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WHAT ARE YOU KEEPING THAT FOR?

Posted by Tim Bryce on February 15, 2013

BRYCE ON LIFE

– Good question. Perhaps it is time to clean house and eliminate the flotsam and jetsam.

(Click for AUDIO VERSION)
To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

Some time ago I wrote a column entitled, “Crud,” which discussed the volume of material we store in our homes. In the article, I made two observations: that crud is seemingly magnetic thereby causing it to attract other crud, and; sooner or later, everything will inevitably end up in the garbage dump. I still believe this to be true. More recently, I stopped by a friend’s house who was endeavoring to clean out his crawl space under his house. Access to it was through a small door outside of the building which required my friend to get down on his hands and knees and literally crawl in. He asked if I would help him remove the crud he had been storing there. From the inside, he would move it to the entrance and I would drag it away and stack it outside. Frankly, neither of us knew what to expect. Like a lot of us, the family had been periodically throwing various items down into the crawl space for years. It was now time to clean it out, and I could hardly describe any of it as any form of forgotten treasure.

There were some small holes in the foundation which allowed outside air to circulate in the crawl space. Unfortunately, it also allowed in considerable dust and humidity which meant just about everything emerging from under the house was coated with what appeared to be Martian dust. Slowly, but surely my friend began to pass items through the hole to me, including street hockey sticks, skateboards, a variety of baseball and softball paraphernalia, spare tires, old plastic storage boxes that cracked as we brought them out, suit cases in varying stages of decay, kiddy skin diving equipment (snorkels, flippers, and masks), camping equipment, fishing poles, spare parts to cars that were sold many years ago, shelving racks, and at least three dozen golf clubs and irons, all of which were now unusable due to age and decay. My friend finally emerged from the crawl space now coated in the Martian dust himself.

We then surveyed the amount of crud we dragged out and began speculating how old some of the items were. It obviously began many years ago when his children were young, but as they were now all grown up, we realized some of the objects had been down there for at least 25 years. All my friend could do was shake his head in bewilderment.

This little exercise caused me to think about the inventory area we maintain in our office, something I haven’t addressed in quite some time. It’s not a huge warehouse, simply a large room with metal shelving units where we house materials associated with our software products. Over the next few weeks I began to sift through everything and purge the materials we no longer use. In the process, I was able to fill up our garbage dumpster several times. I found old framed charts and promotional posters, video tapes in Beta and Industrial VHS formats (which nobody uses anymore), hundreds of plastic folios for taking notes, packages of plastic templates which now smell like rotten cheese, and paper, lot’s of paper. In addition to computer paper for printers we no longer have, there were boxes and boxes of old manuals and forms to be disposed of, stationery and envelopes of various sizes for our office in Cincinnati (which we left in 1985). We even had two old blackboards in excellent condition, but we couldn’t give them away as nobody uses chalk and slate anymore, particularly the schools (it’s now white boards and computer screens). We recycled whatever materials we could, but we still kept the garbage man incredibly busy for a few weeks.

Between my friend’s house and our office, I am now convinced humans are pack rats by nature. It’s probably in our DNA. Although most of us abhor “hoarders,” we all seem to have a tendency to hold on to things longer than we should. I tend to believe we keep such items because:

1. We think we might find a use for the object sometime in the future, such as passing it down to a relative or friend (who appreciate your kindness but throw it away in the end).

2. We think the object might appreciate in value which we could sell for a profit later on, perhaps on Craiglist or eBay. The only problem is that even when you take good care of such objects, the technology changes and not too many people want it any longer. For example, I posted on eBay a Sony Trinitron Color Camera (DXC-1610) from the early 1980’s in excellent condition which I found in our warehouse. We didn’t receive a single nibble. Sadly, it will likely end up in our dumpster (in the solid metal case it was originally packed in).

3. We attach sentimental value to certain items which inhibit us from disposing of them properly. For example, I found some framed charts we received in Japan recognizing our contribution to improving productivity through Information Systems. I just couldn’t bring myself to pitch them.

The criteria I used in cleaning out the warehouse was, “Do I want to move this should we change offices?” This helped me make up my mind quickly. I eliminated several “dust catchers” as a result of this perspective, most of which was made obsolete through changing technology. We simply had no use for it any longer.

Whether we do it intentionally or not, I think we all collect more crud than we need. As I observed in my earlier article, everything will eventually find its way to the garbage dump, and I mean everything. I do not believe in treating possessions frivolously, but I recognize they tend to outlive their usefulness over time. And the last thing I want to hold onto is three dozen golf clubs covered in Martian dust. As I said to my friend, “What are you keeping that for?”

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
timbryce.com

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Copyright © 2013 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.


NEXT UP: 
DEALING WITH PETTY POLITICS – Some alternatives to kissing someone’s ring.


Listen to Tim on WJTN-AM (News Talk 1240) “The Town Square” with host John Siggins (Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, 12:30-3:00pm ET), and KGAB-AM 650 “The Morning Zone” with host Dave Chaffin (weekdays. 6:00-10:00am MST).

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6 Responses to “WHAT ARE YOU KEEPING THAT FOR?”

  1. Tim Bryce said

    A C.V. of Lansing, Michigan wrote…

    “I have some things in my home I am loathe to admit – in on corner of the basement with “Martian dust” on them as you call it – I know it as I write this. But here’s something in my defense – sort of – I look at said item and think, “We spent SO much money for that VHS camera when we bought it – I can’t throw that away…” And so it sits. I thought this was a good article that some of us might see a little bit of our own reflection in! “

    Like

  2. Tim Bryce said

    A B.W. of Macon, Georgia wrote…

    “For the most part I would agree that we are pack rats. I know that I am. However, I do take exception to some things:
    For instance. I keep all kinds of hardware,spare parts and metal, wood pieces and parts. But I do have a reason for keeping all that stuff. Some of it I will probably never use, but on a daily basis, I find that much of the “Stuff” I have hoarded over they year pays off. You see, I fix things for folks. Much of the old hardware is not available anymore and I am always finding uses for stuff. Some old tubular rivets that I put in a parts box 10 years or so ago, just happened to be the right size to fix the roller on Ms Steffens dishwasher pull out tray. And that tough black metal banding material that they put around packages, repaired the side of a ladder. Old wine corks come in handy for stopping up fuel lines and capping the bottles of liquid from a spent
    WD-40 can.

    I do have a trifle of paper work on my desk that I seem to have a problem getting rid of though, Stuff that I want to read and evaluate but just can’t seem to find the extra time to do ,

    But mostly you hit the nail on the head. At least every six months we need to review our collected junk and discard all for which we cannot find and immediate use”

    Like

  3. Tim Bryce said

    A U.V. of Largo, Florida wrote…

    “My feeling is that everyone should move every 10 years, thereby forcing us to pitch stuff. However, as soon as we pitch it, we need it in a week or two! N’est pas?”

    Like

  4. eray said

    Thanks a lot Tim………. Now my weekend is ruined, and probably several w/e’s for months……… Thanks a lot!!!!!?

    Like

  5. Tim Bryce said

    A J.S. of Skidway Lake, Michigan wrote…

    “Being raised by Depression era parents and grandparents, I became a pack rat, too. Everything not irreparable was kept because 1.) “We paid good money for it” (is there bad money?) and 2.) “Somebody might need it someday.” Admirable sentiments, but if someone does need the item, will we be able to find it for them? Honestly, a lot of the stuff we’ve saved is the sort of things that someone would have to be pretty desperate to need.

    When we moved to a smaller home, I sorted things into three groups: Keep, give away or sell, and throw away. I looked at each item and asked myself if I would use it during the remaining years of my life. If I kept it, would I even remember that I had it? Would my kids really want it? We got rid of a lot, but still have many boxes on metal shelving in the garage attic. Those boxes have not been opened since we moved six years ago, so it must be some really important stuff, eh?

    What can I say? The pack rat gene runs rampant in my family. I’m not sure there is a cure for that.”

    Like

  6. Tim Bryce said

    A B.R. of Templeton, California wrote…

    “When my mother-in-law died, we had the job of cleaning out her home so we could rent it. It was a large home and every cupboard, closet, and counter surface was loaded. It had lots of storage space — more than any home I’ve ever been in. One of the most interesting things was a large closet full of boxes. In this boxes were every receipt ever received, plus some other purchase related items, accumulated and sorted by year, from about 1975 to 1995. We had to sort out what was worth keeping to settle the estate and throw out the 99% that was not. We won’t even mention the other closets and cupboards.

    My in-laws had lived through WW2, had to escape their country, and had come to Canada with only the clothes on their backs. My mother-in-law never threw anything away she thought would ever be useful. But that’s a story for another time.

    I see, though, that I’m just as bad, and i have a big job before me. I don’t keep the same things she did, but I’ve got obsolete electronic stuff, old business catalogs I thought I might need for pricing used books, and the books themselves. I know it’s time to get busy.”

    Like

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