It absolutely amazes me how much stuff people acquire and hold onto. The other day I was inside the house of a family friend in Southampton who had a long career in the retail business. He’s in his late 70s and his house is fairly big. While enjoying some conversation about life, I found myself at one point in his basement, simply fascinated by how much stuff he has.
Boxes of shoes, his wife’s dresses, blankets, pictures, old dishes…I can’t even list it all. There was just so much STUFF.
I don’t own a home, so I really don’t have that much stuff, I just borrow other people’s stuff and pay for it every month. If I have to move, I just move, it’s not a big deal. I don’t have to call anybody for help. I can fit everything that’s important to me inside my car.
I genuinely like it this way. It makes things easier. If I ever get something new, I throw out the corresponding old thing. I’ll do this with shoes, I’ll do this with jackets, whatever it is. The only thing I hang onto are old pictures from high school and grade school, when digital photos were a thing of the future. But pretty much everything else I own is highly replaceable, and if I lost it, I wouldn’t feel all that bad.
So there I was, listening to this guy explain how his generation keeps things really simple. “Not much is really important to me anymore,” he told me. “When you get older, you don’t really need all that much stuff except a few things that you really love and have a lot of meaning to you.”
All I kept thinking is how this man and many other people his age have more stuff than any other generation on the face of the earth. Their lives must be filled with outrageous complications having to deal with keeping track of things. But I bit my tongue and nodded. “Yes, yes, it’s good to keep things simple.”
It seems to me that the younger generation actually is keeping things simple. Some of it is out of necessity, especially for kids just out of college who are living with very little stuff mainly because they are flat broke, can’t get a job and have an enormous student loan debt (which supposedly was going to help them get rich but in reality just made the college that they went to richer). But really, what do you need to have a good time in life? For me it’s a few beers, friends and a feeling that I don’t have to impress anybody in order to be accepted.
Most Baby Boomers I know don’t live simply—in fact, they live a life that is extremely complex. I believe many of them almost YEARN for a simpler life but can’t bring themselves to let go of the things they have acquired. After all, it’s their stuff and their history and their trophies that say, “Hey, world, look what I have.”
I understand that philosophy. There’s plenty of stuff out there that I want to acquire, too, but I’ve noticed that when I get it, I just want something else. And then something else. But having more actual stuff, I’ve realized, isn’t what I really want in life. I just want to genuinely feel like what I have is enough.
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