Owning your stuff

barnStuff you own, owns you. The property of which you have title, also has title to you in the way it commands your time and money to maintain it, insure it and repair it. Divestiture feels good; darn fine even plus it offers to potential for change and improvement.


I was born in 1965 so I am not a Baby Boomer. It is ironic that as revolutionary a reflection as Boomers see when they look in the mirror, their relationship with stuff is pretty much the same as their parents. Fine china sits unused in a cupboard, the garage is full of bent aluminum windows frames and old plastic flowers and they still nostalgically hoard the textbooks that were out-of-date the year after they were used by the boomer’s child-the Millennial. The Generation of Cool’s possessions are not viewed by their as children as-cool.


The Millennials are a mobile bunch and as such want nothing of heft or size to move from one rented apartment to the next. The area code on your phone means little or nothing anymore as this younger generation keeps only a cell phone and moves often enough that their location is not linked to the first three numbers of their only “permanent” address. Perhaps this one link to permanence is the reason that Millennials treasure this one piece of “stuff,” their smart phone. Maybe they are not that different from their parents in that they hold some possession particularly important but that that one treasure is intellectual property contained within their phone.


I started thinking about possessions, permanence, nostalgia and stuff when I saw the old “Wetch Hotel” being razed this week. I like old buildings and felt a little sad to see an old building gone. Then I asked myself what connection I had to the building and what direct effect it’s loss had on me. I came up with nothing. Fact is, the removal of that building will hopefully allow a little growth or convenience to the folk who use the space. It may not be a productive space yet but the area sure has more potential than it did prior to building removal.


I think Pennington county is facing the same “nostalgia versus progress” question right now. There is a plan that includes removal of the old auditorium to make space for extension of the courthouse. Thief River Falls, Minnesota seems poised to stimulate the creation of housing to support the population needed to fill our plentiful jobs. All of Pennington County is going to see more population and they will want to register their vehicles, get a marriage license, appear in court, and transfer title to their new home. People need an efficient courthouse with good parking, centralized departments and technological sophistication in which to do business. It would be difficult to prove possession of real estate, vehicles and your own existence without the documentation provided at the courthouse. Commerce would find it difficult to exist without this centralized documentation. We have to decide whether the old auditorium carries enough historical significance or current utility to remain. If the old auditorium scores poorly in these two departments then it exists only for nostalgia and that is a currency which is hard to prove.


It seems to me we can learn from the Millennials in this case. They have kept themselves unburdened by excess nostalgia so that they may react to opportunities for personal growth which help them to a richer life. They also value their intellectual property which in the case of the courthouse would be the collective information gathered and filed to document the possessions owned by Pennington County’s residents. I don’t believe this is an occasion in which we should bow to nostalgia but rather look to build towards better services for those who will occupy new homes and pay for services with their real estate taxes and fees.


In the end, the stuff you need really helps you while the stuff that reminds you of a different time keeps you from forward movement. Sometimes we need roots and those little things that take space help grow those roots. However, if your child doesn’t want great-grandma’s fine china you shouldn’t take it too hard. One day, they will want a connection to the past and want that old china; and it will still be in a box, in your garage-or in a cupboard, on the wall, unused.

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