The Stuff We Accumulate

I love going to auctions. You’ve probably already figured that out. The old fashioned country farm auctions are my favorites. Everything is lined up on tables and wagons or spread out on the ground. There’s usually a lot of antique and primitive items mixed in with glasses and plates, perhaps some farm equipment, old stone jugs, etc. At these types of auctions there is usually something for everybody.

This past weekend I attended one of those auctions despite the bad weather forecast for the day. I wore my heavy coat with a hood and boots, but they were not really enough to keep me warm and dry. It was a miserable day to be outside, but there were probably over 200 people at this auction. Many of them got stuck in the muddy fields in which they were parked and had to pulled out by a tractor. My four-wheel drive truck got me back on the road, but barely.

Dollar wise I imagine it was a great auction. Prices were going high for even  mundane items. The auction was so large they ran two rings so I don’t know what the farm equipment and other larger items brought but even the smalls were bringing far more than usual. In that regard, the auction was a success. But, there was a reason for the high prices. Family members were bidding against each other to buy the items they wanted. Rather than being able to just divide things up between family members and then selling the remainder, everyone had to buy what they wanted.

I bought very little due to the extremely high prices most things brought due to the family bidding against each other. Throughout the hour’s drive back home I kept thinking how sad that a family could not find a way to divide their inheritance but had to enter into a bidding war against each other to get what they wanted.

I wanted to tell them that everything being sold that day was just “stuff.” No doubt some of it might have had some sentimental value to various family members, but much of what I saw sold in this manner had no sentimental value to anyone. They just wanted it so others couldn’t have it.

Throughout our lives many of us will accumulate so much stuff that we don’t know what to do with it. At the end of 2018 the annual revenue of the storage industry was $38 BILLION dollars.  That’s a lot of money just to store the “stuff” we have no room for at our homes. Add to that the amount of “stuff” filling our basements, attics, garages, and out buildings and it screams out the question “WHY?”

At the end of our lives that “stuff” will be there for our relatives to deal with. Many older people are finding out that their children do not want any of it. Probably over half of the things I sell in my auctions are for those people. They have to get rid of a lifetime of accumulation that no one wants. In other families, the family members will fight for every spool of thread, kitchen knife, and ball cap their deceased relatives own. Relationships will be ruined, sometimes forever, just to accumulate more “stuff.”

One thing is for certain: when we leave this world we will not take anything with us. As the old saying goes, you never see a hearse pulling a U-Haul. It’s all going to be left behind. Maybe it would be wise to discuss what we want to do with our “stuff” before we die, and then leave a will stating what we want done with it. Several years before our parents passed away they began distributing some things out to their children that they knew we might like. None of us questioned anything the others got. After all, it was their “stuff” and they could do what they wanted with it. Before our father passed away he called us kids in and shared how he would like for us to distribute his house and small farm to which we all agreed. When the time came we honored his wishes.

Life is too short to get caught up with “stuff.” If your life consists only in accumulating more “stuff” it’s going to be a sad life indeed. It might be even sadder when your family members start fighting over it.

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