Four Reasons Why I Don’t Like ‘Nice’ Things

I own a crappy car that’s certainly not looking any nicer as I rack up the miles.  In fact, I’m responsible for beating it up even more.  Yesterday, I had a few issues on a road trip back from Massachusetts.  First, I backed in a snowbank and scraped my bumper.  Then, someone parked next to me swung their door open, hitting my car.  To top it all off, a plastic piece under my engine came loose and started dragging on the road, forcing us to pull over on the highway to fix it. I could go on with the perpetual problems that my car has, but I think you get it.

Despite all the issues my car has, I love the fact that I don’t have to constantly worry about my car and I don’t have to put in a lot of effort to care for it.  It’s old and it’s never going to be perfect.  But as long as the engine runs and there’s no serious damage, I can revel in the fact that it’s stress free to own. I think the same concept applies to lots of things that you and I own.  Here are four reasons why I don’t like to always have the latest and greatest stuff out there:

1. I don’t have to worry about blemishing or breaking.  I like to call this the “plastic couch cover” syndrome. Personally, I think it’s crazy to own things and not use them (or excessively protect them) because they might get wrecked if it’s used in the way that’s intended.  I don’t really believe in buying things, like a couch or fancy convertible, simply because they will look nice while unused in my living room or stored in my garage.  I want to sprawl out on the couch without having to worry about if my feet are dirtying it.

2. I don’t have to worry stuff will get stolen or lost. If it isn’t worth much in the first place, I can’t be out too much money if I lose it or if it gets stolen.  This is why I like owning a two-year-old, not-smart phone instead of an iPhone. It’s really unlikely that it would be targeted in any kind of mugging or heist, whereas iPhone thefts seem to be much more likely.  If I lose my phone, it’s probably $50 max to replace it, instead of costing hundreds.  Mine’s not a piece of junk (in fact, it works great), but it’s not in any way expensive, either.

3. I don’t have to spend as much to buy my stuff.  Fancy things cost more.  While there is something to be said for quality, there is also something to be said for paying $3,000 for a set of knives when a $30 set may work just as well.  While I can’t say I’ve ever even touched a $3,000 set of knives, I have a hard time believing they are 100 times better than the cheaper ones.

4. I don’t have to spend as much to maintain my stuff.  My car virtually never goes to the car wash and definitely never gets waxed.  I don’t fix every little ding or make any nonessential repairs on it.  If I spill coffee on the upholstery, it’s not a big deal, either.  On the flip side, I’ve seen others freak out over any little ding or small spill.  As soon as their car makes a “strange noise,” they have to bring it in the the shop to have it checked out (yes, mine is always making strange noises).  I have enough other things to worry about, so my car isn’t about to be one of them. It’s is still reasonably clean and good looking (at least enough so that it wouldn’t stand out in a group of cars).  If it gets scratched, then it’s just acquired a bit more personality.  I’m definitely not about to spend more money than what I need to simply keep it running.

I’m not (universally) against high quality, but I’m against underutilized quality.  I’m not advocating going out and wrecking your “nice” things, either, by using them carelessly.  The ideal is enjoy what you have and be reasonable about maintaining it’s quality, too.

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photo by: Garrette

Four Steps for Moving Stuff Out Before Moving In

I few weeks ago, I moved to a new apartment.  I’ve moved around a lot the last 5 years, living in 6 apartments with 12 different roommates.  In another 4 months, I’ll be moving again! It’s always been a fairly big ordeal to move, and I definitely don’t look forward to the hassles.

I haven’t exactly been moving around with just the shirt of my back; almost all the moves have involved lots of boxes, some pieces of large furniture, and a U-Haul truck.  Having shuttled around crazy amounts of stuff for years, I finally got sick of it. Which leads me to what I do enjoy about my apartment transitions: It’s an easy time to move stuff out before I move in to my new place. Here’s what I’ve learned and what I do for all my moves:

1. I’ve enacted a simple rule: If it hasn’t been unpacked since the last move, it goes. Somewhere in the middle of all the moves I realized that many things were never getting used no matter where I relocated.  Excess kitchen supplies, spare bike parts, and less-than-appealing decorations moved in a box and stayed stored in a basement until the next time around. I parted ways with a lot of this stuff since I no longer had the room nor desire to store it any longer.

Everything I’ve gotten rid of was either sold on Craigslist, given away to friends, or posted as “free” on Craigslist.  I hardly throw out anything, and that makes me feel good since I know that someone’s (hopefully) getting good use out of my stuff and it’s not in a landfill instead.

2. I don’t move larger items unless they’re really worth keeping. Anyone who’s moved knows that the big and bulky items are the worst to deal with.  I’m talking couches, mattresses, dressers, and tables.  They’re heavy and require (at least) 2 people to carry them.  They have be squeezed up small stairways, if they even fit at all.  They don’t fit into anything but a truck. I finally had enough of this, too.  I ditched my only dresser for simple closet storage.  I bought a much smaller work desk, which suits me fine since I’m no longer a student.  Result: my most recent move simply required a friend’s Jeep and half a day’s time.

I only take the big items that are either expensive to replace and that I know are crucial no matter where I live.  I’ve moved my queen-sized bed around with me, but I’ve given up on the elaborate wooden frame for a simple and collapsible metal frame instead.

3. I get rid of stuff while I pack.  I inevitably have to go through just about everything I own to pack it in a box.  Handling each thing allows for easy decisions to be made about what to ditch.  Cleaning out the closet yields lots of clothes and shoes that I haven’t worn in months.  Knick-knacks that have found their way into the corners of my room are tossed out, too.  I designate a box of stuff to get rid of while I’m packing and donate as much of it as is useful to someone else.

4.  I repeat step #3 while I’m unpacking. Okay, so this isn’t actually “before I move,” but it’s still part of the process. Any unneeded clutter-causers I might have missed during packing will be intercepted in the unpacking stage.

It’s also good to reassess the usefulness of items once I’m in my new space, especially when consolidating with new roommates.  A blender that was once crucial when it was the only one around isn’t as important when there are 3 of them between all of my roommates.  For personal items, there’s always things that won’t fit into my new bedroom or aren’t needed any longer.  If it’s something that can easily replaced in the future, I give it away or toss it out.

The object of this entire effort is to reduce clutter, so even if you don’t plan to move soon, there are still plenty of things that you can do to get rid of clutter.  While I hate throwing away useful stuff, I realize that it’s necessary, and I don’t think it’s do you or anyone any good by holding on to things you don’t need.

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photo by: bezoing