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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