, a minimalist millennial strives to find what matters to them most. They endeavour to find meaningful relationships, and to savour immaterial experiences. In their 20s, this generation isn’t spending their savings on lavish weddings or fat mortgages; they’re opting for the more-bang-for-your-buck lifestyle instead. So let’s investigate why:

Here are 8 reasons why young people no longer care about owning loads of stuff:

1)      The Progress of Life Vs. The Process of Accumulation

“The best investment you can make is in yourself.” Warren Buffett.

A survey in Britain done last year found that 78% of millennials compared to 59% of baby boomers would choose to spend their money on desirable experiences like gigs, holidays or festivals over the purchase of a material objects. The same survey found that travel is particularly cherished amongst our millennials, who would seemingly choose to wander the globe blogging and posting pictures onto social media, that to gain another material possession.

It would seem that millennials are much more concerned about earning money to spend on experiences with their friends and family. Experiencing culture and spending time with loved ones is, for many, being recognised as the most truly valuable aspect of life.

Young people have started to discover that personal growth is much more valuable to a person’s development and happiness than material growth. Millennials are realising that material possessions really only bring good feelings for a few days. Personal growth is being recognised as a much more productive way to grow in the long-term, and the correlation between self-worth and net-worth is finally being recognised.

2)      The Minimalists.

Millennials have a unique set of values around how they choose to spend their money. They grew up during the recession, entered a struggling job market, and must now pay off a record-breaking sum of student debt.

Because of this, millennials are beginning to focus more on access to commodities than on ownership of them. For example, millennials are now more concerned with having Netflix and Spotify than they are to adding to their DVD and CD collection. This is all part of a phenomenon known as ‘the sharing economy’, which is basically the result of a declining need in culture to take actual ownership of anything.

Millennials have watched their parents work, work, work and work until they were sick and tired, only to have their pension taken away from them. They’re looking at that model in the realisation that they want to do something differently. This is affecting the way that we view our careers. We are chasing dreams, goals, and experiences, rather than trying to fulfil the materialistic expectations of others.

3)      The Fulfilment Romanticisms.

For many millennials, there is a growing romanticism with the life of simplicity and authenticity. This might be a reaction to the fact that so many of us have been brought up in urban environments. We can’t help to give a wistful sigh at the thought of an off-the-grid lifestyle amid the trees and rivers. We are the iHippies. Being out in nature with our friends and family seems somehow epically romantic.

It’s easy to mock this series of ideals and desires, but I think that they tap into something deep within us all. People are striving for a more meaningful life. This translates into our shopping habits; millennials are making more and more thoughtful choices and are buying fewer goods. There is a rise of popularity in the charity shopping culture, and popping into a vintage shop for an afternoon is becoming a prevalent afternoon activity. Big retailers are going to need to evolve quickly to this trend.

I would also theorise that the rise of social media interaction creates a slightly growing need to develop more meaningful in person encounters. I think that this is why ‘stories’ are probably becoming so increasingly popular; they give the user an opportunity to experience something with another person in person, but to then share it with many other people.

4)      Starting Your Own Thing Is Increasingly Making More Sense.

“Financial struggle is often the direct result of people working all their lives for someone else.” Robert Kiyosaki.

We’re living in an age where anyone can start their own business with basically next to nothing. Rather than spending all of your money on possessions, it’s now becoming much more popular to invest your money in a startup. Young people have figured out that to be financially and spiritually satisfied with your day-to-day life, you can’t work for someone else forever.

Young people know that you need multiple income streams to be truly financially secure and independent, and it’s becoming increasingly feasible to attain this. Imagine trying to achieve this 30-40 years ago? Imagine trying to do this pre-Internet? It would be nigh on impossible. Especially if you were trying to hold down another 9-5 job and had kids to feed.  Young people are beginning to use the Internet as more of a tool to access the lifestyle they desire, free from financial burden, commitment and stress.

People are saving and investing money on their own terms.

5)      Generation Rent.

I would suggest that an element of sheer practicality is sucking the materialism from the millennial. Despite having it easier than their parents in terms of starting up a business online, house prices have unfortunately shot up in many areas, especially the areas where business is thriving. Moreover, University debt lingers like a foreboding cloud over the heads of many, and work seems increasingly unattainable and insecure.

Given this environment, it’s no wonder than millennials are taking their lives elsewhere. They’re making the most of their youth and freedom, and are relishing in their lack of financial commitment.

People are also becoming more aware of the value of the things they own. The Internet is helping people to become much savvier about the value of material possessions, and people are becoming progressively aware of the depreciation of items. The moment you drive that new car you’ve dreamed about out of the shop, the value of it plummets. Millennials are warier of the difference between what they want, and what they need.

6)      The Stresses Of Ownership.

Clutter stresses many people out. And owning clutter is becoming more of an unneeded stress to many. The reported stress levels of many have nearly doubled in the past 30-40 years!

Possessions create a great deal of worry. We fear losing them or damaging them. We fear getting them stolen. What if they break? Buy insurance? What if? What about? The answer has progressively become: Sell it.

Junk has become a burden, and millennials just don’t want it.

7)      A Changing Concept.

This all links back to the University debt thing. Debt is the least attractive thing for this generation. It’s never been attractive, but boy it’s ugly as hell now. The primary reason for this is that people, people like me, who innocently swanned through the luxurious fields of a debt free youth merely 3 years ago, now have more debt than our parents have ever had. Yay. How did that happen?

That’s why debt is now frowned upon by young people. The reason we don’t want stuff is because of the debt that inevitably ensues with it, and we’ve already got quite enough, thank you.

8)      Ethics.

Young people are more clued up on what is going on in the world than ever before because it is just so easy to find out stuff. Millennials might not have the revolutionary spirit of the 60s. They might not have the rebellious streak of the 80s. But the rejection of vast material accumulation is a reflection of a similar trend in society which seemingly transcends all generations: Concern for the world. Young people are going out of their way to make more ethical purchases, to spend on more sustainable options, and to experience more meaningful encounters with both the world, and their friends.  If anything, this suggests that the world is moving away from consumerism, not towards it.

So don’t fear, the world isn’t coming to an end, a generation armed with generally good intent and purpose is rising up to take the reins, and I think that there are lessons we can all learn from them as we progress together into the coming decades.

“If you buy things you do not need, soon you will have to sell things you do need.” Warren Buffett.








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