I came across a statistic the other day that quite frankly shocked me. In America there are over 50,000 self-storage facilities offering over a billion square feet for people to store their stuff. Fifty years ago this industry did not exist. These folk spend a whopping $12 billion a year to pay someone to store things they rarely use! In the UK there were no storage units just thirty years ago, now we have over 800 major self-storage units, more than the rest of Europe put together! Am I the only one who finds that odd?
We seem obsessed with things! Many seem to devote their life to things but as Art Buchwald wisely commented … ‘The best things in life aren’t things!’ Many years ago when actress Sophia Loren sobbed to Italian movie director Vittorio De Sica over the theft of her jewellery, he wisely said to her: ‘Listen to me, Sophia. I am much older than you and if there is one great truth I have learned about life, it is this; never cry over anything that can’t cry over you.”
Sound advice! Please don’t get me wrong I like stuff, but I learned a long time ago that whilst it is ok to own things but when things own you, that’s quite a different matter. When that happens you lose, and everyone close to you loses.
I remember when I worked in finance meeting a very successful man to finalise the purchase of a new Mercedes. I commented on how lovely his home was but he seemed indifferent. ‘This is my summer house.’ He said, as he pointed to the picture of a mansion over the fireplace which was his main residence. Persisting, I praised him on the choice of car he had purchased but again he seemed unimpressed. ‘It’s ok’ He replied. ‘One year I buy two Mercs the next I buy a Roller … their just cars!’ My next line might explain why I left the world of finance. ‘If you don’t mind me saying, for a man who seems to have everything, you appear to be very miserable?’ There was a long pause before he said, ‘Because I am. I have everything expect what I want most of all, my wife and children!’ He then went on to tell me how he had worked every hour under the sun to give his family what they wanted only to discover that it wasn’t what they wanted at all. They wanted him, but he was never there. Now his wife and child refused to speak to him. This proud ‘successful’ businessman broke down in front of me, his world had fallen apart. On another occasion another ‘successful’ businessman said to me, ‘Dave don’t make the same mistakes I have made.’ I need to point out that in the previous week he had personally received £6 million when his company floated on the Stock Exchange. ‘What mistakes?’ I asked. ‘Don’t put work before your family’ After talking further I asked him, ‘Are you telling me you would have given up your wealth to invest in your family?’ He thought for a moment and in what I can only describe as remarkable honesty he said, ‘Honestly, no. It’s got me Dave, it’s like a drug, I’m a multi millionaire but I just want more, I have to have more!’
How about you and me? How important is stuff to us? What do we truly value? Before we answer that let us ask ourselves what are we investing our time and money in, what occupies our mind when it’s in neutral?
Let me finish with this parable from Jesus, about a man who was preoccupied with storage
“The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.
And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
I think I’ll go now and empty the attic!