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At Work.....
I found this online the other day and while cleaning out my office today I could not stop thinking about it so I decided to post it. Be forewarned, if you have a lot of stuff you'll be inclined to throw it away when you finish reading this.


I have too much stuff. Most people in America do. In fact, the poorer
people are, the more stuff they seem to have. Hardly anyone is so poor
that they can't afford a front yard full of old cars.

It wasn't always this way. Stuff used to be rare and valuable. You can
still see evidence of that if you look for it. For example, in my
house in Cambridge, which was built in 1876, the bedrooms don't have
closets. In those days people's stuff fit in a chest of drawers. Even
as recently as a few decades ago there was a lot less stuff. When I
look back at photos from the 1970s, I'm surprised how empty houses
look. As a kid I had what I thought was a huge fleet of toy cars, but
they'd be dwarfed by the number of toys my nephews have. All together
my Matchboxes and Corgis took up about a third of the surface of my
bed. In my nephews' rooms the bed is the only clear space.

Stuff has gotten a lot cheaper, but our attitudes toward it haven't
changed correspondingly. We overvalue stuff.

That was a big problem for me when I had no money. I felt poor, and
stuff seemed valuable, so almost instinctively I accumulated it.
Friends would leave something behind when they moved, or I'd see
something as I was walking down the street on trash night (beware of
anything you find yourself describing as "perfectly good"), or I'd
find something in almost new condition for a tenth its retail price at
a garage sale. And pow, more stuff.

In fact these free or nearly free things weren't bargains, because
they were worth even less than they cost. Most of the stuff I
accumulated was worthless, because I didn't need it.

What I didn't understand was that the value of some new acquisition
wasn't the difference between its retail price and what I paid for it.
It was the value I derived from it. Stuff is an extremely illiquid
asset. Unless you have some plan for selling that valuable thing you
got so cheaply, what difference does it make what it's "worth?" The
only way you're ever going to extract any value from it is to use it.
And if you don't have any immediate use for it, you probably never

Companies that sell stuff have spent huge sums training us to think
stuff is still valuable. But it would be closer to the truth to treat
stuff as worthless.

In fact, worse than worthless, because once you've accumulated a
certain amount of stuff, it starts to own you rather than the other
way around. I know of one couple who couldn't retire to the town they
preferred because they couldn't afford a place there big enough for
all their stuff. Their house isn't theirs; it's their stuff's.

And unless you're extremely organized, a house full of stuff can be
very depressing. A cluttered room saps one's spirits. One reason,
obviously, is that there's less room for people in a room full of
stuff. But there's more going on than that. I think humans constantly
scan their environment to build a mental model of what's around them.
And the harder a scene is to parse, the less energy you have left for
conscious thoughts. A cluttered room is literally exhausting.

(This could explain why clutter doesn't seem to bother kids as much as
adults. Kids are less perceptive. They build a coarser model of their
surroundings, and this consumes less energy.)

I first realized the worthlessness of stuff when I lived in Italy for
a year. All I took with me was one large backpack of stuff. The rest
of my stuff I left in my landlady's attic back in the US. And you know
what? All I missed were some of the books. By the end of the year I
couldn't even remember what else I had stored in that attic.

And yet when I got back I didn't discard so much as a box of it. Throw
away a perfectly good rotary telephone? I might need that one day.

The really painful thing to recall is not just that I accumulated all
this useless stuff, but that I often spent money I desperately needed
on stuff that I didn't.

Why would I do that? Because the people whose job is to sell you stuff
are really, really good at it. The average 25 year old is no match for
companies that have spent years figuring out how to get you to spend
money on stuff. They make the experience of buying stuff so pleasant
that "shopping" becomes a leisure activity.

How do you protect yourself from these people? It can't be easy. I'm a
fairly skeptical person, and their tricks worked on me well into my
thirties. But one thing that might work is to ask yourself, before
buying something, "is this going to make my life noticeably better?"

A friend of mine cured herself of a clothes buying habit by asking
herself before she bought anything "Am I going to wear this all the
time?" If she couldn't convince herself that something she was
thinking of buying would become one of those few things she wore all
the time, she wouldn't buy it. I think that would work for any kind of
purchase. Before you buy anything, ask yourself: will this be
something I use constantly? Or is it just something nice? Or worse
still, a mere bargain?

The worst stuff in this respect may be stuff you don't use much
because it's too good. Nothing owns you like fragile stuff. For
example, the "good china" so many households have, and whose defining
quality is not so much that it's fun to use, but that one must be
especially careful not to break it.

Another way to resist acquiring stuff is to think of the overall cost
of owning it. The purchase price is just the beginning. You're going
to have to think about that thing for years—perhaps for the rest of
your life. Every thing you own takes energy away from you. Some give
more than they take. Those are the only things worth having.

I've now stopped accumulating stuff. Except books—but books are
different. Books are more like a fluid than individual objects. It's
not especially inconvenient to own several thousand books, whereas if
you owned several thousand random possessions you'd be a local
celebrity. But except for books, I now actively avoid stuff. If I want
to spend money on some kind of treat, I'll take services over goods
any day.

I'm not claiming this is because I've achieved some kind of zenlike
detachment from material things. I'm talking about something more
mundane. A historical change has taken place, and I've now realized
it. Stuff used to be valuable, and now it's not.

In industrialized countries the same thing happened with food in the
middle of the twentieth century. As food got cheaper (or we got
richer; they're indistinguishable), eating too much started to be a
bigger danger than eating too little. We've now reached that point
with stuff. For most people, rich or poor, stuff has become a burden.

The good news is, if you're carrying a burden without knowing it, your
life could be better than you realize. Imagine walking around for
years with five pound ankle weights, then suddenly having them
I once heard George Carlin say that "all you have to do is move into a bigger house, then you will have room for more stuff".

I need a smaller airplane, then my hangar will hold more stuff. (Just joking about that, I am building more shelves, that will do it for now).

I find that the things I end up keeping are things like that rotary phone he was talking about. I have lots of things I would consider treasures too and I would never sell ALL my guns. But I do find that I end up keeping stuff like boxes to old cell phones and chargers to cell phones I haven't seen in ten years. I threw a bunch of stuff away in my office today. Broken three ring binders, 10 year old aircraft spruce catalogs, phone books, lots of magazines, just all kinds of crap that I collected for really no reason. I mean I had tote bags from tradeshows that were give aways and of poor quality. I had it folded up neatly as if one day I would have the perfect use for it. Well today I found that it was useful because I loaded it up with a bunch of crap and threw it all in the trash!

I guess the point is that I grew up learning that if it ain't broke it is worth keeping and if it was broke then it was definitely worth keeping (you might could make something out of it) ....Anybody who has ever pulled nails out of a 2X4 and straightened them on the concrete knows what I'm talking about.

It's just the crap that I got to get rid of.....Not the "Good Stuff"
Hi Grant. Great subject about Stuff. The older I get the more Im trying to get rid of stuff. In fact now Im trying to figure out how to get everything out of my name and into my kids name before Im dead. You spend your whole life working hard for Stuff then in the end you have to figure out how to get rid of it.

Here is a real problem Im having now and maybe some of the cub members have a solution, or know of someone who has this problem.
How Do I help
My older sister about 64 years old, is single and lives in a shack by choice. She won't throw anything away and won't allow anyone on the property let alone in the house. One time I did go to the back door that won't close all the way and went about two feet in. I just stood there with my mouth open. It took about 5 minutes before I could tell at one time this was a kitchen. Stuff packed clear to the ceiling. Thats as far as I went. I offered to bring a crew in and dumpster with a trackhoe and clean everything out, but that caused a problem, she has to think about that and the offer never went any further. No water there for 5 years think about that. I know a match would take care of that problem but thats really not the answer. Any ideas would be appreciated.

Hi Bill,
Just a newbie here, but in checking out some of the forums before I signed on, I came across the tale about your sister.

I had a cousin like that, and one day someone convinced him how valuable (at least to others) some of his stuff might be. He never completely cleaned up everything, but a lot got sold, and he managed a fair bit of pocket change from the deal... and that was in the 'olden days' before eBay - and I suspect y'all know what kind of prices are sometimes paid on eBay for 'stuff'.

It turned out he liked money a bit more than he liked stuff.

Dunno if that would apply to your sister, but it was all I could think of.

Hey, welcome 4-cubs!!

You really got 4 Cubs... as in airplanes, or you talkin' baseball cards? :):)

Intro yourself, tell us about you!!
Nope... don't actually have 4 cubs, but have had 4 different cubs over the years. First was in the early '70s, an 85 hp J-3 that I flew across Canada and the US (literally coast-to-coast) a couple of times. Then in the mid-80's I got a PA-11 on EDO 1400 floats with a Lyc O-235, that I flew around Ontario Canada (when I lived there). I bought it to have something to fly while building (with help) a Cuby with Lyc O-235 and Edo 1400 floats. Meanwhile I found a good deal on another airplane, a Cub (licensed at the time as an ultra light - which nowadays means 'experimental' I believe). It turned out to be a J-2 which had been tinkered with (cowl, struts, glass) so it really looked like a J-3. It had a Cont. 65 and 1140 floats. It was a fun little airplane on wheels, but left a bit to be desired on floats - especially compared to the ones with the O-235 engines.

When the Cuby was finished the lady in my life figured having 3 airplanes was a bit excessive, so a home should be found for one of them.

I couldn't decide which one to part with so I decided to let the universe provide some input - I put both up for sale and figured whichever one got sold first would be the one I'd part with. Seemed like a good idea at the time - though looking back on my life, I would have been better off finding a new home for the lady! (which I soon did anyway, but... had I done it sooner ... well who knows):eek:

Anyway, the Cuby sold. I keep the PA-11 and the J2/J3. PA-11 on floats and the J2/3 at a neighbor's field on wheels. Ahh.. the good 'ol days, two Cubs, one on wheels, one on floats.

Well time passes, I find a different lady, get married, then I get into business difficulties, and another home must be found for an airplane. The PA-11 is worth more than the 2/3 so it gets sold. Then a year or so later, the first child enters the picture... ya know where this is going... Yup, 2/3 gets sold.

Now it it 18 yrs later, the marriage is long since gone, first kid soon off to college, second kid crazy about airplanes. I have been flying other folks' airplanes for a living, but haven't had one of my own since 1990. Decide it is time again to have one.

My current wife (I finally found one that fits) grew up around airplanes and we are putting some money away to get another cub. She participated back in the '70s in some of the flying across and around the continent in my first J-3, and it took us almost 30 years to get back together. :D

And just as an added meaning to my handle "4cubs" the number 4 can also be read as "for" meaning I am definitely 'for cubs'... get it? :wink:

You may notice I have not mentioned having a Supercub - I hope the fact that I never had one doesn't consign me to a lower level of acceptance on the site... I am not prejudiced, some of my best friends had Supercubs!
Welcome 4Cubs. Sounds like wife # 2 is a keeper.

On the subject of "stuff," our house got creamed by a tornado about 10 years ago. The Fun Police and the kids were OK, but most of the "stuff" looked like it had been sprayed with guacamole, shingle bits, and glass shards. Out to the dumpster it went, nary a tear shed.

Fortunately the books and tools were spared - it would have been a disappointment to lose them, but they were all replaceable.

The big lesson for me: it was all "stuff," and if we'd lost it all it wouldn't have mattered as long as the Fun Police and the kids were OK.
One of the rules of storage space "is you will fill all the available space with stuff". Along time ago I purchased a 200' rope for banner towing when I stopped towing
I just couldn't bring myself to cut that long rope, I
might NEED a long rope some day. Now I have a 200' rope that is so old it can't be trusted but it is still 200' long and taking up space in the hangar. :roll: