Enough!

I am currently reading the book "Enough: True Measures of Money, Business and Life" by John C. Bogle, the founder of the Vanguard Mutual Fund family. It is a very good book and comes highly recommended by Tom Peters, but lest you think this blog post is about the book, it is not...

It is a quick blurb about how much stuff is enough.

Last week, I had a small water line that feeds my refrigerator ice maker burst at my cabin. I was not there when it happened and it was about 4 days before it was discovered. Wow, does water ever seek its own level! First, it got on the wood floor, then under the wood floor, then under the tar paper over the subfloor and then when that was full, it just cascaded down walls and ducts into the basement where it repeated the scenario until it finally found a way to get outside.

Once it was discovered, we got the ServiceMaster people out there with blowers and dehumidifiers, and generally got most of the obvious water cleared out in about a day. But... the water between the tar paper and the subfloor was still there, and not visible. Thinking that it is going to dry by itself, is like thinking a sponge will dry inside of a ZipLock bag sitting in the hot sun. It just isn't going to happen. So, now we need to pull up the whole wood floor, including kitchen cabinets and the kitchen island which was built upon the floor.

OK. Premise is set. I am coming to the theme of this post: When it was time to move all of the stuff out of the cabinets so that we could proceed, I was struck by how much stuff had accumulated. Keep in mind, this is a cabin, not our main home. We had jars and bags and take-out food containers and things I hadn't seen in 10 years that was under stuff I hadn't seen in 5. I hate to throw out a perfectly good container. After all, it says it is Reusable. What good is reusable if you throw it away? And those jars, and grocery bags with handles, and gift bags and on and on. It all just gets pushed into cabinets, onto shelves and into closets.

I know that most of us have this situation. No matter how hard I try, it seems that I am always bringing something home that I just had to have and that I cannot even find a place to store it once I get it there.

I kind of feel bad about it, like it is a waste of money and in many ways it is a waste of money. But, by the same token, buying take-out, picking up a new widget from Target or ordering one more electronic gadget is my contribution to a robust American and global economy.

I am not advocating spending every dollar you make on random stuff in order to help the economy, but if you are fortunate enough to have worked long enough to achieve a comfortable financial existence, it makes little sense to save it all and live like Ebenezer Scrooge. Our local, state, national and global economy is intricately entwined. As we have seen over the past two years, when one section of the economy hiccups, another section feels it. Or when another section sneezes, we all get Swine Flu!

Everyone in the economy suffers in their own unique way when people or businesses or governments modify their spending habits. And like rush hour traffic, things in the economy usually run at 60 mph or they come to a complete stop. It is hard to achieve and maintain a happy medium. So, when things get tough, it would smooth out the peaks and valleys if everyone would moderate their spending and lending, and not just stop their activities altogether.

As for my stuff, I am trying to de-clutter and stop collecting as much, but it is going to require a life-changing experience on my part to get past this one. And as for Mr. Bogle's documented excesses, I still have a long, long way to go before I have to say Enough!

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