“And be a simple kind of man.” Lynyrd Skynyrd
This article is sure to offend someone. That’s OK. I think a few of my observations even offend me. (Quoting Richard Foster along with Lynyrd Skynryd will do it for some).
The old saying is that “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.” I think it should really be “one man’s junk is . . . still junk.” I know, I know. That is not altogether fair. Believe me, I have plenty of “treasures” in my closet that qualify as someone’s junk.
My point is that most of us simply have too much stuff. Think about this. The average new house in 1970 was 1,500 sq. ft. The average new house now is 2,500 sq. ft. That extra room is not because families have gotten bigger. What’s wrong with a little extra room, you ask. Nothing. But just think about closets. Have you ever seen the closets of a house built in, say, 1920? Now it seems as if a 500 sq. ft. walk-in closet is not enough.
What about storage? Used to be closets and the attic were enough. Then, we started piling stuff in the garage and leaving the cars outside. Perhaps a metal shed out back. How about renting a self-storage space? Sure, sometimes you have to store stuff during a transition period or after a death in the family or for some exceptional reason. But according to Bloomberg.com the self-storage business is booming. The business doubled between 1998 and 2012 and there are some 50,000 warehouse facilities (facilities, not individual storage units) in the country. I see them popping up all the time. Do we have too much stuff? So . . .
How to know you have too much stuff, or are perhaps inordinately attached to your junk, or don’t give too much thought to all your junk. (Some of these are personal experience, some are not. Apply as needed):
1. You move boxes full of stuff (treasures, keepsakes, antiques, family heirlooms) from one attic to another (at least five) until you say “no more!” You dump it all in the middle of the garage (almost wall to wall), call your two sweet daughters to come and claim some of their inheritance. They both take a look at the pile and say, “I don’t want this junk!” So you call a charity to come and get it. I don’t miss any of it!
2. You have a bumper sticker on your car that says “He who dies with the most toys wins.” (Obviously something really wrong with that statement).
3. You think planned obsolescence is a good idea; or, similarly, you can’t wait for the next update.
4. You have camped out overnight to be first in line for the newest iphone, video game, or trendy toy.
5. You think Black Friday is a really good idea.
6. You actually stood in line at 5:00 AM on Black Friday.
7. You walk through a flea market or antique store and realize you already have a lot of that stuff (mostly in closets, in the garage, in the attic).
8. You think a garage sale is actually fun rather than an “only when you move” necessary evil.
9. You couldn’t get your cars into the garage even in the worst hailstorm.
10. You still think giving your octogenarian parents “gifts” (note: stuff or junk) for their Christmas, Birthdays, or Father’s/Mother’s Day is what they actually want, not realizing they have spent the last several years pushing their junk off on you.
So, what to do? Feel the freedom of unburdening yourself from debt, from junk, from clutter, from keeping up with the latest trendy gadget. Get to the point where, if your house were burglarized, it would only be an inconvenience and not a gigantic financial loss. I’m not there yet, but am working on it.