No one can accurately determine the cost of junk in our lives. How do we measure lost opportunities? How do we see days wast-ing away due to the mental and physical stress on our bodies? So what does junk in your life really cost you? It is something we all have to weigh, figuratively and literally. As a good friend of mine says, decisions, good or bad, have costs and consequences. Let’s try and evaluate the cost and consequences of junk in our lives. Let’s prioritize our life according to our passions, goals, and vision for the future. The freedom and blessing we gain, in the end, will all be worth it.
If we start from the very beginning looking at what a storage-unit costs, this will give us some indication as to the actual cost of acquiring and hoarding, whether significant or insignificant. Let’s begin with an elderly woman who has stored her items at my friend’s self-storage unit for more than ten years. She has paid an average of $50 a month for ten years. That equates to $600 per year, or $6,000 since moving her junk in. When I asked my friend what he felt he could get for the things in her unit if she were to walk away and leave him holding next month’s bill, he replied, “very little.” Now remember, she has paid over $6,000, and he doesn’t even think he could get $300 for her items if she stopped payment today.
We know the current and past cost of her items, so now let’s look at the opportunity she missed out on. Remember, we must look not only at today’s impact on junk in our lives but the opportunities it erases. If she had invested the $600 for the last 10 years at a 10% return, she would now have $12,000 in the bank. To her it may not matter, but to her children or even grandchildren, that amount would pay for at least one year of college, if not two. I will bet if you asked her today whether she would like to gift her granddaughter $12,000 for her college education or give $6,000 to store her items that don’t fit in her home, she would say she’d rather help her granddaughter. We don’t think about tomorrow, we think only about now, and I am as guilty of this as anyone.
Do you remember the words of the owner of the self-storage facility in that tiny small town when I asked him what was in those units? Many times, even his customers forget what is in their units. They also “forget” to pay him for renting those units. Ultimately, they know they are paying to store junk. What many eventually decide is that making the payment on the bass boat, season tickets, or a golf vacation is far more important than paying for the storage of their junk. He might say, “What would happen if I lost my storage unit? Nothing is in there anyway.” We do attribute value to pretty much everything in our lives, but we never put it down on a checklist and prioritize.
My friend has a contract agreement with each renter of his storage-units. If you fail to pay your fees after a certain period of time, he is able to sell everything in your unit in order to recoup the money you owe him. As you can imagine, this is a tremendous hassle for him. He’d much rather you just pay him.
The law gives a lot of protection to the renter, so he has to notify the person many times that they are late, and get legal authority to approve the fact they are in default. Then, he must run ads in the local paper of the upcoming auction of the unit’s items with a brief overview of what is coming up for auction. Again, he’d much prefer the renters pay their $50 per month bill.
When he goes through al of this hassle and has the auction, he is selling significant, expensive items and simply getting his money back right? Wrong! In ten years and more than fifteen auctions, he has only recovered the fees owed to him one time. Did you get that? He has only recovered what was owed to him one time since owning his self-storage units.
For example, if someone owed him for six months rent, that would be $300 (6 months x $50 per month). So if he sold the items in that self-storage unit, he would need to collect $300 to get his money back, not counting the time, cost, and hassle for setting up the auction. Even in his agreements, if he collects what is owed him, he has to mail the renter a check for the difference.
I laugh thinking about the poor soul who gets a notice that his things are being auctioned for non-payment. Here he is going to the mailbox everyday, knowing they are going to get money for their items above what is owed to my friend. This person thought that their items were significant and valuable. They wait and wait for the check, but it never arrives. Only in time do they realize that what they had in their unit was mere junk.
We fail to think about the cost of looking for a treasure at garage sales and flea markets. The people who do this do it religiously. Their dream is to end up on the Antique Roadshow with their big find. A typical scenario might involve an older gentleman who claims he is a garage sale junkie. He stands before an antiquities dealer for the Antique Roadshow to share his recent garage sale find. Knowing he might have something rare, since he was one of eight chosen for the show, he beams with excitement. The dealer points out the intricate details of his item, hinting it may be rare. How much could it be worth? As the expert conveys his obvious knowledge of this era of art, the viewers anxiously wait for the estimate to be revealed. The big moment comes with the dealer saying the piece could bring $500 to $700 at auction. The elder man had accomplished something that none of his garage sale friends had yet to accomplish. He had turned a five-dollar buy into $500. The question is, had he? Regretfully, we look at the value of this piece of history and fail to remember the hours, the days, and the weeks wasted away looking for a $500 piece of treasure. Inevitably, this item will be sold at the garage sale his son holds after his father dies.
If you read the book, Same Kind of Different as Me, you may remember the conversation over a cup of coffee where the homeless man, Denver, asks the rich guy, Ron, about all the keys on his key chain. “Mr. Ron,” he asks, “Do you own them or do they own you?” From what I have seen in the lives of those around me, and even in my own life, we allow these things to own us. The more we make, the bigger the toys we acquire. Each one has its own key. It includes property at the beach, the farm in the country, the condo for the home football games, and the Suburban we need to haul all our belongings.
So, ask yourself this question. What can I give away or sell at my next garage sale? Not only did our family donate the unsold things from our yard sale to local ministries, we donated a portion of our cash as well. It wasn’t much, but it had made an impact.
To get a good idea of what your junk is costing you, give a call to 800-Got-Junk and let them come to your home or business and give you a free quote. It won’t cost you a dime for the quote, but it will reveal the cost of keeping insignificant things around your home. If you don’t mind the clutter or inability to move freely through your home, garage, or attic, then just let it keep accumulat-ing. Don’t worry; your children will inevitably have to deal with it when the time comes.
Ask your spouse what habits you have that need to be thrown out to the curb for hauling off. Ask your children what they want to do? Be strong enough to recognize it, strong enough to apologize for it, and strong enough to ask for accountability in staying the course.
Here are two things that are simple to do. Go get your online bank statement, your credit card statement, and calendar and lay them before you on paper. Start with your bank statement and credit card statement. Highlight in yellow those things that are must haves. These should be the “highlight” of your life. In red, mark the junk in your life that you don’t need and is causing pain or stress in your life. Use a green marker to see those items you have invested in and could potentially invest more when the red is gone. It could be your retirement, family vacation, kid’s college, tithing to your church, and so on. All other items not marked simply need to be given priority in your life.
For your calendar, this is just as hard. Again, with the yellow marker, mark those items that are the highlight of your week or month. I hope you can find dates with your spouse and time with the family on a long-weekend getaway. Next, get out that red marker and begin striking through those events that are not significant in your life and the life of your family. Be deliberate. In green, mark those items where you are investing in relationships that matter. It should be focused around the investments you make that include mentoring, Bible study, and accountability. Be careful not to let four nights of your son’s baseball game get marked in yellow or green. The family, not junior, needs to agree on where these activities fall within the life of the family.
In the last two years, we instituted 8:30 p.m. as Mommy/Daddy Time for the rest of the evening. Ashley and I go to bed around ten o’clock, so that gave us approximately an hour and a half to unwind, relax, and talk. Several years back, Ashley and I started having a date night at least twice a month. Many times, we do get four dates in during the month. Why? If we don’t specifically set our lives apart from our children, our lives will mirror their lives instead of their lives mirroring our lives. The key here is that your children are an appendage to you. The most important thing fathers and mothers can do for their children is to love one another and be unabashedly selfish about time with each other. Men, this isn’t watching the Thursday night game of the week. Ladies, this isn’t about reading the latest gossip magazine. This is about conversation and intimacy with each other. If you have this, not only will your marriages be stronger, your children will bring less junk into their own marriages later on.
So what is preventing you from cleaning out? Is there fear that you’ll get rid of something important? Is there a concern that it will take too long? Remember, in my story, it took a mere four days to get my priorities in line and to mark off the junk I did not need.
What is preventing you from growing in your job or growing your company? Don’t begin with your “need” to get another degree, or a “need” to work more hours each week. I have heard this too many times in my sixteen years of business. Look closely at what areas of junk you can remove from your daily grind and spend that time on becoming better and more proficient in your current job. Look at your schedule and make time for your purpose and calling. Read purposeful books and periodicals to give you insight and enable you to achieve success, not mediocrity.
We look at the neighbor’s double-car garage stuffed with boxes, old dining room rugs, and a myriad of other items with no significant value. While the cost may not appear as great as the lady’s $50 a month storage bill, it still puts your new car in the direct hit of nature, scooters, and baseballs. Ultimately, the unused items in your garage could be of benefit to a child or family. In your garage is merely cluttering for your life.
I think back to when Ashley and I moved into our first home. It took a small U-Haul truck to come to my apartment to get my things, and simply one more trip to get Ashley’s things at her apartment. In two short trips with a small truck, our move was complete. Not long after we were married, we acquired the normal furniture for our new home. Then it was a new dining room table, and before long, the house was full. At this point in our lives, we did not have a garage, had nothing in the attic, and nothing under the house.
Two years later, we moved to our current home. On the day we moved, I distinctly remember boxing up certain items at our old home and taking them straight to the attic of our new home. When I went into the attic a few weeks back for our big garage sale, that same exact box with the same tape was sitting virtually in the same place I had put it thirteen years ago. While it was my wife’s family items that I am not at liberty to remove, it still sits there today. To me, it is insignificant, but to her, grandmother’s china is significant. It is just not significant enough to make it to our china cabinet. Why? Our china cabinet is full of our wedding china that hasn’t been used in three years.
Still, thanks to our garage sale, the garage is easy to move through and the attic is seemingly empty, except for our Christmas ornaments. The kitchen drawers have room again. The cabinets aren’t full of old crystal, candleholders, and never used pots.
Recently, one area of cleaning out was at my office. I was paying more $2,000 a month in rent and utilities. I travel quite a bit so the office was more for our Root Loud team than it was for me. When I came to realize that half my staff had young children at home, and they were responding to my questions and client needs via email into late in the night, it occurred to me that they should just work from home. Surely it would be easier for them to balance their work and family schedule from home. I have come to find that we are more productive working from home, and our employees can attend to their children’s needs with less interference.
This move not only saved me money, it removed those items costing me money. Those items, seeming to be significant, really were not significant at all. Most of our clients are in other cites around the country, so the office was created to facilitate client visits. Working from home also freed me from having to manage people daily, which clearly wasn’t needed with the team I now had. It allowed me to focus on our company’s strengths and slough off those areas that were burdens. We are now much more focused and flexible in meeting our clients’ needs.
Think about how many hours a typical family spends away from each other in a day. Pile on activities like soccer, baseball, ballet, and homework. I have read studies stating that family time together is about fifty minutes a day, a mere 3 percent of your total minutes in the day. By working from home, and when not traveling, I now get to eat and interact with my family the entire day. It is truly a blessing I had not realized.
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