There's always tomorrow. Until there is not.
There is always tomorrow. Until there is not. I thought of that after my conversation with Christine. She called me because her husband, Patrick, died unexpectedly last summer. She was getting ready to sell their home and move to the mid-Atlantic coast, something they had always talked about.
The move to North Carolina was just one of many things she and Patrick planned to do. They planned a trip to Ireland. They planned to go watch Patrick’s beloved Yankees play at Yankee Stadium. They always wanted to take a cruise to Alaska and had never seen the Grand Canyon. They were in their early 60’s, just at the age they thought they had to be to “have the time.” Old enough to have lived a book, young enough to create their own last chapter. “We always thought we didn’t have time in the present. And we always thought we would have time tomorrow” she said.
Christine called me because she knew I helped people get rid of stuff. She and Patrick have a home filled with very nice furniture. She didn’t want to just give it away, she said. “It’s not your standard furniture,” she said. “I have a sofa that cost $12,000 and it’s hardly been used.” In fact, she said, “I can’t remember a time we sat on it together.” I explained to Christine that, in spite of what she paid for it and its exceptional condition, she would be fortunate to get 10% of its original price on the resale market.
It’s a conversation I’ve had dozens of times with my downsizing clients. As they prepare to get rid of stuff, I prepare them. I make sure the understand that there is very little value in anything they have believed to have value: their collectibles, their furniture, and their antiques. With the exception of fine art and jewelry, gold, silver, guns and cars, there is very little value in anything we have inside the walls of our homes. And, it’s very difficult to get rid of most of it. (See my earlier blog about re-homing pianos.) The truth is, if you sell everything “sale-able,” give away what is wanted, and dispose of what is left, you might break even. (Did you know that the cost to have a 2400 SF home professionally cleared of “stuff” averages $14,000?)
Several days after my conversation with Christine, she called me back. Christine also knows that I regularly speak to large groups of men and women facing retirement and downsizing. She made me promise I would tell you something. After she got off the phone, she looked at the $12,000 couch. She thought about her words to me: “I can’t remember a time we sat on that couch together.” “Please tell this group to invest in memories, “she said. “Patrick and I could have flown first class to Ireland for the price of that couch.”
Let me bring her wise counsel down to earth: maybe you don’t have a $12,000 couch. But most of us continue to spend money on things we don’t need when we are just a few years from the day when it will all need to go out. We are a culture that has multiple holidays in which we bring new stuff into our homes with no thought or plan to get rid of it. Take the $50 you were going to spend on (yet another) fill-in-the-blank and ask yourself “How can I create a memory instead?”
Be purposeful with the days left. We don’t even know if “days” is plural.