Why Don't We Sell the Useless Stuff We No Longer Need?

Is Nostalgia a Good Justification for Clutter?

In the United States its estimated that tens of millions of (mostly) men own boats that rarely get used. They sit at piers or in dry dock, waiting for that long overdue vacation on the lake with the kids that never seems to come about. But its not just boats and not just men that get trapped by the clutter of past dreams. We tend to accumulate possessions for certain lifestyle aspirations, and long after the idea for doing something with them has passed, we still have the clutter and don’t know what to do with it. This can be anything from a dusty Yamaha motorcycle sitting in the corner of a garage, to an inflatable pool that rarely got inflated, or a set of fine china reserved for special occasions that never makes it out of the china cabinet at all.

In consumer societies, we are constantly encouraged to go out and buy, buy, buy to satisfy our emotional needs and dreams of a greater life. Its estimated that if you include billboards, magazines, television, the Internet and so on, the average American is exposed to about 3,500 advertisements a day. Even if you are able to resist the vast majority of them, say 99.5%, that still means that you bought 17 items based on these ads in a single day.

When the designer watch, rotisserie oven, leather bound collection of Chaucer novels or new Cindy Crawford promoted skin cream finally arrives, we feel great for a while. But the lavish parties where you get to show off the watch, or cook Cornish game hens, never seem to last for long and the gadget gets set aside. The high brow coffee shop book club where you loved discussing Chaucer may be intriguing at first, until people stop coming…

Our social activities and needs often change faster than we expect, and then we are stuck with $800 worth of camping equipment we’ll never likely use again, or scuba gear that gets set aside because we didn’t have the time for swimming lessons. Yet we are reluctant to part with such possessions because we hold the vain hope that the motivation for buying them in the first place will be fulfilled again, in a few weeks, months…even years. Maybe time will reverse itself and we'lll start getting younger instead of older. Its possible, isn't it?

Its hard to move on, and clutter tends to make it even harder. Just watch that Pickers TV show if you don't believe me. Some people horde stuff for a quarter to half a century. If your useless stuff is just a few years old, you're an amateur. Get out now, while you still have a chance.