Many of my friends are opening their vacation homes in preparation for the May long week and the unofficial arrival of summer.  There’s no doubt that it’s a lot of work to “unwinterize” the cottage or cabin.  But for many this seems to be a labour of love as they anticipate sharing time with family and friends.  In some cases these are friendships formed through cottage life and summer is the only time they get together.

I’ve never owned a vacation property but I’ve had the opportunity to spend a lot of time at other people’s vacation properties.   People are at ease at the cottage.  Conversations are easily struck up.  There’s time to catch up on sleep.  There’s time to enjoy life with fewer gadgets, less choice in clothing and furniture that you really use.  Quite often one of my friends will comment about how much easier it is to live with less stuff.  Even meals are simpler, more likely to be shared and entertainment is a game of cards, reading books (increasingly e-books which are easily transported to the cottage) or going for a walk if the bugs allow it.  Less distraction seems to increase our appreciation.

TOTAL COST OF OWNERSHIP

Have you ever thought about how stuff makes your life more complicated?  How about the costs of owning so much stuff?  It’s the total cost of ownership you need to consider when making a purchase:

  • Insurance for valuables;
  • Repairs and maintenance;
  • Upgrades;
  • Storage space;
  • Lost opportunity when money tied up in supporting the stuff.

IDEAS TO DESTUFF

If you are considering simplifying your life – a couple of rules of thumb when trying to “destuff”:

  1. Don’t let your grown kids use your place as a warehouse.  If they aren’t using their stuff they probably never will.  They’ll either get into a position to purchase even better ‘stuff’ or they will no longer be interested in the activities associated with the stuff.  Give them a deadline to remove it or it goes to a local charity and/or dump.
  2. Don’t bother to save too much from your kids’ childhoods.   Generally they really don’t want most of the stuff (such as art work).  Save a few mementos, or better yet, photograph the items and make a photo book of their childhood.
  3. Get over the ‘I might need it one day” syndrome.  You probably won’t need it and if you do, try to borrow it, purchase it from a thrift shop, or look for alternatives.
  4. Get real about the gap between how much you paid for something and how much it is worth to someone else.  The gap is almost always larger than you think.  If you are serious about getting rid of stuff be prepared to accept less money than you anticipated.
  5. Take control over your future by stopping all “restuffing” attempts.  Every time something comes in, another thing needs to go out.

I realize that
most people do not downsize their living quarters even when they move.  But we can simplify things and increase our likelihood of experiencing a more satisfactory living style.  The outcome of having too much stuff has spawned a new business opportunity as discussed in a recent article in The Globe and Mail  http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/small-business/sb-money/cash-flow/downsizing-boomers-spark-new-career-for-super-organized/article11778671/ .  Although destuffing will be far harder than you anticipate, you will not regret it once it is done.

Don’t think too much about it – just get started.  May your “destuffing” begin!