I heard a really interesting report on NPR a couple of weeks ago about how certain areas of the country experiencing draughts are looking for ways to create more clean drinking water. A group of scientists have been able to purify sewer water so that it is actually cleaner than current tap water but, alas, they cannot sell it to the consumer because, even thought there is no physical contamination, there is “psychological contamination.” Once again, even if our thoughts and beliefs are irrational, they will win the day. (One of those interviewed stated that there is no water that hasn’t been contaminated by waste by someone or something.)
One of the researchers stated that it is similar to having your grandmother’s wedding ring and an exact replica; the original is worth more because it was part of your grandmother; it carries some of her essence, so we may believe.
I had an interesting discussion with a family of insurance agents this morning; Terranova Insurance in Orchard Park, NY. The patriarch, Joey, shared with me that most people view insurance as a scam (that’s true, they do) and part of that perception is because they don’t feel they’ve been made whole even after a claim is paid. In the case of Grandma’s wedding ring being lost or stolen, replacing it on a “replacement cost basis” may yield a check for a few hundred dollars but, of course, it’s worth MUCH more to you because of its value in your heart but, as Joey says “We can’t insure sentimentality.”
He said a whole lot of something there.
I’ve watched enough episodes of “Hoarders: Buried Alive” and “Clean my House” to know that most people who struggle with clutter are highly sentimental; not being able to let go of anything that may have (or will have) had contact with a loved one. They become victims of their own sentimentality because they try to make something emotional into something tangible so that they can -literally- hold onto it.
There have been studies conducted to indicate how we perceive value, using re-usable coffee mugs. The students in the study are only willing to pay a few bucks, if anything, for these mugs. When the students receive them for free and then are asked to sell them to their classmates, suddenly they want up to $7 for these same coffee mugs that they just received for free. Somehow being in our possession renders them more valuable.
Joey and I discussed the value of love letters which remain in our memory but may be lost, thrown out (accidentally or on purpose by a more recent love), destroyed etc…and we cannot be compensated for their “replacement cost value” because there is none. For those of you who have seen the film “Harold & Maude” you may recall what Maude does with her precious trinket from Harold (if you haven’t, just watch it, it’s on NetFlix, you’ll be glad you did). Maude teaches us many lessons in that film; most importantly that you cannot and should not hang on to things; you should hang on to your love and your memories.
But be sure to insure the rest!
Your comparison of holding on to ‘Things’ or ‘Experiences’ brings to mind the advice of philosphers to allocate your resources – ie money, etc. – on creating experiences rather than buying things. Experiences – especially those we share with people who matter to us – can build stronger relationships and last, shareable memories. Things are just ‘things’ that lose their ‘luster’ and long term meaning.
Probably even better advice in these trying economice times.
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