Monday 134: The Lifelong Burden of Material Objects


Monday, 12 December 2016

This is not an original title for a blog post – I pulled it from this post on Retire Before Dad, which is one of the first financial blogs I ever read.  The concept of retiring before one’s parents is what originally caught my eye, and while I am no longer a spring chicken, the blog is as appealing as ever, resonates with our goals, and today, the linked post in particular:  We are still unpacking from our move here 11 years ago.

Last week we started the refinance process.  As we need to have an appraisal of the property, it also means we have done a bit of research.  We have upgraded a couple of medicine chests, long in need of replacement anyway, put in new smoke detectors, and bought a carbon monoxide monitor.  Additionally, this means we started cleaning up around here in the way we have been meaning to for a long, long time, by getting rid of stuff.  While we are having an appraisal for valuation of the property, not a home inspection, we figure a house which looks nice will come in with a better valuation.  Additionally, we have a phenomenal kitchen, and feel that alone will up the appraisal value.

Cleaning up the bathrooms took an amazingly small amount of time.  It took up a lot of space in the trash bins, to the point where our neighbors let us fill theirs up as well.  Just from the hall bathroom, 4 bags of trash appeared – old prescriptions, old OTC medications, empty boxes, partly filled bottles of alcohol and peroxide that were consolidated and the old bottles discarded.  Then there were samples of soap or shampoo or toothpaste or whatever.  It was a really disgusting process!

Besides cleaning out the two bathrooms, we attacked the garage.  This is where the most garbage was to be found . . . papers from school, old and out-of-date technical manuals and textbooks, trash we still hadn’t sorted out from my brother who died last year.  I think cleaning up other people’s stuff is worse than cleaning up your own.

Beyond cleaning out the garage, there was – and still is – a need to organize it.  Hobbies are fun, but they can become burdens.  The garage is the hobby area, for beer brewing, wood working, rocketry, fiber arts.  However, if you cannot find something, the tendency is to replace what you cannot find, and then you end up with a half dozen widgets that you really don’t need, as one will do.  As we also buy from Costco, storage of extras can become a bit of a challenge.

Collections also take up space.  I am beginning to wonder if collections are just another way to spend money that you really don’t need to spend.  Do we really need our collections of old sewing machines or vintage cameras?  What about all that yarn, or different colors of spray paint for rockets?  What should we do with the family piano?  How about books?  What we found of value 15 years ago has lost its cachet – time to divest?

For us, one of the commodities we lack the most is time and energy.  Cleaning up takes a lot of time, forethought, and diligence.  It’s much harder to divest oneself of stuff than it is to bring it home!  Still, while laziness is attractive, productivity and accomplishments are so much better in the long run.

Finally, I think as one gets older, one needs and wants less.  Material goods are simply that.  Financial focus also increases the awareness of excess, whether in spending, or in possessions.  There is much we can do without, and finding that out is a big life lesson – but some of us (like us!) come to this realization later in life.  Ah, well!

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