What if you suddenly walked out of your home, never to return? What would your loved ones find? I speak often these days to baby boomer clients about all their stuff, and what in the world to do with it? We were endowed with rare treasures from our parents and grandparents. Chosen to be caretakers of priceless antiques. “Keep these pieces in our family,” they said. I’m constantly saying to my clients and to myself, “Stuff is only (monetarily) worth what someone is willing to pay for it.”
I’m not speaking of the items that have special meaning to us—things we can’t live without. Like my grandmother’s rings. But how much do we have that doesn’t fit that category? We live in a different world from our ancestors. They bought a few good things and kept them forever. The generations coming after us buy lots of bargain stuff and use it up. We boomers are in the middle; having been endowed with all the valuables and having nowhere to relocate them.
This all came back to me again when I was asked to look at a home recently vacated. I stepped inside and took a look around. It seemed as if the homeowner had just left to run an errand. Clean dishes in the dishwasher, cups by the coffee maker ready to fill with a fresh brew. Drawers brimming with silverware for table setting, family photos all around, green plants that needed water, books half read– this place was full of life. A life interrupted. I learned that, sadly, there was a rather sudden diagnosis and an abrupt departure to family in another city.
You can tell a lot about a person when you’re in their home. This one was full of love. So many treasured antiques. Updated colors and decor here and there. Lots of chairs on the sun porch for lots of people. She had staged her life for living and comfort; not for selling. Did she even know what was happening in her home? I felt like I was invading her privacy; but kept reminding myself that I was there to help.
I’d been asked to come in and identify certain items that could be kept in the house for staging purposes. My single motive was to hasten the sale of her home.
This experience was poignant for me and I knew that it wasn’t just a job. It was another opportunity for me to grow in my understanding of how stuff affects our lives; my clients’ and my own.
Looking ahead to a probable move from my home, I’m challenged to think judiciously about everything. Do I really use it? Need it? Love it? No more saying, “I might need it some day.” Would I buy the item today? Many times the answer is “No!” But there is that endowment effect. The feeling that the thing is a part of my life and I’m responsible to care for it and see that it has a good home. This process starts the moment we acquire an item. It’s hard to let go after it’s in our possession. Especially for us baby boomers. Funny how our minds work.
Hopefully we’ll all live happily into our nineties! But, life is uncertain. What can you do today, as far as your stuff goes, to prepare for the future? Would your life be lighter and more enjoyable with fewer things weighing you down? Let’s edit out even the good in order to be left with the best. If everything is important nothing is important. Preaching to myself!
“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.”