Saturday, September 7, 2013

Fixed Income Retirement-In Praise of "Stuff"

In March, I loaded up all of my possessions and as they saying goes "headed north".  Once I arrived in my new home city, I put all of those items in storage, and lived in the house of someone else.  With the exceptions of clothing and a very few other items we dragged from the storage unit, I was without any of my possessions from March until August.  I had planned to only have things in storage for a couple months, and then our house hunting turned into a long adventure.  Recently, I have finally settled in, and unpacked most (not all by any means) of my possessions. As readers know, I am slowly settling in.

To that end, folks, this is a missive in praise of stuff, in all it's glory. Look at any article on downsizing, living happily, living in the moment, simple sizing, retirement happiness or anything else, and you will find one thread throughout especially in the current environment...........happiness comes from experiences, rather than stuff. To that I say, most of those people have not lived without stuff. I understand that there are people who do so, and that makes them happy. but for most of us, the stuff of life comes pretty close in importance to experiences.

Make no understanding, I appreciate the value of money spent on experiences. Experiences are more likely to make us live in the moment.  Most of the time, experience are shared with other people, and experiences are mainly unique. I am a person who has appreciated the ability to travel and would tell you that each European city that I have visited is unique.  Although not athletic, I enjoy doing and learning different things.  To me though, folks who push experiences above and beyond everything else are missing two pretty important things.

First, many of those experiences would not happen without the stuff, and on occasion good stuff increases the experience.  Make no mistake, I am not saying one has to have the newest or the most costly. But good quality stuff is the necessity of many experiences.  Some of my fellow bloggers travel in an RV.  I would say that's a significant purchase (that I am sure depreciates to a modest amount per trip) to makes much of their travel unique.  I travel cross country via main roads and back roads via car.  This means that I have a pretty good quality later model (not new car) in good repair, and decent travel items including a cooler. I would suggest the question is, are we buying to stuff just to have it, or to make our lives richer.

Right now I am searching for a flat screen TV (who knew that you could have a TV that did both Wi-fi and streaming).  I need a TV.  Some might say a regular old fashioned tube would suffice.  I used to go to movies at least once a week, and now I go once a month (with discount and freebies, of course).  A forty inch flat screen increases my viewing pleasure. It also allows me to watch many more movies at home because I don't feel like I am missing something. I can watch a football game and feel like I am there, and with a better view than in person.  In this house movie watching is often an extended family activity. So in this case, the large TV enriches my life.

I am a quilter. I have a good, expensive top of the line machine-and I cannot tell you how much I missed it for the past few months.  I learned to quilt on a smaller machine. As often happens when our hobbies and interests increase, we need more advanced equipment. My son keeps getting more skilled at home improvement and handyman stuff. As that happens more and more what used to be rented for a one time project becomes something on a wish list.  I enjoy the experience of baking. As such I have good quality baking pans in every size including cookie sheets, cake pans, spring form pans and even small angel food cake tubes. A good knife is a thing to die for.

Believe me, I am not saying that the stuff of enjoyment needs to be expensive or new-necessarily. My husband use to ski the black trails of the alps. That, by nature, required new and well fitted boots and skis. On the other hand he got his expensive officiating shirts through swaps. My son has participated in swaps for "tall people" golf equipment (three inches longer than the norm). For years my sister (who takes pictures with a "real" camera, lol) used to attend camera shows and search for new lenses. I am on a search to change to only stainless steel pans except for eggs. The search has taken me awhile, but a stainless pan at an estate sale is about a tenth the price of new-and I know it will last forever.

The second point I would make (and I am probably not going to say this well) is that some stuff we purchase simply enrich our comfort level or family/married life.  This is not a bad thing.  In the old Tightwad Gazette, the author talks about her desire to avoid buying a riding mower-for all the obvious reasons. Since she had a large yard and could only mow about a fourth of it in a day with a traditional mower, she finally realized that the large ride on was increasing the time she had for family and other pursuits. 

One of the things I have realized as I am slowly settling in is the importance (at least for me) of nesting. I enjoy travel, but I enjoy being home. Hence my personal decision to keep my long term away travel to four three week trips a year, and lots of day trips and some over-nighters.   The rest of the time, I really need to be home-even if in this new life home will be somewhere else part of the time. I spend a great deal of time at home, by choice.   To that end, after some thought, I have decided that during these next few months, stuff and nesting will take priority over travel. I will take a long road trip-using two different routes-when I visit Dallas for the fall. I will, however, put off my traditional fall "over hill and dale" experience until after the first of the year. Instead, I will spend the money I would have spent traveling by train to San Francisco and environs for a couple weeks in a different manner.  Not to ignore my traveling urges, I will be taking many day and overnight trips. Oktoberfest in Vail, a weekend in the water at Glenwood Springs, perhaps even Jackson Hole.

The other part of that normal travel budget will be used to deepen my nesting instinct-and perhaps take up a new hobby. Because I am a patio person in a cooler climate, an outdoor oil heater (like the ones you see in restaurants patios on cold nights) is on my list.  As are new area rugs (the cost of choosing hardwood floors), a comfortable den chair (who knew my downsizing would end me up in a larger house), new art supplies, and that TV mentioned above.

Oh, and let's not forget.........a few long sleeved shirts and some socks.  My family cannot believe that I lived six years without wearing socks except for working out!

13 comments:

  1. I know it is football season. If you could put off your desire for a large TV until Thanksgiving---they go down in price in a huge way!

    I agree with your ideas of stuff. Lately I have been finally replacing my plastic measuring tools with metal ones. I even bought a great pair of metal scissors (that can be sharpened). I do give away the plastic- they are still in good repair- but I enjoy nice stuff to really enjoy what I am doing.

    My good friend is dying of cancer. What has she been doing the last few months? Putting in floors in their house. She constantly tells me that she has to do it so her husband can enjoy their house for many more farming years. She has that balance. Sometimes stuff is good.

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    1. I am sorry about your friends. Not sure I can wait that long, I am watching a fifteen inch tube tv and it is driving me completely and totally bonkers. I am still comparing prices though so we will see. You will like the metal utensils I am sure.

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  2. I recommend that since you are needing a tv, that you get a 50", and not a 40", which I did. After the fact, no one ever says, "I wish I had bought a smaller tv." I go to the beach 2-3x a week for the day and what makes the whole experience pleasurable to me are a few possessions: an umbrella w/50 UV protection and a beach chair, equipped w/a backpack that reclines in 4 positions. Sandy

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    1. Sandy, unfortunately my space simply will not take anything larger than a 40 inch, which is fine for my living room size. Any larger and I would have to have a tv stand that covers half of my windows. Love the idea of the reclining beach chair.

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  3. I'm with you Barb! I have some stuff I really cherish.I also love being in my home, I cook, I clean, I lay on the couch and read, I do crafts,I have girlfriends in for home made lunches happy hours and dinners.We downsized a year ago but I WOULD NEVER let go of: My Le Creuset pots and pans, my varied ,colorful serving dishes, my tile floor steam cleaner, my craft materials, my art work which we have collected over the years (no one famous just stuff I Love and a lot of locals..) Mu husband is very handy and fixes EVERYTHING so the garage is also packed with tools and his equioment, which has saved us a bundle over the years.. some STUFf is too good to "down size" away!!

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    1. I have now moved to a house with wooden floors and linoleum only so I guess a shark steam leaner will be added to my stuff.....hadn't thought about that one.

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  4. If the stuff is useful or enriching, I say go for it. But we don't need three barbecues. I am, however, in the market for a drum!

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    1. Well......I don't need two, but now that I have a good gas grill, I do believe that there are times I would still use a small charcoal/grill smoker.....Good for you, get that drum!

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  5. Stuff is necessary. Stuff is good. But stuff also costs money and takes up your time -- to buy, maintain and store. Which is why I say you should have everything you need; but nothing you don't want. A 40" TV? That's something you definitely need!

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  6. The common thread is to have what you need & adds pleasure to your life, while downsizing & removing the excess. THAT'S the trick!

    I am a member of a small family who has a lot of stuff, so family heirlooms are important & for some years I indulged in retail therapy, so I'm clearing out the past (in several ways) As I do that, it becomes easier to function but the decisions have taken A WHOLE LOT LONGER than I thought they would!

    pam

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    1. I did not have an excessive amount of heirlooms. However, when I moved here my daughter asked for like five or sex mementos from my parents that she cared about, so they are slowy going the way of dispersement.

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  7. I'm smiling. My stuff is organized and it all makes me happy. Enough said.

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