The Real Cost of My Stuff

I spent about 14 hours this weekend getting ready for our upcoming garage sales.

I also sold our TV, living room furniture, washer, and dryer to a family friend who is moving today and needed the stuff ASAP. We’ve still got a little over two months to live here, but it was important to Jared that the TV “went to a good home.”

I’ve also completed my first eBay and Amazon sales in the last week.

I tell you all that to tell you this:

I’ve learned a thing or two about the resale value of stuff.

And what I’ve learned is simple:

Stuff is not an investment.

With very, very few exceptions, stuff is an expense. Like food or admission prices, it’s something for which you give away money. Full stop.

Even furniture for which you spent months shopping and spent thousands of dollars. Even clothing you got on sale. Even the perfect pair of shoes to go with that dress.

The latest technology, the fanciest kitchen gadgets – none of it is an investment of your money. The moment you pay for it, it begins to basically lose value. Consider your money gone, and an item waning in value left in its place.

That doesn’t mean all stuff is bad.

All expenses aren’t bad.

There are a lot of things for which I gladly fork over money with absolutely no illusion of getting some financial return in the future. When I pay for a plane ticket, I know I’m paying for a finite service. It’s an expense. I have that same awareness about most services and perishable items.

But for some reason, I’ve been able to convince myself over the years that certain stuff was an investment. Not consciously, of course, but somewhere along the way I started to think of accumulating stuff as building toward something that would pay me back at some point.

I was investing in a wardrobe.

I was investing in a home with furnishings and decor.

But I wasn’t. I was paying for the privilege of enjoying something temporary. And while there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, I may have made a few different financial decisions if I’d been thinking temporary at the time of purchase.

I may not have purchased four different pairs of red shoes.

I definitely wouldn’t have spent thousands of dollars over the last several years on home decor.

I would have only paid for clothes I was madly in love with, clothes that were an absolute joy to wear while they lasted.

I would have been even more frugal and more resourceful. I would have thought a little more about what I already had and what I was giving up forever in exchange for having this thing.

If only I knew then what I know now.

I would have saved a fortune on toys for my kids.

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  1. Adallasdiva says:

    I am in love with you. May have to print this and put up to remind myself of these very things!! You are a rock star.

  2. Momma says:

    I know! We’ve come to the conclusion that we’re not purchasing another house (but, of course, we aren’t bringing up children anymore) with all the stuff that goes with it. We’re at the point in our lives when we find “stuff” oppressive and binding. Using money to live the lifestyle we want, not to accumulate, is the way we wanna go.

    • Miss Britt says:

      You know what I love about this comment? The fact that you kept taking responsibility for your choices without at all implying it was the only way.

      I can’t wait for the chance to meet you guys.

      • Momma says:

        Oh my WORD, sure don’t think it’s the ONLY way! In fact, I always have to stop myself from justifying our choices, afraid everyone thinks we’re crazy. (yeh yeh, DeannaBanana….. we’re crazy)

        At my age, wouldn’t you think I would be over it, worrying about what others think?

  3. cagey says:

    This is one of the best pieces I’ve ever read on de-cluttering. Ever.

    I’ve learned with the clothes and the shoes – I keep about 2 weeks worth of clothes now. If I am not wearing it, it goes in the donation pile. House decor – if I don’t really, really LOVE it – it’s GONE. No more dust collectors.

    However, I am guilty of the toys. I still struggle with this. The other struggle is that my grandma inherited 2 houses worth of stuff in the past few years and is trying to give some of it to me. Stuff that actually does have value (i.e. antiques).

    • Miss Britt says:

      2 weeks – that seems like a good mark. I’ve been trying to figure out how much we should keep.

      • cagey says:

        I HATE doing laundry, but am religious about doing it on Sundays, only on Sundays and every Sunday so that it doesn’t pile up. Having about 10-12 weather-appropriate outfits at any given time works for me. I keep it at less than 14, for sure.

  4. Kaitlyn says:

    I feel like I just gush the same thing every time I comment here, but MAN you are amazing. I completely and utterly admire you for getting rid of all your “stuff”.
    It’s one thing to acknowledge stuff and crap that can clutter your life, it’s another thing entirely to eliminate it from your life. We place so much value on “stuff”.
    I was trying to imagine my life if I were preparing for a life change the way you are and while I felt that I could part with a lot of things in my home, I realized that my bedroom set wasn’t one of them. It was a gift from my parents and perhaps the nicest furniture we own. Imagining selling it to someone allowed me to realize how much value I put on it. Not that that’s wrong, necessarily, just something that’s good to be aware of.

    • Miss Britt says:

      Thank you – but I’m so not. I’ve only ever managed to get rid of stuff out of necessity, and it seems like I forget everything I learned the moment I’m settled somewhere!!

      It’s so true though about learning what you value when you think about selling it. And no, it’s not wrong, it’s just kind of cool to be aware.

  5. rough lesson to learn, ain’t it?
    but it feels good.

  6. the muskrat says:

    You’re getting all kinds of wisdom from this experience, it seems!

    • Miss Britt says:

      I feel kind of stupid because I keep wanting to say “OH MY GOD! LISTEN TO WHAT ELSE I THOUGHT OF!” – but man, this really has been a transformative process thus far, and we haven’t even pulled out of the driveway!

  7. kateanon says:

    I am feeling the same way about the stuff. Once upon a time, I liked stuff, I collected lots of stuff. Then I had to sell my house in a hurry and move into an apartment. Then we relocated 800 miles away, then I moved out to be on my own in another town, another 800 miles from there. I moved a final time another 800 miles or so and probably own only enough stuff to fit in one room or less. I do have some things in storage, and I love a packrat, so there’s lots of things around. But, I can’t function with so many choices in my wardrobe; or with so many cluttery knickknacks around.

    Less is truly more. I would rather only have what I need than be inundated with all the things I wanted.

    • Miss Britt says:

      Wow! Sounds like you already have a ton of experience in the purging and learning to live with less departments. I hope this sticks better this time around for me than it did the last time.

  8. Mandi Bone says:

    I have felt overwhelmed with just my stuff lately. Great post about getting rid of this stuff.

  9. Vicky says:

    I think this is the best post about getting rid of stuff that I have ever read. That being said, I don’t know how you sold your washer and dryer. Though I hate doing laundry I hate doing laundry in a laundromat even more. At least if I am at home I can do other stuff while they are going. But at a laundromat I have to sit and wait for the clothes.

    Good luck!

    • Miss Britt says:

      I’m going to have to get used to laundromats on the road – but not yet! My girlfriend, whose brother bought our set, offered to let us use her washer and dryer in the meantime. It will be a nice excuse to spend some extra time with her before I leave. :-)

  10. Lisa says:

    Great post! I’m trying to learn these lessons and for things like home decor clothes, shoes & jewelry I can do somewhat ok. Just don’t ask me to practice it with camera equipment!

  11. Brandi says:

    Wow – this article was just amazing! Seriously!
    I have been separated from my husband for the past year, and with him having been the major bread-winner, my quality of life has been in the dumps. Or so I thought at first – it’s been an extremely tough lesson in pride, selfishness and letting ‘stuff’ go. Am I perfect now in my thinking? Absolutely not, nor do I want to be. But I have placed tremendous value on the ‘non-stuffs’….improving family bonds, deepening friendships and my health.

    Thank you for your writings. Just, thank you.

  12. Connie says:

    Wow, that is a LOT of stuff! You are so right though. Once we start putting value on our temporary stuff, it helps put things in perspective. The year prior to my leaving to travel abroad, I kept thinking to myself whenever I was about to buy something “Where will this be in a year’s time?” and if it was going to be in a closet halfway around the world from where I would be, then I didn’t buy it. It definitely helped to curb my purchases.

    • Miss Britt says:

      You know what’s really sad? We widdled our stuff down to almost nothing when we moved here – less than four years ago! It is stunning how quickly we are able to accumulate more stuff!

  13. annettek says:

    I’ve been purging lots of stuff in anticipation of a possible move and I’ve noticed this too. All of my crap that I spent so much money on has very little value to anyone else. I’ve found it’s easier on my psyche to give most things away instead of trying to sell them. It’s very freeing to just release it rather than try to put a price tag on it. ~sigh~

    • Miss Britt says:

      There have been some things that were easier to give away. But we’ve actually found it was a little easier parting with some stuff if we could say “well, look, here’s a couple dollars that went into the trip fund in exchange for living without a big screen TV.”

  14. Britt once again you have inspired me to go through the closets yet again and we are not going anywhere. That’s why we invited you here! I don;t know where it comes from (well, most probably from Target) but it is so hard to really declutter. I do think that once I am finally there and I feel the freedom I will be loathe to go back. I can’t wait for that.

    I’m so proud of you…and I am feeling a MAJOR garage sale this spring.

  15. naomi says:

    am loving watching the growth you are experiencing through this process! my mom “sold it all” about 10 years ago so she could move to Kenya and while I am definitely not there, you’re encouraging me to live a life less bound by crap!

  16. [...] been purging a lot of stuff from our family’s home and life recently. As most people who have gone through any kind of [...]

  17. [...] feel like I’ve talked a lot about downsizing and how enlightened I’ve become about stuff through the process of getting rid of things I really don’t need as much as I thought I [...]

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