Stuff

What would you do if you had to leave tomorrow with nothing but what you could carry?  Would you load up a suitcase full of pictures and clothes?  Would you stuff as many books as you could possibly manage into a box and lug it on your shoulders?  Would you bring the bare essentials of a few toiletries, a change of clothes, and a hard drive with all of your pictures?

We seem to collect so much stuff in our lives, but what do we really need?  When I go on vacation I try to bring as little as possible.  When I’m there, I realize that I don’t miss anything that I left at home and could probably do without half of the things I brought along.

We don’t really need all of the things sitting in our closets, cabinets, boxes, and cars.  You could lose everything you owned tomorrow and it wouldn’t matter.  You would get over it.  Sure you’d be sad about a few sentimental items.  You’d miss your favorite shirt and pictures of your kids, but you’d go on.

If we don’t need any of this stuff, then why do we spend our whole lives collecting it?  Why do we spend thousands of dollars a year on homes with extra closets, basements, and attics to store things that we don’t even look at?

Why do people get angry when they lose things?  What does it matter?

The only thing that matters in your life is your experiences.  What you do today is all that matters.  If you enjoy yourself and are happy then you are on the right track.  Why would you keep doing it if you hated what you were doing?  Why do we sit in cubicles in stuffy offices so that we can make enough money to buy things?

Then we buy things and have nowhere to put them, so we need to buy a house to store our stuff.  But the house you can afford is way out in the suburbs because you need that third bedroom and the two car garage to store your stuff.  So now you need to buy a car to drive yourself from your suburban home to your job.

Well that car costs money, the house costs money, and all that stuff costs money.  It costs so much, in fact, that you need to work harder to find a better job so that you can afford it more easily.

So now you are already working a job in a cubicle that you don’t like, but are sucking up to a boss that annoys you so that you can get a promotion to pay for all of the stuff that you couldn’t really afford in the first place.

All the while, you still have to make your mortgage payments and your car payments.  Not to mention those student loan payments because you had to get that good education so that you could get that “good” job in the first place.

All of these things keep weighing on us as time goes on.  The debt never quite seems to go away.  Yet, the house keeps getting smaller as you keep filling it up with more stuff.

Somewhere along the way you maybe get married and have kids.  With the extra people and all of that stuff, you’re completely out of space and have to buy a bigger house.  You still haven’t paid off the first one, but manage to sell it at a small profit.  You put that profit into the new house, but it still has a pretty big mortgage payment.  The problem is that you had to move farther out into the suburbs to find a bigger house that you could afford, so you might as well buy a new car that gets better gas mileage.  Oh and don’t forget the second car or minivan to take care of those kids.

Now you’ve just spent thousands more dollars moving all of your stuff into the new house and on down payments and of course new furniture because you need something nice for the new place.
Well now you’re really strapped for money, but luckily all of that hard work paid off and you’ve become a manager with a higher paycheck.  Unfortunately, now you’re even more busy and don’t get to see your kids as much because you’re working till eight every night, but at least you can afford to buy them new toys and send them to that expensive after school program.

But it doesn’t end there.  Those toys take up space.  They’re just more stuff.  You keep acquiring more of that stuff.  It’ll eventually lead to another house, maybe another promotion, and don’t forget saving for college.

Everything keeps piling up.  Eventually you’re making three times more than what you were when you were making when you started out.  If you’re lucky that is.  But for some reason, you aren’t saving any of it.  You always seem to be running paycheck to paycheck.

Your kids eventually graduate and leave for college or a job.  Then you finally decide that it’s time to downsize your lifestyle.  You move into a smaller house and get the smaller car.  You sell some of your stuff, but it still clutters up your home.  You want to travel more, but now you’re always busy with meetings because of your high paying job.

All of this keeps going on.  It’s an endless cycle of making more money so you can spend more and more.  Eventually you retire and things are okay.  Maybe you even pay off your mortgage and own your home.  All that hard work finally paid off now you want to travel, but now your health is going.  All of that stress from the job has given you heart issues.  Maybe your wife or husband is suffering from cancer.

You finally have all the time in the world to travel, but you’re both sick and don’t want to leave the house any more.  You get better, your wife beats cancer, but now you’re in your 70s and are too tired to go anywhere.  All the while your kids visit less and less.  Your friends are starting to die off.  Maybe you even lose your spouse.

Your house is still full of all of the stuff you’ve collected over the years.  You have a basement and attic full of boxes of things you don’t even remember.  Your kids grumble about who will have to clean it up when you die.  You sit in your house all day waiting for one of your kids or grandkids to visit.  You make sure your stuff is organized and clean so that anybody who visits will be impressed with your tidy home.

Then you really get sick.  This time it’s for real.  You lay there in the hospital with a nurse whose name you can’t remember.  Your stuff is so far away from you.  You don’t even remember 1/10th of it all.  Maybe you do remember that you never saw the Great Wall of China or rode the Tube in London.

Maybe you even have some consciousness in the end and realize that you worked so hard your entire life to buy all of that stuff, but in the end it’s all just sitting in your house while you drift away in some hospital bed while your kids cry in the next room.  You realize that you didn’t spend half of the time doing what you wanted to do because of all that stuff.

Then you die.  The funeral is nice with lots of flowers.  Most of the young kids don’t even know what’s going on.  A few weeks later your kids take a few things from your house for sentimental reasons.  They need to add to their stockpile of stuff.

Then they sell the rest of it or donate it to good will.  They’ll probably just throw half of your stuff away.  All of the stuff that you worked so hard to accumulate will be gone.  You don’t get to take it with you.  And the worst part is that it takes the most precious thing away from you.

Time.

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