Thursday, 16 February, 2006

Your toys own you

In my January 30 entry about assets and liabilities, I mentioned that most things you buy are either liabilities (i.e. they continue to cost you money) or neutral (they neither cost nor put money in your pocket).  This is true in purely financial terms, but that's not the whole story.  I've found over the years that everything I accumulate requires mental bandwidth.  That is, things are mental liabilities.  The things you buy begin to own you.

Jeff Duntemann touches on this in his "Personal Triage" entries dated December 21, 22, 23, and January 23.  Jeff was focused more on the mental energy to keep up with his many interests, but excessive collection of toys has the same effect.  I have friends who have so many toys that they simply can't pay enough attention to any of them.  Every toy requires storage.  Most require maintenance and repairs.  If you let a toy sit for months at a time before pulling it out and playing with it, you'll most likely have to spend time fiddling with the silly thing to make it work before you can play with it.  Or you won't be able to fix it because the parts store is closed on Sunday and so you'll be worrying about that all week.

A friend of mine once owned 18 motorcycles.  Ask him how much time he had to ride each one.  Granted, he could afford it financially, but he was the first to admit that he couldn't enjoy any of them as much as he'd like, because he always had to fiddle with the others.

Hardly a month goes by that somebody doesn't suggest I buy a boat, a motorcycle, a jet ski, build a hotrod, a home theatre system, etc.  They laugh at my seemingly Spartan existence.  I try to explain to them that I don't have the mental bandwidth to give those toys the attention that they deserve, but my explanation usually falls on deaf ears.  To these people, having a thing is paramount.  Actually enjoying it is secondary.  Sorry, not in my world.

Simplify your life.  Identify the handful of toys and hobbies that you most enjoy, and cull the rest from your collection.  You'll sleep better and more fully enjoy the things you do have because you won't be worrying about all the rest.