As we move through different phases of our life we accumulate paraphernalia to complement our activities and aspirations. If you are like me, you don’t think much beyond what you need today and next week. This is especially true when it comes to the addition of kids to the family, but more on that later!
When making a purchase, small and especially large, consider not only the use of the object, but also the hidden expense. This includes the length of time it will be used, maintenance, the cost of disposing of it and whether or not there is something that you already own that can be modified to satisfy the need. You should also consider whether you really need it or are you influenced by advertising?
There are many psychological reasons for acquiring things. You might have issues around money and scarcity. Few children are raised without absorbing some of their parents’ biases about wealth and poverty. With a little self-reflection you can examine your need to acquire things and decide whether it is truly in your long-term best interest.
The first stage starts when we are leaving your parents home and setting up our own residence. We accept hand me downs and used furniture. We accumulate just so we have a place to sit and something to hang on the walls.
The second stage is when you buy a home or get married and decide to decorate as an adult. You invest in better furniture and maybe even have a decorator help you with drapes and paint colors. If you are lucky or if it is important to you, you update these occasionally and let your personality shine through. There are also wedding gifts that may or may not fit into our lifestyle. Today’s brides are choosing more practical gifts from Crate and Barrel or similar instead of formal dining service for 12. Those of us who have them are wondering who to pass them along to.
The third and most expensive phase is the addition of children. The marketing is intense and the advice from well meaning moms is so helpful! But beware, in a few years you will have hundreds of dollars worth of baby gear. We tend to think that our kids will be little forever, but it is amazing how quickly they pass through each phase. It starts with redecorating the nursery, buying infant paraphernalia. In reality, babies don’t need all those changes of clothes. We have to do laundry every day anyway. They grow through sizes so fast that you might only get to wear a cute outfit once or twice.
Then it moves on to the toddler and beyond. Each birthday there are many gifts and craft sets. Some are never opened. They also don’t need all the toys and gear. Who hasn’t laughed because the toddler was more interested in the box then the toy that came inside? They love to play with pots and pans. And dirt.
Time for a big boy bed and more room. Let’s buy a bigger house. Now we need to furnish it. Do they play sports? That means lots of sports gear and trophies.
Stage Four: It happens faster than you think. Take lots of photos and video of your kids growing up. It goes by like a blur. They say the days go by slowly but the years go by fast! Now the kids have grown out of everything. It’s time to let things go. We have books, toys, art, electronics. This stuff is still good, but who can you give it to? It feels good to give the once loved possessions to someone who will use and appreciate them. It’s also fun to sell them on eBay or Craigslist.
Stage Five: It’s time to downsize. We entertain less, want a smaller and less expensive home, want to travel more. We value time over things and experiences over stuff. It’s time to let things go to welcome the next phase of our lives without being bogged down.
I am at this stage and it makes me wonder how I accumulated all of this stuff that I felt we needed. I am learning about eBay, Tradesy and The RealReal. I get discouraged by the cut that consignment shops take-up to 60% of the sale price. But overall it has been a great time and the possessions have played a part. Now it’s time for me to get rid of some of them!