Saturday, August 26, 2017

The True Cost of Stuff

My family and I returned earlier this week from our wonderful annual trip "home" to Ohio.  We spent lots of time together and with our extended family, visited fun places, ate some really yummy American food and helped my mom and step-dad prepare for their move in a few day's time.  This house move preparation mostly took place in the evenings; instead of enjoying time with my husband, reading or going for an evening walk, I posted Barbie toys and New Kids on the Block memorabilia... I was head-over-heals for Joey... to different selling sites and sorted through boxes of papers from my school days. Fun! (Not.)

My mom and step-dad have graciously stored what seems like every toy and school report from my childhood for almost 14 years - the time I've been living in Europe.  This means many, many, many boxes containing My Little Pony toys, Cabbage Patch Kids dolls and clothing, love notes and poems (yes! poems!) from a high school boyfriend, report cards from elementary school through high school and school music programs among many, many other things.  Do you get the picture?  All of this stuff has been taking up space in my parents' garage, basement and closets for all this time.  I'm even more amazed to think that the toys from my early childhood have also been moved to other houses at least 3 times before this.
The decals weren't ever put on the toy!  

I vaguely remember playing with this toy but we never made ice cream in the ice cream maker.

Here's the thing though.  These things could have been played with then sold, given away or thrown away a long time ago.  But they weren't.  Why?  A big reason is that I have a tendency to form an emotional attachment to things, not really use or play with it and just simply leave them on a shelf or squirrel them away.  Of those Barbie toys, I think I played with... exactly... NONE of them.  Nope.  The decals weren't even put on toys!  So my parents (or Santa) paid for them, they were put somewhere in our house, then moved many times, then stored for many years...

.... until a month ago when I promised my mom and my step-dad that they would never have to move my unnecessary things ever again... and this meant committing my evenings to figuring out what to do with stuff.  To make a long story short(er), I tried to sell this stuff on eBay, different Facebook selling pages, letgo and Shpock.  Oh, the toys, not the love poems ;o)  Those I put in the recycling bin.  Some of the items did sell, but for far less than I was hoping.

Was it worth it?  Was the $100ish that I earned from selling all of those toys, spending all of those evenings with the stuff instead of with my family, storing those forgotten things year after year and moving them from house to house numerous times worth it?  I think you know the answer: No.  Oh, yeah, and this isn't the first holiday/vacation I've sorted through boxes of "keepsakes" from my childhood during the time in Ohio, either.

The emotional stress of having too much stuff is draining and being surrounded by unwanted stuff is imprisoning.  The cost of stuff isn't just what  is printed on the price tag; add to it the effort it might take to maintain and keep that item and the emotional strain that item places on you, too.

I want to encourage you to simply pause a few seconds before you buy something and ask yourself whether you really love what you're about to buy, will consume it in the near future, use it on a regular basis or add real value to your life. If the answer is "no" to any of these points, simply put that item back on the shelf and walk away. It'll be ok. More than likely, you'll forget about it or simply reflect on how proud you are of yourself for not buying yet another "thing", and as a result, save money and save yourself from future emotional torture.  

I've promised to take a new approach to the stuff in my own house.  I'm still a "squirrel" at heart, but I promise to strive to, little by little, either use, sell, donate or recycle unwanted things in my house - and believe me, there's plenty!

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