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Cost Of Ownership

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Well the majority of my “spring” clean is over – but man was that ever difficult. It’s prompted me to be kind of pissed with myself for accumulating so much material. The emotional as well as time effort this has cost to process and deal with all this stuff is, I think, more than I’m willing to pay. That’s easily said – the difficult part is changing my evil ways. Lets face it, I’ve simply got to stop holding on to stuff and maybe even slow the acquisition process.

This is particularly difficult for me – I like to build things. My good friend Paedric likes to call me Builder Will because I’m always busy building something – and not your ordinary kind of thing. I like to construct systems that solve a problem or a need. Could be something computer or something wood or just some kind of method for coping – like this post.

I’ve been thinking a lot – all my life really – about our obsessive societal need to accumulate objects. We like to shop. What a concept. This idea is at the root of a lot of problems we face today that I won’t get into now. Most of us tend only to think about the cost of acquisition. Can I afford to purchase something? How can I purchase this now versus later? How am I going to pay for this thing? We almost never think about afterwards – after we have purchased said item. Oh we might think about the cost of maintenance – like what happens if it breaks – what is the warranty coverage – where can we get it repaired – how often is it likely to break etc. But I would hazard a guess that we never ever think about what this item will cost us to own.

By cost to own, I mean the lifelong cost of having this item in our possession. What does it mean to us to have control over, possession of, responsibility for this item. Lets take as an example an easier object – a car. Not everyone has one its true, but for those of us who do, many of you will recognize what a sink hole for money a car is. After you’ve paid the cost of acquisition (never mind the interest cost of acquisition if you pay with a loan or lease), there are a number of other very obvious costs – maintenance, insurance, fuel, parking. All of which add up horrendously. But the costs we almost never think about are – emotional cost, inconvenience cost (ie when it doesn’t function according to expectation), cost of disposal, environmental cost to create it, environmental cost to own and operate it, environmental cost to dispose of it and storage cost.

Ah, storage cost, something I’ve just been dealing with a lot these past few weeks. How much do you think all the space you dedicate to your car and all its ancillary items is worth – to purchase – to maintain – to pay taxes on? Again I think its safe to assume that most car owners need a place to put their car when they’re not using it – like when they’re sleeping for example. If you’re fortunate, you have a driveway where you can leave it – maybe even a garage to store it in, along with all its various accoutrements. What is the property value of all this space? What property taxes do you pay for all this space on a regular basis? What does all this space cost in time and money to maintain so its ready and available to store your car when you need it to?

Here’s my question – Is this efficient? Is this really the best way to do things? Do we need to own so much stuff? Can we get by with less stuff – with having less stuff in our possession and in our lives?

Okay that was four questions, but you get my point. I’m beginning to see the value in being more efficient in my acquisition and retention of stuff. Hopefully I will retain my optimism long after I get past the necessary but difficult excretion phase for all my accumulated stuff.