Are you a janitor to your stuff?

January 23, 2012 — Leave a comment

Picture yourself cruising in style across the waves in your new Baja speedboat. You no longer have to dream about being at the lake every weekend, you can live it. The warm sun is pouring over your skin, the wind is blowing through your hair, and you feel the cool water splashing against you. You don’t have a care in the world.

Well, not a care besides the monthly payments; don’t forget the boat insurance and the new trailer! Oh yeah, and the cost of docking it and the gasoline. And the fact that you’re going to spend hours cleaning it and keeping it up every weekend. But besides that, enjoy your boat!

Many people find all of the work worth it, and that’s great. However, a common saying is the best days in a boat owner’s life are when he buys it and when he sells it. There’s a reason that’s a common saying. Owning a boat is a lot of work!

In Walden, Henry David Thoreau wrote, “Men are not so much the keeper of herds as herds are the keeper of men.”

My personal experience revolves around the house my wife and I purchased. We love having it and all of the perks that come with hit. However, we also spend many hours a week mowing the yard, weed-eating, planting, watering, cleaning inside, vacuuming, mopping the floors, cleaning the windows, general maintenance, etc. Sure, I was a janitor before, but I didn’t think I’d voluntarily do it again!

The things we buy end up owning us. We become a janitor to our stuff and the more we buy the harder it gets. If you don’t have a vacation home, you don’t have to worry about taxes, insurance, and maintenance on your vacation home

Is ownership of material items important? For example, could you be happy without owning anything at all, or only basic necessities? No house, car, major electronics, toys, etc. Some people, such as Adam Baker have been able to sell everything and live out of a backpack for years (albeit temporarily).

Many times we are inspired to work harder for the achievement of material items. We feel like we’re more successful when we own things. The Scottish Philosopher, Lord Kames, said we “establish government precisely to put a check on other people’s avidity for our personal goods.” Our stuff is that important to us!

We like our stuff, and it’s our reward for working so hard. However, when vanity comes into play and we buy stuff to make us feel more powerful or important, it can quickly get out of control.

So, how can you lower the risk of becoming a full-time janitor to your stuff?

Consider the advantages and disadvantages before you buy something. If we had to choose again, we’d still buy the house because it’s nice having our own place. We’re not dependent on our upstairs and downstairs neighbors for the amount of sleep we’ll get. We enjoy fixing it up, decorating, and spending time in our yard.

When you’re considering your next big purchase, determine if it’s a want or a need. If it’s just a want, try the product out before you take ownership (if possible). Rent a boat for a couple of weekends and see if all of the work is worth it. It’s perfectly reasonable to enjoy a boat so much that you don’t care about everything that comes with it. We’re all different, and we experience our ‘releases’ in different ways.

Thoreau also wrote, “The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.”

The cost includes all of the time you worked to save up the money and pay for it, as well as all of the time you’ll spend keeping it up. Compare those total costs with the amount of time you spent earning the money to pay for it. It’s only then you can make a true comparison.

It’s easy to get so wrapped up in collecting stuff just to show off that we never truly find meaning and enjoyment in life. Are you a janitor to your stuff?

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