09 November 2009

The True Cost of Stuff

...there are lots of positive and valid reasons to have stuff, but equally there are good reasons not to have too much stuff!

Excerpt from mnmlist: the essentials, 1 October 2009

'The cost of purchasing an item just scratches the surface. When we buy something, we are taking it into our homes, our lives, and we are taking on the life of another object in this world...

An object isn't born in the store. It is born in the woods (if it is wood), in the mines (if it's metal), in the depths of the world (in the case of petroleum-based products such as plastics, synthetic textiles and such), or perhaps all three places and more if it's a combination of materials. It's born when those natural resources are mined or harvested (at great cost and great cost to the environment), and then hauled to a factory somewhere, a factory that pollutes, inevitably. It's shaped and shifted into its final form (often in various factories), then shipped to various distribution systems and finally to the retailer...

Now we must transport it home, further polluting and consuming and paying - paying for the cost of fuel and maintenance of our transportation, unless it's human-powered, as well as the cost of time, precious seconds of our lives that we'll never get back)...

All of that spent, it now occupies valuable real estate in our homes (or offices), real estate that could go to living space, or real estate that we could give up if we had less stuff and a smaller home. This is real estate that's really expensive, btw: we pay exorbitant prices to own or rent a home, and every square foot of that home costs us more precious time that we spend working to earn the money to pay for that real estate. And that's just for rent or mortgage. Add in the cost of power or gas to heat or cool that home, the cost of maintaining the home, and the time we spend maintaining and cleaning and decluttering and organizing that home and the stuff in it...[also]:
  • it clutters our space, causing distractions and stress
  • we must constantly move it to get to other stuff, to clean, to organize, to paint walls or decorate or remodel
  • we must take it with us if we move, and often if we travel. That's a ton of trouble and costs
  • often we pay for extra storage, outside in our yards or in storage facilities
  • if it breaks, we will often take it to be repaired
  • if we have kids or pets, we have to worry about it getting broken, or scold them for not being careful with it
  • if we get used to it, and it breaks, we'll replace it because we think we need it
  • if it gets old and crotchety, we have the headache of putting up with a less-than-functioning tool
  • if we have too much stuff, it weighs us down, emotionally
  • we get attached to our stuff, creating an emotional battle when we consider giving it up (whether we actually give it up or not)
  • if we have too much stuff, we live in a cramped space, and don't have room for our other stuff
  • too much stuff causes more messes and is harder to clean
  • we might trip over stuff and hurt ourselves
  • if we don't trip over it, we must worry about that each time we pass by the item
  • if we went into debt buying the stuff, we must deal with all the pain and worry of that debt, added to other debt
  • even if we don't go into debt, there's the added burden of dealing with the financial transaction in our checking registers or financial software, or reconciling it with the bank statement. If we even bother, because sometimes it's just too much
  • it gives us a false sense of security
  • it reduces the time we have to spend doing things, instead of worrying about, cleaning, maintaining, using, and working to pay for stuff
  • it reduces the quality of the time we do have
  • at some point, we must worry about (and spend time and money on) getting rid of the item. This means time and money spent on Ebay, Craiglist, a yardsale, giving it to a charity or friend or relative (and the driving required to do that), taking out a classified ad, dealing with buyers, and so on. A real headache
  • if you die and leave your stuff, your relatives will have to deal with all of it. A real headache indeed
  • if, goodness forbid, a natural disaster happens, or your home gets burgled, you'll have to deal with the emotional loss of stuff'

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