Clutter And The Curse Of The Pack Rat

by Mr. Cheap

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Some time ago there were a string of posts on various blogs about clearing out “stuff” from your life. At around the same time, my favourite essayist Paul Graham posted an aptly titled essay “Stuff” on his site. Taken together, the general consensus seems to be that we are all struggling to deal with an abundance of material possessions, and the sad reality is that these possessions aren’t worth anywhere near what we feel they are.

When I was younger I was an avid role-player (Dungeons and Dragons in my earlier days, White Wolf towards the end). There was a seemingly infinite number of rule books, all hardbound with gorgeous illustrations (some of bare-breasted monsters such as harpies that were quite titillating, pardon the pun, to a 7 year old boy). They cost $20 each when I started playing, but a number of them sold for $30 when I was in high school (when I look at them occasionally now, they seem to be going for $40 or $50). Occasionally you’d come across some used role playing game (RPG) books at a garage sale or used book store and you’d feel like you’d discovered gold when they were going for $5 or $10 per book.

The sad thing is, I’m still sitting on about 70 lbs of RPG material that I haven’t looked at in years, and I can’t bear to give it up (because I know its old, new version have been released, and I’d basically have to give it away). This is nuts.

My brother and I were comic collectors, and we loved to buy a copy of “Wizard” (which gave all the values for comics) and “appraise” our collections. Each month we’d happily cackle over how much we’d earned as savvy comic book collectors. The sad day hits the first time you try to sell a comic and you realize that the only person selling in town in the comic book store, no one will pay Wizard prices for your comics.

Paul Graham makes the case that a spartan living environment has more value then the crap we surround ourselves with. Since my move, I’m living in a much smaller living space, which is pretty well like a warehouse (I need to climb over boxes to get in and out of my room). I fantasize about living in a sparse environment with all my worldly goods fitting in a bag or two that I can carry myself.

Sadly, a little demon in my mind keeps whispering that sometime, somehow all this stuff will suddenly be worth serious money and I need to keep it.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Rachelle

So true about those “collector” prices listed in these books. It’s the same for stamps and baseballs.

2 Financial Cents

Don’t forget hockey cards! (I don’t have any left, I destroyed all of mine when using them to make motorcycle noises in my bicycle spokes. There was probably a Mark Messier rookie card in there….)

Very true, material possessions typically only have value to the owner, nobody else.

3 Christine

Surely when paper books and magazines are finally extinct everyone will flock to my Very Unique Reading Room and devour all the classics I’ve never got around to. National Geographics from the 20th century will be in particularly high demand. I’ll need an advanced security system to be sure no-one is tempted to steal anything…sigh…give it a year or two, you’ll see :)

4 MoneyEnergy

You’re right – I go through these swings, too. From wanting a nicely furnished place to going back to minimalism and throwing it all out if I could. I like to think I’m getting better at it, though! I also have a box of old fan books that I’m not sure whether I should hang onto or not – if I found the right buyer, I’d sell. But I don’t want to give them up for pennies, I put too much work into the collection!:)

5 Big Ass Superstar

I hear you on this, loud and clear.

And today, I’m selling three Star Wars figures and a creature for the same price as I sold my entire Star Wars collection at about age 12 — $50. $50 for everything back then, thanks in part to youthful stupidity, and part to the only-comic-shop-in-town syndrome.

Thanks, Kijiji, for opening up to the market to grown-ups with stuff to sell to younger nerds.

6 thisisbeth

Well, it’s a little comforting to know I’m not alone. I love the sparse look, and would love to be one of those people who live in tiny houses with only a few possessions, but somehow, I just can’t bring myself to do that. :sigh:

I have slowly giving some stuff away (or thrown it away or sold it), but it ain’t easy. (The competitive side wants me to be neater than my siblings. The problem is that they’re just not challenging me…which is scary!)

7 JP

Fight that demon! Isn’t that what you practiced with all those years of RPG! :) A couple of times a year I go through all my stuff and get rid of things that I couldn’t part with the last round of clean up. Much stuff goes to local groups that can use it..ie clothes, kitchenwares, and unused sporting equipment. But I need to admit that I keep way too many papers. It is hard to get rid of old school papers and others with scribbles on them but I have been making progress and I should be lean in the next year or so. Having a small house with little storage space helps a bit too!

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