Ran across this blog post by Everett Bogue today.  In it he poses the question: “What would you bring with you, if you had to leave now?”

I started looking around my room here at the piles of stuff that I don’t know what to do with.  Very little of it is so important that I’d risk my life to save it.  If the house was on fire, I’d just grab my keys, wallet, shoes, cell phone, then get out.

Maybe it would depend on how long I have to plan for.  I can flee with the clothes on my back, because I can always get more clothes.  But I already have clothing I have bought in the past that fits me.  So with a few minutes to put an overnight bag together, I’ll pack a couple outfits.  If I think ahead to being comfortable the next time I sleep, maybe I’ll grab a blanket.  If I don’t know where I’ll be eating my next meal, I can pack a cup, knife and spoon.  This all seems to be survival gear, like what you’d take to go camping.  Tools for a temporary situation.

It seems to me that the question assumes that at some point you will return.  If not to the exact same place, you’ll eventually replace all that you left behind in your new location.

An example – There is a box here that stores my dishware set.  It would be left behind in an emergency without a second thought.  But when the day comes that I have my own kitchen, I will definitely want that box.  If I had to buy replacement dishware I think I’d miss this special set that means something to me.

However this can lead to dangerous “what if” thinking.  Keeping extra things around because they might be needed someday.  Nobody can predict the future, so there are lots of things you “might” need.  I guess that’s the challenge – to have the confidence to believe that you will be able to have what you need in the future when the time comes.

Everett’s point was that if all your stuff fits in a backpack, you are free to set off on an adventure at any time.  I do value freedom, and also comfort.  Caught here in the middle with a bakelite doorbell.



June 17, 2010

Back when I was down and out, trying to sell stuff to fund my semi-homeless lifestyle, I was a scavenger of coins.  I would look for and collect coins from wherever possible.  Phone booths, vending machines, coins received in change, loose change in my storage boxes or lying in the street.  Any coin money I found would be collected together.  Then I’d go out and spend them on food.  I remember many times I’d go to the local Burger King, to get whatever $2.00 meal special they had for lunch, paid for in quarters and dimes.  Sometimes this coin gathering behavior made the difference between eating and skipping meals.

When I started working full-time in 2003 and no longer had to watch every nickel, this behavior continued.  At first I just collected the quarters that I received in change, and spent the nickels and dimes in vending machines for snacks.  I saved pennies too for a while but at one point they were taken to a grocery store coin-counting machine and converted to store credit (minus 10% fee).  After that I started saving pennies too.  Now I have plenty of quarters (more than a full cigar box), so when I have some from my change they get spent in the coffee machine at work.  Over the last year or so I’ve been keeping all of the dimes and nickels I get.  And dollar coins of course, there is quite a collection of the presidential golden dollar coins here.

If I had to estimate the value of all these coins — maybe a few hundred dollars?  Really hard to tell without getting out all my little boxes, jars, bags and counting them.

Even though I have more money saved in the bank, that is just a number printed on a monthly statement.  The coins give me a sense of security because they are physical objects that I keep with me.  Also because of my history with relying on pocket change for food, there is a feeling that as long as I have a box of quarters, I’ll be okay.

One day I may just take them to a bank and cash them in, but I’m not there yet.  I tell myself that hoarding money is healthier than hoarding other small things that don’t have real value. Do you agree?


April 26, 2010

Looked at my collection of glasses today.  I have worn glasses since I was five years old.  While I don’t still have any of those early frames I do have the glasses I wore in 6th grade at age eleven, and every pair since.

Now, I was just about to write up a nice blog post here about keeping old eyeglasses, but it started to sound familiar.  Did a search and found out that I already blogged about this last November!  Ugh, almost forgot about that.  Months pass but little changes.

Still have all the glasses here.  They really are not needed for anything.  I’m never going to wear them in public, and I have the prescriptions written down.  It could finally be time to donate them.

A comment on a retirement blog got me thinking.  It was about how a person may want to live a freer mobile lifestyle in an RV or a boat, but at the same time they just bought a nice sofa set for the living room.  They believe that moving is not an option because it would mean giving up the new furniture.  The blogger’s point was the sofa set was holding them back from following their dreams.  In other words they are “owned by their stuff”.

I don’t think “owned” is the right word for it.  That person has made a choice without realizing it.  The choice to have the decked-out living room instead of living on a boat.

When I was younger I thought that all choices were between something good and something bad.  Do I keep the perfect condition blue shirt or the old green shirt with a hole in it?  Of course you keep the blue shirt because the other one is ripped.  But what if they are both in good condition?  A packrat will want to keep both because they are perfectly good.  The packrat mind doesn’t realize that real choices can be made between two good options.

The homeowner who dreams of a mobile life sees value in the freedom of living aboard a boat, and also values having a comfortable house.  Both choices are good.  It’s not that their life is being controlled by the furniture, just that the decision to stay in the house has been made.

Too many computers

February 11, 2010

Have this nagging feeling that I own too much computer stuff.  I have three laptop computers, and each one can be used for tasks that the others can’t do.  I can’t simplify the computer gear by selling a laptop, because that would sacrifice some functionality.  The question then becomes, instead of simplifying by reducing the hardware maybe I should first simplify by reducing the options that I need.  Do I have too much functionality available?  Are all these tech options necessary for a fulfilled life?

It seems that I am already at the minimum number of machines, and to reduce further would require giving up functionality.  What if this is a hoarding behavior? I’m not comfortable with having this many computers, but at the same time I did not consider giving up the ability to do some things.  It was the hoarding of features.

Strangely it did not occur to my stuff-centered mind that I might be able to grow by reducing the number of computer tasks my home computer is capable of doing.  I could see the hardware side, but just now understood the software side.  The packrat mind thinks only about what is in front if it (physical objects).  There is this idea that if the MacBook is sold, it means I’ll never again have a Mac, so this all will be lost.  That’s not really true because I will be keeping the data.  And I can always get a newer Mac later, the next time I upgrade.

Medical lie leads to a truth

November 21, 2009

Listening to a radio talk show about health care today.  The host read about a study where there was a group of people who all had the same life-threatening disease.  There’s no current treatment for the disease.  Half of the group were told that there was nothing that could help their condition.  The other half were told that science was only 6 months away from an experimental cure.

The study was about how people react to having hope for a cure.  It turned out that the half that were without hope were happier!

They were forced to come to terms with the harsh reality that their days were numbered.  By letting go of hope for a possible cure, they saw each new day as precious, and valued a day as much as they used to value a year before they were ill.

Hope, like worry, can be a burden.  Both are expectations for an uncertain future.  It can be freeing to release it.

Visiting the Unit

October 12, 2009

This weekend I was out doing errands and had some time before a store opened.  So I was driving around aimlessly and ended up going to my storage unit for the first time in four months.  I’ve been avoiding it because of the powerless feeling about getting rid of the stuff in storage.  This summer I focused on other things at the house.  Made awesome progress there, although not (yet) down to the ideal of “desk plus 5 boxes”.

Anyway I was afraid of feeling overwhelmed by the sight of the boxes stacked up there.  Today I did not feel overwhelmed.  The stacks seemed smaller than I remembered.  Maybe because I didn’t go there to work on sorting?  I had something in the car to drop off and another thing to find next time I was there.  Got that done in a couple minutes.

Just a visit today.  But I know this has to be dealt with at some point.  I still want very much to get rid of this storage unit, but have no other place to put those boxes.