There are times in my life when I wish everything was easier, simpler. One of those times is the annual going through of stuff to decide what is no longer necessary and can be sent off to the Goodwill or some other charitable entity. Or, if no other options, can be used as garbage can filler.
These are the same times I look at a pile of stuff and wonder what the hell was I thinking when I spent good cash on it?!
I don't want to make it sound we are pack rats or anything, we really aren't. And over the past few years we have become much, much better at not buying stuff we don't need or won't use very much. Still, it happens.
It's hard getting rid of things that cost whatever dollar amount, even if you really don't use them. I try to rationalize by telling myself the money isn't coming back no matter what, it was spend x amount of months ago, so it really doesn't matter anymore. That may or may not make sense, but it's good enough for my conscience.
One example is compact discs. I have a box of about 400 or so of these things. They have been ripped and put into iTunes and I have only twice in about four years gone back out to look for something. And I've bought two CDs in the past three years, both of them albums I wanted that just happened to be cheaper from Best Buy than they were digitally (and there was a third, which wasn't offered digitally at all).
Now I have this box of CDs, taking up space in my attic. And that 400? Wow...that represents a lot of cash spent, most of it at least seven or eight years ago. Some were bought used, some were gifts, some were free from Columbia House (though, as we all know, nothing is truly free from there), but most of them I bought. Heck, conservatively putting a $10 cost on each of them totals $4,000...and that's probably too low.
Now? Now these discs are practically worthless. And those VHS tapes and VCR I have, both which haven't been used in five years or more, are completely worthless. Heck, most of the DVDs we have are close to worthless too, in this age of streaming video via Netflix to the PlayStation 3 or straight to the PC.
I ask myself, do I really need to keep this stuff? How about the collection sports cards I have accumulated over the years? As they sit in boxes, am I getting anything out of them? Or is it time to downsize those too?
Ooh, kitchen gadgets. We love the kitchen gadgets. In the end, though, these single use items aren't necessarily better than the multi-use ones - or just a knife - and we may use them once a year. But still, they take drawer space and our kitchen isn't very big. How much do we really need?
And this idea of simplification running through my head isn't limited to stuff. I'd like to simplify my commute, so I don't spend 1.5 hours of the day driving 14 miles each way to work and back. Imagine working only 10 minutes away, what I could do with a whole extra hour!
I have this absurd ideal in my head of living in a small town where everything I need is in walking distance, but I know my tastes are not small town tastes. That town in my head probably doesn't have 12 different lunch options and stores that specialize in things like salt or olive oil or beer.
I'd like to be able to walk to the grocery store, perhaps daily if I like, and find high quality goods. I'd like to be able to walk or take a quick bike ride to work, or simply work at home. I wouldn't mind a smaller home if it was planned properly.
It's interesting how my point of view on life has changed in the past few years. It seems more often than not now when presented with an option I ask myself if something makes our lives easier, if it's really, truly worth it. I've started to ask myself if I really need it.
Do I need to BUY that book? Or can I get it from the library?
Do I need to BUY a disc, or should I just stream or download it?
Do I need to ATTEND a game, or am I fine watching it on TV from my couch?
I don't think this is an admission of laziness, though it could probably be construed that way. Instead, it's figuring out what really matters, what's really important to me, and embracing it in any way I can. It's why I've decided to write a book. It's why I feel the way I do about my job (predominantly the location). It's why I've given some thought to living somewhere else (though that's a ways down the list, unless finances suddenly make Maui affordable - not holding my breath).
Asking one's self "What's better for me?" isn't always taking the easy way out of something; sometimes it makes everything else more enjoyable.