Friday, April 18, 2014


The crap you own is worth a lot less than you think.

We are dealing with a death in the family, which is a common thing these days, with the older generation getting older and dying off.   Frankly, the next 20 years are going to be booming business for retirement communities, retirement homes, eldercare communities, nursing homes, and mortuaries.   Elder Law is a booming area to get into, as legions of kids are being forced to deal with their parent's issues, both pre- and postmortem.

When a person dies, unexpectedly, it can be a bit of a nightmare to clean up.   Not only do various bank accounts, bills, and the like have to be dealt with, as well as probating a will, but you also have to deal with very personal property like the underwear drawer, someone's cosmetics, medicines, and old box of band-aids.

And then there is the refrigerator full of food, and the pantry full of same.  And if there are pets.....   it gets messy.

But often, the household furniture and things have to be sold off or disposed of, in order to sell the home or vacate the apartment or whatever.   And this is where you realize that all the crap you accumulate in life, which cost you a lot of money, personally, is really worth nothing.   And you realize that you have far too much crap in your life.

Even someone who isn't a hoarder and lives in a fairly orderly and clean home can have closets full of crap that accumulates - and takes hours to clean out, sort through, and dispose of.

And we all have blind spots in this regard.   I have a box of wiring stuff - computer and stereo cables, wall-pack transformers, old cell phone chargers and junk like that. Others have other blind spots - like a closet filled with brand-new containers of zip-lock bags (who knows, you might run out!) or stuff like that.  

It is an alarming wake-up call that we clutter up our lives with crap.

And in many cases, like with the ziplock bags, we buy more and more stuff, failing to remember that we have an inventory of these things already.

When you own something, but it is packed away or filed away in a closet or attic or drawer - and you can't find it - well, it is like not really owning that thing at all.

So you spend money on, say, a package of batteries, and you use one, put the rest in a drawer somewhere, and forget about it, and the next time you need a battery, you go out and buy a new package, and the process repeats.   Pretty soon, you are a battery hoarder.

Given the price of this stuff - cumulatively - it pays to spend some time in your life organizing things.   And it doesn't take much to do this.  Designate one drawer a "battery drawer" or whatever, and be done with it - and remember that is what that drawer is for - and ONLY that.

Many people have a drawer in their kitchen that becomes a catch-all for whatever they put into it.  A crap drawer, I guess.  My parents had one, and it was filled with odd notes, old pens, batteries, dull scissors, and the like.  Crap.

And we all say the same thing, too.  "Don't throw that away, it's valuable!"  And we tell each other stories about how such-and-such a painting we have, or a plate, or a coin, or furniture, or whatever, is some valuable family heirloom.   And sad-sack-of-shit-shows like "Antiques Roadshow" (their slogan, "validating your hoarding since 1998!") tell the plebes what they want to hear - that their ugly clock "could fetch $5000 at auction" or some such bullshit.

For the most part, however, it isn't true.   Yea, once in a while, someone finds an original copy of the Declaration of Independence and Normal Lear will buy it for $1.2 million.   The rest of the time, though, it is mostly just junk.

It is hard to admit this to ourselves - that we are all mostly plebes and the squalid crap in our hovels isn't worth its weight in gold.   But that usually is the case.  My parents left me an antique shoe, and told me it was priceless.  Turns out on eBay, it fetched $239, which was more than it was worth to me - or any of my siblings.

The Material is Mortal Error and you can't take it with you.   It is better to use your money to live your life than to accumulate things, particularly "collectibles" and the like.   Objects, by themselves, have no real worth, unless they have a use to you or someone else.  Gold bugs have yet to figure this out, but it is being explained to them, even as we speak.

This experience has highlighted to me that I need to do some cleaning out of my own - closets and attics and other junk collection areas where "stuff" seems to multiply, dragging us down emotionally, a little bit at a time.

UPDATE:  We called an auction company to see if they could sell the contents of the house in an Estate sale.  The man was pretty frank:  "My minimum fee is $1200 and you have maybe, on a good day, $2000 worth of stuff here, maybe less.   You may end up owing me money when it is all said and done."

So off to goodwill it goes, once the cousins have picked over the remainder.

Such is the worth of the precious "stuff" you cling to.   Certainly not worth ruining your life over, or obsessing about.

And if you think that your crap is somehow worth more than that, think again.   Unless you are a multimillionaire or  something, chances are, your crap isn't worth crap.