stuff, stuff and more stuff!

May 16th 2017 | Categories: Financial Planning |

By Yvette Harper

As a family, we’ve moved several times in recent years and whilst relocating presents the perfect opportunity to get rid of stuff, we seem to accumulate more belongings each time the postcode changes. Disappointingly, not even the motivation of moving interstate or overseas changed that.

I know I’m not alone when it comes to having items galore.  Buying things for ourselves feels good. It’s scientifically proven too. Shopping (and I’m talking clothing, jewellery, books, homewares etc. etc. rather than the weekly groceries) is one of those pleasurable activities that lights up that brain’s reward circuit in the same way that laughter, sex and music can. It’s no wonder we all have many items that were wanted rather than needed. It’s the very reason that books about selling on Ebay and decluttering your home become bestsellers. The most recent New York Times bestseller is Marie Kondo’s book about the art of tidying. It was just selected by a friend as the read for our monthly book club get together but the rest of us wanted page turning fiction rather than a book that made us feel guilty about all the crap we have.

Is there, by chance, a juicer sitting in your kitchen cupboard for the cleanse that’s yet to happen? Any exercise equipment doing nothing but gathering dust? Maybe a pile of novels feeling very unloved because you’ve moved onto a Kindle? Don’t despair, there is hope for all of us.

Those individual items may have felt great to buy at the time but when you look at it all collectively, it feels like a burden – just more possessions of our material existence that we really could do without. Owning things we never use feels cumbersome. How about shedding some of that weight? Determine what can go to Vinnies or the Salvos. Donate what you can to those who need it more than you. It feels fantastic dropping bags off to op shops (and some will take electrical goods too). But be strong when you take in donations, walk straight back to the car without lingering in store. Otherwise, and I speak from experience, you’ll end up spending money and going home with the same number of bags you’ve just dropped off!

Avoid unnecessary purchases and be firm with your spending.
Decluttering your home can benefit your wallet as well as your mind.

For those unused, unloved, unwanted items that you deem too valuable to give away, consider listing them on Ebay, Gumtree or the local Buy, Swap and Sell Facebook page but be warned, we often overvalue what we own (it’s a psychological phenomenon known as the endowment effect). Getting rid of stuff can be frustrating and time-consuming. That super keen buyer from yesterday never shows up, items may take an age to sell at the price you’re after (if at all) and you may need to travel to hand over your sale item in person but occasionally, like magic fairy dust being sprinkled, you’ll get lucky and have a wonderful experience. A particular item once treasured by your family (a much-loved bike now too small, that beautiful handcrafted surfboard, the wooden cot for ‘babies’ now taller than you) is snapped up at a fair price by a lovely person who will give that item new life in their home. Think of all the ‘stuff’ under your roof – all those belongings in cupboards, sitting boxed in the spare room or shoved in the shed. Now, think about how challenging it can be to store, look after and get rid of when it’s no longer useful. Try and keep that top of mind next time you’re standing by a shop counter, bank card in hard, ready to swipe away. We’re all guilty of making purchases on autopilot and most of us have far more possessions than we need.

We do work hard and yes, it’s lovely to sometimes reward ourselves but perhaps try to strike a better balance between those ‘wanted’ purchases and those ‘needed’ purchases. I know I have lessons to learn there.

I look around our home and wish I could conjure up that decluttering guru from Oprah – even for a few hours, to make the tough but necessary decisions about our endless bits and pieces. How great it would be to feel unencumbered. Admittedly, the best start is to buy less and to be firm about the items currently in this house (and by house, I mean shed and carport too). I should take a ‘use it or lose it’ approach.  And so, with that said, I’m stepping away from the computer and going for a spin on my bike – it’s one of those purchases my husband gives me grief about due to serious lack of use. It’s a stationary bike so I won’t be covering much ground but metaphorically, I’ll be heading in the right direction.  

Our guest writer, Yvette Harper, has many years of experience in the media having worked at Channel 9, Prime7 and in print media. Yvette’s writing background is diverse with articles published in magazines such as the Australian Women’s Weekly, Practical Parenting, Coast Living and Focus Magazine. With her freelance feature pieces, Yvette’s profiled celebrities and written in-depth articles on breast cancers survivors and organ donation. She has also written magazines for Coffs Coast Tourism. More recently, Yvette has focussed on copyrighting for business clients to improve their relevant marketing material such as website content, social media, newsletters, internal articles, advertorials and award submissions.  Yvette’s been blessed to have some fascinating life experiences too such as managing a wildlife photographic camp in Botswana and living in Southern Lao where weekly grocery trips meant getting the passport out and going to Thailand with her young children. Yvette and her family are now Coffs Harbour based.

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