One key role that money does very well is the seemingly simple transaction of buying things - from food and clothes, books and computers to cars, houses and vacations. That seemingly simple action of buying transfers the ownership of an entity from one person to another.

But is that all there is to it? What does it really mean to own something? And what happens when something belongs to you?

I am about to embark on the biggest purchase of my life so far - my husband and recently got invited to select a flat from HDB. Home ownership has always been a “natural” thing for Singaporeans to aspire towards, and I am no exception. It was my dream to buy the biggest house that I could lay my hands on, much like the 5-room executive apartment that I grew up in. The flat was so big, that as a kid, I was able to ride my bicycle indoors, making loops around the kitchen, living room and dining room.

So when it came time to look at prices for my first home, it was an instinct to filter flats that matched my childhood aspirations. Alas, my more rational other half did the math, and it turned out that our income could only allow us to comfortably afford a 4-room flat. So I convinced myself that I would make a tradeoff for a shorter commute would make me happy. After all, that’s what my positive psychology prof said makes a person happier, so why not test it on myself? Alas, we did not get a good enough queue number to allow us to pick that flat.

I swept the idea of home ownership to the back of my mind as we planned our wedding and moved into the master bedroom in my mother’s place while we awaited another opportunity. In the process of moving in together and clearing out my closet space to accommodate his belongings, I realised that the process of purging my home of the things I did not need was rather therapeutic.

In that time, I was re-introduced to the tiny house movement via a video that was shared by a co-worker and for the first time, actually considered that it would be a lifestyle that would suit me. It just made so much sense - smaller environmental footprint, less debt and more time (from not cleaning a big house!). At the same time, an opportunity to apply for a flat arose. We decided that a 3-room flat would meet our needs, and for the future that we planned together.

When thinking about signing on the dotted line for my new home, the financial considerations were again at the forefront of my mind. This time, however, I have made peace with my mental and physical downsizing - a 3-room flat would mean less financial responsibility. With less space, it would also force me to consider my future purchases, which would have both an environmental and financial impact.

Perhaps this responsibility of this step of ownership I’m about to take has shifted from that of a financial burden to one of conscious decision-making. It’s taking a stand that I don’t need that extra space. And perhaps this is what taking ownership of something truly encompasses.

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