"Stuff," Money, and Music

George Reilly |

I think it is safe to say that for anyone who has spent time cleaning out someone’s house after a life changing event the words “I wish [Mom and Dad/Grandma/Aunt Mildred, etc.] had more stuff!” have never been uttered. I know those were not the exact words I have used during the clean-out process for my family members. There were perhaps other, less diplomatic, words used but nothing that indicated I wished there was more stuff to be dealt with!

I have had occasion to revisit this idea with even more mundane activities such as moving or cleaning out a garage or basement. We all have stuff, and we all keep accumulating stuff, and occasionally we sell, donate, recycle, or dispose of stuff, but over time there is generally more input than outflow. So we end up with lots of stuff – maybe even things we need and use pretty regularly.

But what about the other stuff that we have and don’t seem to need or use? We, or someone else if it was a gift, spent money on the stuff. Maybe it seemed like a good idea at the time but even with that it still involved the use of a limited resource – our income and assets. This is not an uncommon phenomenon by the way. All you have to do is see the many ads for shelving, storage bins, and other resources to help us manage our stuff and you know that accumulation is a part of our culture. But someday it is very likely that someone you love is going to have to deal with your stuff and I am pretty confident that they will not be wishing you had even more of it!

Which brings us to the third element of the story – music. No, I am not talking about the collection of vinyl records or, even worse, cassette or 8-track tapes(!), found in the stuff in the basement, but some lessons that can be learned from some recent songs.

The Zac Brown band has a couple of entries here. First is the sentiment that is the antithesis of accumulation: “I've got everything I need and nothing that I don't.” In another song they touch on a theme which is a core tenet of Reilly Law, PLC and Safe Harbor Financial Advisors: “There's no dollar sign on peace of mind.” Finally, Sheryl Crow summed up what could be a motto for those who are considering getting more stuff: “It's not having what you want but wanting what you have!”

We all need “things,” but we don’t necessarily need more “stuff.” Knowing the difference between these two is the key to keeping accumulation under control – and just think of the money you’ll save not buying storage bins for other stuff you are buying and probably won’t use much (or at all) and will simply be left as part of the “treasure hunt” for family at some point down the road. Wouldn’t it be so much better to hear your loved ones say something like “Wow, there really is not much for us to go through” when it is time for the big clean-out? I know that I would have been very happy to say that!