Okay, here’s my rant about SHTOOF.
I was talking with a friend of mine the other day — okay, it was yesterday — and I explained my worldview about having stuff versus not having stuff. What I mean about stuff is the material things that one buys with one’s hard-earned money to fill up one’s personal space. The topic came up because all of last week aforementioned friend and I were in Virginia, packing, loading, and driving some of his late mom’s stuff to the house here in Texas. His mom was a natural packrat, a Navy wife, and a woman happily engaged in retail therapy. This combination guarantees a personal space crammed in every nook and cranny with SHTOOF.
I’m a Navy brat whose mom is also this combination and whose dad is a nomadic, former Navy type. I remember the arguments they used to have — fireworks, light shows, the works — while growing up, and I learned that there were two kinds of approaches when it came to stuff:
1) Stuff as Frozen Assets and Security. Your hard-earned cash becomes frozen in tangible things that you can see, pick up, and itemize, as concrete proof of your existence, your memories, and your livelihood. It makes your personal space more home-like because everything in it has the stamp of “you” in every little thing. Your stuff secures you in the world, as material testament of you. My mom, who was a materially poor farmer’s kid in the Philippines, now makes up for her previous lack by gathering stuff around her like a security blanket. It makes her feel better having alot of stuff around her. The cost to this approach to stuff is the time, space, additional money, and energy to maintain your stuff.
2) Stuff as Loss of Liquid Assets and Opportunity. Your hard-earned cash remains liquid as available funds earmarked for various projects — like travel, tuition, or research materials — and emergencies — like paying your insurance deductible after an accident or getting a loved one out of jail. Since the money isn’t frozen in stuff, the money is always there whenever an opportunity comes along in which one needs to cough up cash in a time-sensitive manner. My dad, who was a Navy man for 25 years, is adament about having a cushion of cash for such emergencies and opportunities because cash is portable, quick, and takes up less space when you spend 6 months to a year deployed overseas somewhere. It makes him feel better having that cushion underneath him so that he can always pay the bills and enter into any project that he desires without loss of time. The cost to this approach to stuff is that one may forget that money is a means to something and not an end.
Granted, these are two extremes, and most people fall somewhere in between the two. I’m my father’s daughter, and I tend more to #2 instead of #1 because the less superfluous, non-useful stuff I have, the faster my debts go away and my nest-egg grows. But I *do* have stuff, just streamlined stuff — stuff that is useful in my job, in my play, and in my everyday life. I don’t want to be my mom who forgets just how much stuff she has such that she buys replacements for them on a regular basis or who feels that she must have at least three kinds of everything in order to feel that she isn’t poor anymore. Stuff is important — my books, bound notes, laptop and floppy disks,stuffed animals, photographs,and music CDs are manifestations of who I am, speak about my past, and are useful on a regular basis. I just don’t want to have my stuff dictate where I’m going in the future by limiting my life opportunities — like travelling, paying for my future kids’ college tuition, or throwing one hell of a party — or helping out anybody who needs my aid just because I didn’t have the ready money available at the time.
Okay, end of rant. 🙂