Responsibilities of ownership

One of the downsides of owning a lot of things is you have to care for a lot of things. Caring for copious possessions is simple if you have a team of people to do it for you — cleaning, maintenance, security — but not so simple when you’re the one with all the responsibilities.

I’m not an ascetic. I have stuff. My son has toys, and our family has a car. I’m not an advocate for a possession-free lifestyle. Rather, I adhere to smart consumer practices (spending less than you earn, researching products before your buy them, buying the best quality you can afford, only buying products you need or help you pursue the remarkable life you desire, and trying your best to refrain from acquiring clutter).

Another thing smart consumers acknowledge is that stuff is more than physical objects. Stuff is storage space in your home. Stuff is protecting your things from theft, pests, mold, mildew, and the elements. Stuff is taking time for dusting, cleaning, and returning things after you use them. Stuff is shipping costs, taxes, upgrades, accessories, and energy to power. Stuff is the tradeoff of time, energy, money, and space that you could have used for something else — something you might want more in your life.

Before making a purchase or acquiring a new object, pause and ask yourself if you are willing to accept all the responsibilities that accompany the object. When sorting through the things in your home, ask yourself the same questions. Recognize how the things in your life will impact your future. Don’t get caught off guard by the responsibilities of ownership.

11 Comments for “Responsibilities of ownership”

  1. posted by me on

    “The things that you own, end up owning you.”

  2. posted by timgray on

    For the longest time to bring the “stuff” count in the home down in a way that did not scare my packrat wife we used a 1 in 2 out rule. 1 new thing comes in, then 2 old things must leave. when we hit a point where we are not cluttered we will switch to a 1 in 1 out rule.

    works great and attaches her shopping addiction to the de-cluttering mission.

  3. posted by Bobbin on

    I think about this every day when I take care of my son’s pets 🙁

  4. posted by Firesheep67 on

    Timely post as I pack an entire library of magazines and dream of a day when all the patterns I fantasize about making from them are stored as scans, rather than physical magazines to lug around. I am a recovering shopaholic and the strongest deterrent to future shopping is to recollect how miserable I feel when packing my overflowing stash.

  5. posted by Rick on

    Keeping everything made, oiled, running, clean, spackled, painted, fed, and aligned is a lot of work. This is the reason uncluttering began in my life! Every time I bought something, I would consider the cost of maintenance (still do), and that has been a huge deterrent to buying more. It took several years of leaner purchasing before actually eliminating the stuff on hand began.

    The poster above mentioned a variant of my favorite line: “The things that you own, end up owning you.” Totally agree.

    This week, I’m eliminating all but two of my college text books (ancient editions), as electronic versions for nearly all are in the wild. I moved all 100# of these things six times! That’s some serious cost in storage space and moving.

  6. posted by Living the Balanced Life on

    We are so trying to lessen the number of things we own. Owning a home is not all it is cracked up to be, and living in the country, we have to have multiple cars and they are used, so we have upkeep on them as well.

  7. posted by Susan on

    Great post.

    My husband thinks our house isn’t too big, but he doesn’t clean it!

    I’m sick of the maintenance, and the tidy up of too many things, and then not having the time to enjoy them.

  8. posted by John on

    One of my favorite Wendell Berry lines (it’s hard to pick a single favorite; the man is right a lot) goes a little something like this: while we’re generally accused of being a material culture, that’s not quite accurate, because if we were truly obsessed with material things, we’d also show some respect for those things, which we plainly don’t do since so much of our stuff is ultimately disposable, forgotten, neglected, or replaceable by the next (mostly indistinguishable, usually unnecessary) iteration.

    Anyway, that essay (it’s from his book Home Economics) got me to start formulating a Philosophy of Things a bit differently than I had been. This post continues in that vein. Good stuff.


  9. posted by Puggle on

    Thank you for the great post and comments! I am a moderate hoarder who is actively pursing personal reform, and my spouse is a full-blown, in-denial one (the type that would wind up on one of those reality shows). I am slowly trying to wean myself off of the “stuff”, at least to pare things down to a reasonable amount. I am learning that life experiences far outweigh material objects, and I increasingly request gifts for myself that fall along those lines…give me frequent flyer miles, not another outfit or kitchen gadget. I am learning to let go. It is not an easy process, and it takes self-awareness and inner strength, but it needs to be done. Every time I sell a book or donate a piece of clothing I’m not wearing, I feel an enormous weight lifted off of my shoulders. I am starting to really appreciate that the “maintenance” of stuff sucks my energy and time and prevents me from living my life to the fullest.

  10. posted by reenie on

    Another way of thinking about the responsibilites of ownership is a phrase my brother Mark recently shared with me–just because you can buy something doesn’t mean you can afford it… I’ve started using this notion every time I start to buy something.

  11. posted by Hector on

    I have to say that I am so much much of an agreement,I can not say enough of not owning things. It is so true that things truely end up owning you.

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