Own What You Care About

If you’re anything like me you have a lot of stuff, accumulated bit by bit over the years. A wardrobe of clothes you rarely wear, shelves full of books, racks of CDs, DVDs and games plus all sorts of other paraphernalia.

I don’t consider myself a hoarder but I do keep things “just in case” — you know, those items you need just after you finally throw them away.

At first it was fine, I bought and slowly amassed things. Then I got married and had children and so the rate of collection increased. I have a bigger house now but it’s still just as full, if not more so.

The theory was sound, buying things made sense - you paid once to own it and then you have it forever to use as you need it. The problem is the hidden cost of owning it all. There’s the obvious issue of storage, but now I find it ever harder to deal with — it’s like you’re slowly suffocating yourself with things.

As humans we tend to think in a rather short-term manner, looking for that instant gratification without considering the natural consequences. For example I’ve got Playstation 1, 2 and 3 games. I had an Amiga with tons of games. Have I played any of them in weeks, months, years? No. Am I going to? In my pie-in-the-sky imagination I’d like to bust them out and play for nostalgia’s sake but the chance that’s actually going to happen is close to zero.

I’ve got shelves of DVDs. Have I watched them all? Most of them. Am I going to watch them all again, the vast majority — not a chance. If you stop and think for a moment you realise you’d need to spend hundreds of hours to do that. Even watching a few a month it’d be years before I watched them all again.

I have many music CDs. I definitely listened to them over and over — for around a month or so until I found new music I liked and started listening to that. I can’t even remember the last time I listened to one of those CDs.

But I 100% absolutely, definitely have all this stuff, every day, filling my house and my mind.

So why am I keeping them again?

Today, we have no excuse for keeping everything. Films, music, games and books can all be rented to one degree or another. We can be entertained on-demand and when we’re finished with it, it’s gone. Many of these services offer a huge selection for a fixed monthly fee. When there’s no extra cost it enables you to explore other genres, experience more eclectic things and expand your knowledge. This wouldn’t happen if you had to buy them all first.

There are downsides, if you stop paying you have nothing. The content itself can come and go. I choose to view this as something positive. Did you get value out of the money you paid to experience the content? Great, keep experiencing something new. There’s always going to be more content than you can ever possibly experience so just move onto something else.

Then, and only then, if you really like something you should buy it to own it. Personally, I don’t think that there are many films or games that fall into this category. I’m less sure about books and music. Most definitely do, but some music is timeless and even if most of your tastes change there is some music you will always enjoy. Similarly, most books are only worth reading once. The books that resonate with you or contain life-changing ideas are the ones that you need to read over and over. These are the ones you should own.

Own what you care about and rent what you don’t. Keep only what is meaningful and precious and will stand the test of time. Think about whether you really need something and if it will still mean something to you in a few years or decades. Instead enjoy a clearer space and mind and use your money to buy experiences not things.


Got any questions or comments? Drop me a message on Twitter (@elaptics).