“We’d love in a cardboard box.”

This is what my piano teacher would often say his wife. He had played back up for Dizzy and other greats and had a build that showed he had lived it up back in the day. Nowadays, with his grey halo wisp of hair on top of his head and dress slacks that were worn but polished to shine, Mr. Jones was still a dapper looking man.

The day I met his wife, I understood what he meant. There are some people who when they stand together, they look like they had always belonged. Together, Mr. Jones and his wife who looked like a younger Ruby Dee, together- they seemed sure and enough. I realized that though he was making a point with the cardboard box, that it wasn’t that far of a stretch.

Today, a new study released from the University of New Hampshire looked at cardboard box love- why love makes us value our possessions less. According to researchers, people who felt secure in love valued material things less than people who are not.

In the experiment, researchers looks at how people place value onto things, like a blanket or a pen. Those who had higher-levels of interpersonal intimacy would undervalue items while those who did not sometimes priced the item at five times what it was actually worth.

Edward Lemay, assistant professor of psychology at UNH, said the findings show how people view the role of possessions in their lives.

“People value possessions, in part, because they afford a sense of protection, insurance, and comfort,” Lemay says. “But what we found was that if people already have a feeling of being loved and accepted by others, which also can provide a sense of protection, insurance, and comfort, those possessions decrease in value.”

The study is interesting because it makes us think about how we assign value and why. Our things are not just individual possessions, for many of us they compose an image, a lifestyle, a glimpse into who we are and what we care for.  There’s a value in independence, there’s a value in having a stability you create on your own. But neither of those things can be created without feeling love.

It may not be glamorous, but I think there is something in striving for cardboard box love, something that could never come from anything else. As driven women, we often ask ourselves what we are willing to sacrifice to have the life we love, but the truth is what life could we give up for love that seems to matters much more.

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  • Ohh, how I LOVE this study and this article. I love my future fiance in that cardboard box way. We’ve committed to a lifestyle of generational wealth-building, and in the process our love of “stuff” has just fallen by the wayside.