The Old Green Chair

One of the big fixtures of the first apartment that Sarah and I shared was an extremely bright green chair. This chair had ancient floral-print upholstery, done almost entirely in shades of green and green-yellow, and looked like it walked straight out of the 1970s. Unsurprisingly, especially considering our recently-out-of-college status, this chair was a pick-up from a Goodwill store.

It was ugly.

It was garish.

It was comfortable.

In fact, that chair was so comfortable that Sarah and I would often race to see who would claim it in the evenings as a place to sit. It was the single most comfortable chair that either one of us has ever owned.

When we left that apartment, we left that chair behind.

* * *

Now, why did we leave that chair behind?

As a newly married couple, both with the beginnings of careers, we both believed that we needed to put aside such old things. We needed to upgrade our living quarters.

In short, we went and bought a bunch of furniture to replace that old green chair.

Looking back on it, we didn’t get rid of that old green chair because we wanted to. We both loved that old thing. We both ceremoniously sat in that chair for a while on our last day in that old apartment before leaving it at the curb. Between the two of us, we didn’t really mind the appearance of that chair, and neither did our friends.

Instead, we got rid of it out of a sense of what we were supposed to do.

As a young professional couple, we were supposed to have nice furniture in our home.

We were supposed to look sharp.

We were supposed to impress the people we invited over with the quality of our home decor.

Do you see a problem with those statements?

In each case, we felt like we were supposed to do something because of what we thought other people wanted from us or expected from us. Getting rid of things like the green chair is something that people like us were supposed to do.

The biggest financial mistake my wife and I ever made was worrying about what people like us were supposed to do. If we had simply focused instead on what made us happy, we would have found ourselves in a much better financial place all the way along.

* * *

Keep your green chair, whatever that might be. If you like it, keep it. Don’t do what you’re supposed to do, especially when you’re supposed to spend money to replace something that already fulfills your needs quite well.

By the way, the chair that we replaced the “green chair” with lasted about four years. A sharply-clawed cat mauled it, the reclining mechanism broke, and several springs bent so badly inside of it that you couldn’t sit down in it without issuing a cacaphony of clicks and clacks.

I wish we still had that green chair. Not just because it was comfortable, but because of what it meant.

Trent Hamm
Trent Hamm
Founder of The Simple Dollar

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 after developing innovative financial strategies to get out of debt. Since then, he’s written three books (published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press), contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.

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