Money $marts: Moving toward cheaper, lighter ‘stuff’

GERRY KRAMER

“You Can’t Take It With You” is a comedic play, set in the 1930’s, essentially about a dotty family that believes life is only about happiness, love and not conforming to expected or even required (e.g. paying income taxes) societal behavior. The play’s title has become an aphorism for the uselessness of focusing one’s life on the accumulation of money.

But there’s another application I’ve come to appreciate, one that’s more literal, referring to the “stuff” gathered over a lifetime.

Virtually everyone in America is a collector, albeit some less avid than others. The most extreme are hoarders who never discard anything. There’s a cable TV show about them. But ordinary people collect stuff too. Many women accumulate shoes; some men like sports memorabilia; girls like dolls; boys, baseball cards. My collector predilections have always leaned toward the cultural: music, movies and books; heavy stuff. I mean that literally.

At its peak, my collection included 400 vinyl records, some 200 cassette tapes, about a thousand CDs, 200 VHS tapes, 1,100 DVDs and more than 3,000 books. Together there must have been a couple of tons of stuff, accumulated over a few decades. Any move to a new residence required consideration of space as well as the hiring of professional packers and movers; my heavy lifting days being long over.

Over the last 15 years, however, I have been shedding pounds, (i.e. getting rid of stuff). Moving a few times highlighted and reinforced the impracticality of the weighty collection. First to go were the VHS and cassette tapes. I convinced myself that they were degrading in quality anyway, so I simply threw them out. Next to go were hundreds of books whose titles and subject matter had become obsolete. Most of those dealt with the latest and hottest business management theories (e.g. the secrets of Japanese product quality) of the day. I bought a lot of them when I was CEO of my own company. I donated the books to the local library.

Finally, since the vinyl record album collection contained only a few gems which were available on CD anyway, I sold it to a retail store specializing in such items. Still, there remained a lot of stuff.

Three developments, however, motivated a reduction in the remainder to almost nothing. First I wanted the ability to visit my grown children around the country for prolonged periods; it appears they like having me around. Hence, a smaller less expensive home base made sense. Second, philosophically, I realized that the collection had outlived its usefulness. Since I couldn’t take it with me, it was time to let it go.

But the final development has been technology. In the past two years birthday and Christmas gifts from my children and grandchildren have included an iPod, a Kindle and a Netflix subscription. I have started collecting again, but now I can take it with me and its cheaper, lighter “stuff.”

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Write to GerryK3001@yahoo.com.

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