Saturday, June 14, 2014

Thoughts on "Stuff" In Retirement

Recently, I've had occasion to think about the "stuff" of retirement and life. The acquiring of stuff, the disposal of stuff, the passing down of stuff and the amount of stuff are things we all struggle with, in retirement as in any time.  I've been trying to find my comfort level in terms of both finances and amount of possessions, and have had a chance to learn a few things along the way.

First, I've been shopping-for replacements of things that I left behind one year ago.  In almost every case, replacement is at least as much as the original cost of the original item, and in one case more. This from the woman who looks for the best deal and is unafraid to shop used.

Some of you may remember my discussions on what to take and what to keep one year ago.  I reached out to my readers and asked them what they would do.  Many readers suggested cutting to the bone, with others suggesting taking everything and decided what I needed when I got here to others who suggested  everything in between.  One year plus later, I am here to say for the most part, that taking everything would probably have been the best choice.  In a couple cases the things I left behind were things I believed that I would not need for my future lifestyle and now need desperately. These include things like electric lawn mowers and lawn tools, winter shovels, and other items. I left behind a large sleigh bed and all that went with it, because I believed my new home would not hold them.  In each case, I sold these items for a literal song, giving someone a good deal. Even with the cost of expanding to a 24 from a 20 foot Uhaul, my replacement cost is, frankly bunches of money. The better choice, even with storage and moving would have been to take everything (except appliances, which neither travel nor store well) and have a yard sale on this end.

Second, I've been shopping-for summer replacement clothing. This has been a bit of a chore. I cannot try many things on in dressing rooms because my knee does just not do certain things in certain environments. This means I have to take clothing home and return it (my stores expect this).  I am not a person who can wander through a store and grab something and go. This has led to the return of many items. Ad to these to facts the fact that I have very specific requirements on what I buy and shopping becomes it's own experience.  After much shopping I realized that at least for me the more expensive choices made more financial sense in terms of comfort and longevity.

Third, I've been cleaning out an estate.  Recently we were hired to clean out a home.  The couple in question lived in this house for many years, and the wife died in her late nineties. We were brought in because the family care giver (a family member) had taken most anything of value and trashed the house.  Even so, going through the house was an adventure and learning experience.  The grandfather had worked on cars throughout the years and there were many pictures of his cars, as well as antique tools.  There were items of clothing spanning decades, with a house full of "things" even after the valuable things had been removed-books, photo albums, furniture from a life time.

What have I learned along the way this past week or so?

First, consider real replacement costs before eliminating things from my life. Downsizing serves no real purpose if items need to be replaced at an equal price or more. I've written more than once that one of the financial advantages at this time of life is that most of us have what we need and with some exceptions, can look at minimal "replacement costs". It's something I forgot in my downsizing effort.  

Second, that I am not a minimalist.  I enjoy the use of things, be they clothing or china. I simply need to find a comfortable stuff level for me.

Third, that for me quality trumps quantity every time. I would rather by two good quality comfortable skirts and wear them regularly than five of lesser quality (for the record, any Texas or Miami girl knows that skirts are more cool than shorts or Capri's)

And finally, stuff should be shared with family members and others while we can still control where it goes, and while it can be enjoyed by all. Before I left Texas I gave my daughter the family teacup collection, a couple figurines that she had wanted and other items (with the permission to do with them as she saw fit).  My son has already laid claim to some items, with the same permissions. Once an item is given, it's given.  Stuff is meant to be shared and enjoyed and giving now eliminates difficulty later.

My relationship with stuff may change, but right now my stuff, my finances  and I are in perfect harmony.  What about you?


  1. We are getting there.
    Preparing for our next move we are going through loads of stuff- slowly. I am looking at them carefully, assessing whether we will use it in the future. At first it was a crazy purge. Now, it has slowed to a walk. I am making a list of things that need to go to a local museum when we pass- if the kids do not need it. All other things are looked at by the kids and on their usage point.
    We are giving all of the clothing to good will except the vintage stuff (consignment store). We will have a yard sale- but will be surprised if we make any money on it. I wish I knew how to sale fine art on line. I have a few pieces that need to go. Otherwise, downsizing is going well.

    1. I have to say that I'm convinced yard sales are lots of work for not very much money unless you have certain in demand stuff-other than if you have baby stuff. I probably will never o that again.

  2. I've spent the past year off and on downsizing. I agree with everything you say on your blog post. I got to the point of the final stage and realized I was to the "stuff" that I didn't want to get rid or or give away, no matter what my future plans were. Luckily I have not had to replace things I have sold or have given to goodwill. I agree, everyone has their own comfort level for downsizing.

  3. Right now Barb I am going to get rid of some little things, dust collectors and the like. I am not getting rid of all my collections, just those things that do not fit with our life style. The rest of my "stuff" we can live with until the time comes to downsize.

    God bless.

  4. Oh man, I do not like this post at all. You see, I have this fantasy. When we finally do decide to move, we will get rid of all our old jun -- I mean, heirlooms -- and people will come to our tag sale, shower us with compliments on our wonderful taste and give us lots of money for our old furniture. Then when we arrive in our new home, lots of great new stuff will magically appear in our bedroom and living room and kitchen, all looking new and clean and fresh .. and all at little or no expense. It doesn't happen that way?"

    1. Unfortunately, no, lol. Note that I am not saying not to get rid of stuff. I'm just saying wait until you've moved and downsized in order to get anything you have questions about at all. And as I said to Janette-with the exceptions of some heirlooms (which will probably give you not as much money as you want) and baby stuff, I'm convinced that yard sales in general are more work than worthwhile........

  5. Hi Barb,
    I am finally ready to cut the stuff in my closet down to half. Can't wait to get at it. Could be I'm just all talk, we'll see.

  6. I think its more difficult when you live in a four season environment or play multiple sports. Also in my situation laundry is my nemesis and I've waited two weeks to to itvon occasion.

  7. Determining the amount of stuff is a balancing act for us. I am a cleaner-outer and my husband of 46 years is hold-oner. We are in what will probably be the last house for us I am pretty comfortable with our current stuff level.


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