Archives for the month of: November, 2012

Oscar Wilde might not necessarily be someone you’d like to be trapped in a lift with for too long, but he did have the odd eye for a truism. I refer to his essay ‘The Soul of Man under Socialism’, in which he bemoans the state of humanity at the time of writing. Buried amongst the talk of socialism, artists and such like is this little quote;

 Property not merely has duties, but has so many duties that its
possession to any large extent is a bore.  It involves endless
claims upon one, endless attention to business, endless bother.  If
property had simply pleasures, we could stand it; but its duties
make it unbearable.

Well blow me Oscar if you haven’t hit the nail on the head. He’s dang right of course. In essence, you don’t own property – property eventually owns you.

I reached such a conclusion the other day. It was another Sunday and the cleaner would be visiting the following day. So began a mad hour tidying up the house. I was struck –almost to the point of meltdown – about how much stuff we had here, Stuff I could not actually see a purpose for. Papers, correspondence, catalogues,  toys, clothes, kitchen utensils; the list was endless. I thought ‘Where does all this stuff come from?’ when of course the actual burning question was – ‘Where the hell does it all go?’

That’s why the wife and I have decided to have a clear out. Not just a cursory review, but a deep and lasting purge.  Wilde is right, keeping this stuff actually consumes mental and spiritual energy, so it’s got to go.

Unfortunately that brings me on to another question – where should it all go? I’m conscious that just chucking it adds to land-fill, the last thing I want to do. So the alternatives are to try to sell it, or pass to charity shops.

Both present different dilemmas. Passing to charity shops is a bit of a cop-out, as I think this just passes the problem onto a voluntary organisation that could probably do without having to sort out my junk for me.  I’ve seen how people take advantage of this. I’ve seen voluntary organisations hold jumble or rummage sales to raise funds and then end up with a huge load of junk they’ve had to dispose of.  So although it’s a worthwhile solution if it raises funds for the charity the quality of the Stuff you donate has to be thought about.

Selling Stuff second-hand is also a hit-and-miss affair. I did a car-boot sale about a year ago. We carefully sorted out decent bestselling toys and games and a few clothes that we no longer needed, assuming they would be of interest to someone. Well, what an eye opener that experience was! I sold very little, the sum profit from the event for me was about £27, after attending for about four and a half hours. Few people appeared to trust that the boxes of games and jigsaws were complete (and, to be fair to them,  it was difficult to convince people they were). And the other stuff was difficult to shift. In the end I would accept almost anything just to cover my petrol costs and the pitch fee.

So the lesson is that Stuff, once brought, appears to have little second-hand value. Once you buy it, it’s yours. For ever. So from this we should determine to stop buying so much Stuff in the first place.

This is going to be difficult with that great orgy of Stuff-buying about to descend upon us at the end of December. The hall floor already resounds to the thud of another catalogue hitting the deck. Luckily as I am home first these go straight into the recycling bin before they start to clog up the magazine rack. Or someone’s wish-list….

This year we have made a pact, following on from the decision in the last post, that Christmas will be a more modest affair this year. I don’t want to still be paying for it come next Easter!! And more importatntly I don’t want the house clogged up with stuff that rarely gets a look at. May as well leave it in the shop for someone else.

So let’s go. Let’s not buy so much stuff this year, huh? Give land-fill a chance.

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We are approaching a cross-roads, my wife and I.

She works at the same place as I do, and is equally pissed off with the place. We have both worked here for a couple of decades and seen many changes – none of them for the better. We can vouch for the toxic nature of office based working as commented on by Ermine some time ago. We are subject to the same (mal)practices as anywhere these days.

Yes, the money is good but I am now in a stage of life where my time is more important to me, and burning it away at someone else’s bidding is the last thing on my mind. I have convinced the wife that she ought to consider the situation from the same viewpoint. In an extreme case we could live off my salary, whilst she stays at home, although ideally we would want to punt for a situation where she brings in some income, but doing something she really wants to do, not feel she has to do.

She wants to explore the possibility of setting up as a homemade cookie/cake maker, which I want to encourage. She’s doing some prep work already, even whilst drawing a living wage, because this is an area where health and safety /food hygiene, for example, needs to factored in from the start. We’ll start small and see if it floats.

So we’ve started discussions on how to achieve this. We’ve set a date in the future (her 50th birthday) at which point she would walk away from the job. That’s 18 months away. Between now and then we have a lot of preparatory work to do in setting ourselves up as a one-income family. This will involve hammering down outgoing costs, and stashing as much of her remaining salary as possible. We need to get innovative in solving the problems we face on a daily basis – transportation, food, utilities – but there’s plenty of advice and inspiration amongst the PF blog cloud to draw upon. We’ve been a bit lazy here to be honest and have made all the middle-class mistakes – big mortgage, two new cars, rural living costs, young child (only kidding!) but I’m gonna work damn hard to make this work.

We also need to become more self-reliant in stuff like home-maintenance and suchlike, so we are not at the mercy of other people too much. We have installed things like a water-softener and pressurised heating system in the house, without calculating the true cost of their life-time maintenance needs, so that’s a mustachian punch in the mouth I’m owed, for a start.

…and that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you…that ye may have lack of nothing. 

As the good book says (1 Thessalonians Chapter 4 Verse 11).

I’ve got my work cut-out, but I feel even now a sense of relief that my wife feels the same as I do. It’s much better to do this together than trying to work against each other (that’s enough West-Coast hippy-dippy nonsense, Ed.)

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