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Tuesday, 11 June 2024


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Best post. Many of my family and sub-family are the boat-in-the-garden people. I would be if I had not turned out to be good at maths and have parents who understood this. Being poor is famously a full-time job. And last week I have watched 'unskilled labourers' ride horses, without saddles, with what is obviously huge skill: there are no unskilled jobs.

Thank you.

Mike - Yes, I agree that when compared to the world as a whole those of us in the U.S., Europe and Australia are fortunate. I do, though, take some exception to the comment that a U.S. resident earning between $16,120 and $30,000 is significantly better off than the poor in other parts of the world who, on the surface, earn far less. The cost of living in the U.S., with little exception, is at or above most of the world. As your reference to Nickel and Dimed noted, a person not privileged to be in a more educated class has to work two jobs to simply live inside. The middle class that blossomed after WW II through sometime in the early '70s has been hollowed out by unregulated capitalism. While capitalism is the best source of national wealth, when unbridled its fruits inevitably flows to the few, leaving many to struggle.

„ And when he wanders over to that old boat on a foggy, still day, and rests his arms on the gunwales thinking of Uncle Jerry and how he should just tow it to the dump, he can still pick up just a whiff of the way it smelled out on Lake Champlain that wonderful day, in the warm breezes and that otherwordly sunshine, with everyone laughing and his mother so happy, rest in peace. He still thinks he can water-ski, although he has not done so since that day, and that was 54 years ago. And that's one other thing that helps keep that old hunk of sun-bleached junk mouldering away in the farmyard.”

My God, this is a beautiful text.
But it's much more than that: it's heart-touching literature.
I wish you had the enduring energy, the healthy egoism, the killer instinct to bring your literary potential into the world as an independent body of work.

"What we need are people who have the courage to express what they feel and think.
I believe that art does not come from ability, but from having to."
Arnold Schönberg (1874 -1951)

Keeping stuff that may have residual value still has a cost. I find a cluttered house to be a stressful house. It takes a toll. I moved a few years ago, downsizing to a smaller house, and while there was a momentary bit of regret from giving or throwing stuff away (I didn’t have time to sell it all even if I was so inclined), it was quickly replaced by relief. Hard to put a price on peace of mind, but it definitely has real $ value. I have a great photo backpack from Shimoda that I’ll be selling soon for well below its value because I don’t use it, and it takes up space in my small house.

Thank you Mike, great Open Mike today, I'm with you.

"Richest 1% bag nearly twice as much wealth as the rest of the world put together over the past two years." Oxfam Press Release 1-16-23

Oxfam: https://www.oxfam.org/en/press-releases/richest-1-bag-nearly-twice-much-wealth-rest-world-put-together-over-past-two-years

The best economic textbook expression of this that I ever read (and I've been reading economics even longer than I've been taking photographs...):

“The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money.

Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles.

But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that'd still be keeping his feet dry in ten years' time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.

This was the Captain Samuel Vimes 'Boots' theory of socioeconomic unfairness.”
― Terry Pratchett, Men at Arms: The Play

I rarely comment here because I'm not sure I can contribute much, but maybe here I can.

I'm going to cut right to the point on owning things -- and skip all the sociology because I'm not anybody's analyst, and most people spend too much time talking and too little time doing. So on with the doing.

Once you spend money on something, and I'm shouting here on purpose: THE MONEY IS GONE.

It's not coming back. If you can sell something for any amount, wow, that's incredible. Like I said in my post from yesterday, today objects essentially have no value. No one wants your junk. They can get it new from Amazon in a day. People need to internalize this, that the world has changed. Ships are on the ocean ... RIGHT NOW... filled with piles of cheap consumer junk coming from China. The world is awash in piles of disposable crap. It's all going to end up in a landfill.

The best thing anyone can do is own a few, high quality items, that will hopefully last a lifetime. Do you need a HOUSE full of stuff? No. You can get by with a backpack, but for most people who want some cooking supplies, you can still fit everything you need in a car.

Yeah, I know, your grandfather gave it to you and it was used to win the war and Churchill autographed it and... no one cares.

So I come here to say: LET IT GO.

Memories are not inside objects, they are inside you. No storage costs required. No space required. You get this ability for free, just by being human. The objects are just an anchor.

You can read all about this, if you want, and the books really help people.

Yeah, I read Mike's post... and washing machines... people are poor, I get it. But Mike is trying to sell a razor (eeeeewwwwww!!). Come on, it's a THING. You don't want it. Give it away to someone (eeewwww!) or it goes in recycling. You lost money. Sorry. Don't do that again, OK? You learned yourself good. Move on.

I'm only typing all this up because here is a guy who built a whole special custom BUILDING. To install a POOL TABLE. And now is spending time in life trying to sell a razor. I'm going to say it again because of the comedy value. Built special building for a pool table, but now trying to sell a razor (eeewwww!).

If you need to SELL cameras, SELL THEM and be done with it. KEH buys cameras. B&H buys cameras. You send them the THING, they send you CASH. Done. Full stop. Move on. Yeah, you can list it on Ebay and maybe get cheated and some guy gets your thing and you get no money, and then you learn another valuable lesson and waste all that mental energy, or you can sell it to KEH, and ... done.

But make peace with the idea that you can LET IT GO. Donate it, recycle it, and if nothing else is possible, it goes to the landfill. GET IT OUT OF YOUR HOUSE. Unless you've used it in 90 days, you probably don't need it.

Oh, it's that special wrench you used once to fix the disposal? Guess what? Home Depot has one on a shelf RIGHT NOW. They are storing it for you for free. You can go get it, do the job, then donate the tool (no, do not try to return it like some deadbeat loser). Or you can do it the old timey way and hire a professional plumber, who has the special tool on his truck.

Do you need the special f/1.0 lens that has extra vanilla scented boquet (ha!) and renders in such a way and by the way HCB used it and wow look at what I paid for it? No. Most people could get by with a 50 and 28 and maybe a 90 from any manufacturer and yes a K1000 is fine and just get some Tri-X. You can toss the rest out. Yeah, I know, you're special and need to photograph birds from half a mile away and gosh, there are no way I'm sure of it the other 1000 bird photographers are not doing the same thing. Ahem.

Start here because it's downloadble for free and gets right to it: https://www.youhavetoomuchshit.com


The life changing magic of tidying up by Marie Kondo — start with this
Spark joy by Marie Kondo — more of the same, but a little more in detail

Essentialsim — The disciplined pursuit of less by Greg McKeown — gets into the abstract and this is where things start coming together

Goodbye, things by Fumio Sasaki — a guy who just went and DID IT

Decluttering at the speed of life by Dana White — the “container” concept is really useful

Making space, clutter free by Tracy McCubbin — different approach

Ok, that's it. End of lecture. This will all be on the final exam.


You will feel better.

My god, that last paragraph. There’s serious truth there. I grew up with folks like that. I am that guy. You nailed it.


That last paragraph; beautiful writing.

If comparing incomes, savings and other wealth related figures, I think the mean is a really poor choice of average. It is skewed far too much by extreme outliers to be useful. The median is far more realistic comparison for most people. The median is the middle value. An example: the mean cash savings of people age 65 in the UK is £125,000. That's sounds like a tidy sum and would indicate retired people are comfortably off. The median cash savings is £25,000, an entirely different story, because it tells you that as many people have less savings than this as have more savings. The mean is skewed dramatically upwards by the savings of a small number of very wealthy people and tells you little about the situations of the majority. I think it makes you think people are far richer than most are.

What you write reminds me strongly of the "Sam Vimes "Boots" theory of socioeconomic unfairness." If you don't already know of him, he's a Terry Pratchett creation in the Discworld book series. Here are Sam Vimes thoughts on the topic -

"...The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money. Take boots, for example. ... A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. ... But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that'd still be keeping his feet dry in ten years' time, while a poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet..."

[I think the Boots theory is more about frugality than wealth creation...FWIW. --Mike]

Short sharp radical idea that I currently live -
1 in? Then 2 out first.

I just bought another guitar. But before I did, I got rid of two other guitars. Gone.

I apply that to everything. And boy, does it ever stop me getting things I don't need need need.

... they have money invested in whatever it is, and they have either an expectation or a fantasy that they ought to get some money back out of it, whatever "it" is.

I was stuck with this "expectation or fantasy" for quite some time. So ... I now donate "whatever it is" to Goodwill. Some is junk and will end up in Goodwill's dumpster. Some is not and will make me, Goodwill and some of its customers happy.

Now ... can somebody help me get the table saw up the stairs and out of the basement?

Give it away. Find a young person who can use a step up. You won't miss the stuff and the act of kindness will make you feel good.

Hi Mike,

Since I would like to have a full frame camera, I have been considering "updating" my Dynax 7D to a Sony a850. I could keep using all my old lenses with the newer body.

So I emailed several camera part exchange dealers to see what my 7D was worth. Several have said that they simply did not want the camera but one offered me £20.

I will not sell it for that.
So I am going to keep it.

My question is, how long does it take for a worthless piece of junk to turn into a collectors item?

[The 7D is really old and outdated now. Not much market. I'm surprised you were offered £20. As fas as turning into a collectors' item, that's one of the tragedies of electronic devices...they seldom do become collectors' items. But I did write an article about this once...search the site for "The Trough of No Value." One of my favorites. --Mike]

So what you are telling us is that it takes money to be poor? Any of us that have had periods in the past where we had substantially less than we enjoy now will probably agree. Call me cynical, but I expect most of the driving force that got Barbara Ehrenreich through those minimum wage jobs at Walmart etc., was the thought that she was going to monetize the whole thing later on. So she was really earning several times the minimum wage – still had to stay at those crummy hotels though. No getting round that. But I’m glad she did it, as this is a good message to get out, and many don’t hear it.

There are many sites and communities online like "Freecycle" and "Buy Nothing" which encourage handing your unwanted junk off to someone else to make it their junk (ignoring that old George Carlin skit). I've used it both ways, giving and taking, but so far no one is giving away Pentax lenses in my area.

Also, moving 8 times in 10 years taught me to be ruthless when getting rid of things. Sentiment and dreams will clog your driveway, house and mind, if you let them.

Everyone in the higher quintiles should read Nickel and Dimed.

"By the way" that last paragraph is a beautiful piece of writing.

This essay abruptly changed my direction. There are a few things on my workbench that I planned to offer on eBay. They're now going to go up by the road, accompanied by a large "FREE" sign, for anyone who wants them.

My wife and I agreed, we both hang onto things because they have some "value" in them. As she said, "We're thinking 'poor.'"

Thank you, Mike.

"Leaf peepers". I love that.

Yes, it does hurt to get rid of stuff, but stuff is simply not important in life. It may give us some pleasure but it's the people we love, the beauty we see and the knowledge and understanding we gain that matter. Together with enough money to maintain a roof over our heads and feed ourselves and, of course, good health.

I agree with David here. Keeping stuff involves costs. One of the is time. Time is one of the few things we can really decide for ourselves. I assign a euro value for my time (the same per hour as my salary), and when I find myself fretting over keeping something or not, I tell myself 'this is costing you.' Selling something will also cost you your time and effort. If I then procrastinate, it will cost me even more. It might really be cheaper (i.e. a smaller loss) to chuck it.
Keeping stuff costs time, as occasionally, things need to be looked after.
This is not to say my office is empty and orderly, btw.

I like your last paragraph, Mike. Lovely writing and hits the nail right on the head, Whack!

What most hoarders understand and many non-hoarders don't is that there are often emotional associations with just having stuff around which makes them happy. Sometimes, as with your boat example, it's about the past. In my own case, I find it difficult to part with books, musical recordings, art-work and camera gear for that reason. Sometimes, it's about the future. I call that "gunna stuff". I have that boat/car/camera/etc. because one day I'm gunna fix it up and use/sell it. I bought my erstwhile BMW motorcycle because I was gunna take it out on track days (which happened twice at best in 20 plus years). Sometimes you get it all. I sold that Beemer for the same amount I paid for it to a retired and formerly patched but retired member of a motorcycling organisation with - um, let's say - allegedly illegal connections. He was gunna fix it up and take it to the track because that's what he and his Dad did when he was a kid - happiness both ways. Maybe he did or maybe it was just his fantasy but either way, it was happiness all the same. And there's nothing wrong with that.

Your Sherwin-Williams story reminds me of a saying my dad taught me while raising me in poverty: we can only afford the best.

I have to agree with Mr. Anonymous Internet Guy above. When it is time to clear out stuff, dump it, quickly. Get it out of your life. In my case, my wife and I recently moved to a smaller home across country and had to dump furniture, books, papers, junk. How refreshing. Soon, I will offer camera parts and items for free on Photrio.

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