• Thomas Corrao

THE RETIREMENT REALITY OF HAVING TOO MUCH STUFF


So, when you think about your own personal happiness, what is it that makes you happy? Is it the quantity of your possessions? Is it the feeling you get when you’re the person who sticks out in your circle of friends because maybe you have the latest version of iPhone, or the best of whatever “thing” that everyone wants? A thing that’s just a little bit better than good enough? Maybe you just want to have a lot of something that you believe will impress others so you keep collecting whatever it is that everyone else is so impressed over. I truly believe that when we’re young, many of us want to own stuff just to impress others. So much so, that it’s almost become a societal norm these days to buy above our means. “I’ll just put it on the card and pay it off over time” or “The bank wouldn’t have loaned me the money for this “thing” if I couldn’t afford it.”


Whether or not we admitted it, many people out there want to spark a sort of envy in our fellow man. In doing so we end up working our butts off just to be able to buy or pay for whatever “it” is. Often for no other reason than to impress people we may not even know. Many people have this addiction in today’s society. It’s a real problem because they just don’t realize the extra burden and stress that gathering so many possessions can bring in later life. We’re not on this earth forever and eventually someone is going to have to deal with all of those outdated possessions. I remember, some years ago when my neighbors both passed away and their children had to deal with their estate. The children were overwhelmed with the amount of things their parents had collected throughout their lifetime. They ordered the largest dumpster they could find and had everything loaded up and hauled away. I went over and looked at the dumpster before they took it away. I remember seeing many family portraits in nice frames just thrown in with everything from their lives. It sticks in my mind to this very day. We collect things, sometimes thinking that they will become family heirlooms but the truth is that most of our possessions will just be junk once we are gone.



I too fell into this addiction of gathering things, when I was younger. I can remember back to the 1980’s, when I was still in the military and living in Japan. Back then it was quite the struggle to acquire as much high fidelity stereo equipment as my buddies in the dorm. Still, we worked and spent our cash just so we could pack as much as we could into our tiny military dorm rooms. There were pre-amplifiers, amplifiers, cassette players, cd disc players, digital audio tape decks, Dolby noise reduction units, turntables, and even pop and click machines so our records would not sound like records. Let’s not forget the speakers which came in all sizes and shapes, from little tiny bookshelf speakers to huge studio monitors. There weren’t a lot of guys going for those little ones though. It was more like “Do you think these will fit in my room?” Back then I placed a lot of emphasis on gathering possessions and I tried to gather and collected to impress others. Back then, if I was going to do something, I was going to do it big and gather every conceivable thing you would need to do it. Times change though and so did the electronics industry. Instead of bigger is better, it became how small can we get and still maintain the quality of the music. Suddenly everything was just bulky unwanted gear with no real value. My thinking was truly over the top at times and it resulted in having a whole lot of stuff that was functional but yet undesirable.


My wife really was the one who changed my thinking about possessions when she decided to start the elimination the things around us that simply weren’t being used. It started slowly where she would set things aside and out of sight. After a period of time she would say you know we have items to take to the goodwill. Many times when she brought them out I had problems letting go of them. She would always tell me though that during the time they were put away we never once missed them or needed them. She was right in her thinking and eventually I began to realize how much stuff we actually had that wasn’t even being used. Most of the time we would take the items to the Goodwill store so someone else who may actually need the item could have their turn with it. There were also some occasions where we would have a garage sale and sell some of the things off before making our donation. This has been happening now for several years and we are now to the point where most of the things we have are things we either use weekly or they are things we truly love or have real sentimental value.


Just the fact that there is less stuff has saved us both time and money in my opinion, because having more things only means more time and effort expended whenever you have to deal with them. Now we only procure things we really need and when we do, we buy something quality that will last. We do our research and buy the best one we can find for our money. This time we are not buying to impress, we are buying to fulfill a need with something quality because we deserve to treat ourselves right and not waste our money. It doesn’t necessarily need to be the latest and greatest, the one that everyone wants, it just needs to be the best one to fit our needs.


In the end our goal has now become our ability to move from a 1400 square foot house into a 32 foot recreational vehicle without having to place things into storage. Everything important to us should be able to fit into our new tiny house on wheels. Whatever is left will be sold or given to the goodwill once the house sells.

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