Back in 2003 or 2004, I moved out of a house that I was renting for $700 a month and into a small apartment whose rent was $250 a month with all utilities included. It was part of a plan to be better off financially. I’d save and/or pay down my debts with the money I’d save from not renting the big house anymore. After all, I was single. I didn’t need that big house, even if the rent was dirt cheap compared to living in the city.
Unfortunately, a lot of my stuff didn’t fit in the apartment. So I rented a storage unit for $60 a month. That’s $720 a year. I spent about $7,200 all this time. Here’s the sad part: I didn’t need or even visit that storage unit in the last five years since I married my wife and we moved into our new house. And all because I didn’t know how to let go of stuff.
Had I taken a few hours each month and gone through my stuff and gotten rid of what I didn’t need, I could have easily saved all that money. But no! I had to hold on to all those material things, even if I didn’t need them. I couldn’t let go of one bicycle even when I bought another one because I thought I might need the second one. Then I thought I might need a third one.
I also kept a bunch of old notes from when I worked on getting my MPH. I kept books from when I studied for my medical technology board exams. That old window air conditioner unit? I kept that.
I really don’t know why.
Today, I finally hired a trash hauler to take everything out of the unit and go throw it away and recycle whatever could be recycled. It was bittersweet. There were so many memories in there, but, again, all of that stuff had been in there for five years. It was time to let it go.
As I helped the hauler and his wife, they told me about how business has been very good for them. They said that they own some rental apartments in town and that they realized that people move a lot. They also realized that people collect stuff and then need to get rid of it when they move. That, or those people rent storage units when they move and then have to empty those out. As they told me all this, I came to the realization that we are all paying a sort of “materialistic tax” when we hold on to things we no longer need. (The tax becomes more than money when we hold on to memories we no longer need.)
It felt really, really good to get rid of all that stuff. It was a sort of catharsis that I really needed as I get all my ducks in a row before one last push at school. And, even though the haulers charged me a couple of hundred bucks (it really was that much stuff), I will be saving much more than that not paying the rental fee the rest of this year… Or the next ten years.
René F. Najera, DrPH
I'm a Doctor of Public Health, having studied at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
All opinions are my own and in no way represent anyone else or any of the organizations for which I work.
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