Nov 9, 2022–I seem to be missing the gene that creates the unquenchable desire to own things.

This disinterest in amassing material wealth manifests in many areas of my life.

Take furniture. If I had not taken a wife, I would still be eating pot pies off a wooden cable spool, sitting on rusted metal folding chairs, and stuffing my clothes in plastic milk crates stacked on their sides.

The walls in my house would still have unfinished rough pine paneling and faded linoleum-covered floors. My bed? It would be a mattress on the floor. Maybe on a sheet of plywood resting on cinder blocks.

I cooked with Mom’s mis-matched copper bottom saucepans, using small plates for lids. My silverware was a set I “borrowed” from the college cafeteria. A dented wok was sufficient for other meal prep, from soup to popcorn, though seldom Chinese food.

Knick-knacks, plates, and plaques? Not on my shelves. Shelves are places to empty your pockets every night.

I’m not Amish. I just assess objects according to their ability to function as a tool. To this day I remember the joy on winning the silent auction for a four-slot toaster. I’d never dared dream I could prepare toast and pop-up pastries simultaneously. That’s how rich people ate.

I do remember yearning for the day I would be able to purchase a vehicle that did not require constant maintenance. Driving a new child home from the hospital barely rivaled driving a new car off the dealer lot. But always it was the base model. I’m sure I bought the very last minivan with manual roll-up windows.

Clothes are another category I wish you could do “one and done.” I never replace wardrobes when they go out of style, but only when a family member points out they can see my underwear, sometimes through the fabric.

One clothing category I do not skimp on is footwear. When I was hired for my first teaching job out of college, I celebrated by buying an expensive pair of Rockports. Comfortable shoes beat another blue blazer every time.

When it comes to larger purchases, yes, I’ve owned several homes. Again, I don’t care about curb appeal. I’ve never been able to sit through any of those programs where beautiful people rhapsodize over tearing out a wall or installing a countertop. I’ve done those projects, and believe me, they only lead to heartache and expense. If I can’t fix something with pallets and hog panels, I don’t want to live there.

So what things do I like to own?

Tools, as in “things I need in order to accomplish other things.” These would include computers, power tools, and all musical instruments. I still get emotional remembering when I bought my original Ludwig Black Pearl drum kit with Zildjian cymbals, just like Ringo’s. I’ve still got ‘em.

The big category of “things I prefer to own” is books. As my reading strategy is to have up to a dozen books open at once, I’ve learned to buy any book I’m likely to refer to more than once, especially in the self-improvement, inspirational, philosophy categories. As soon as I finish reading Elements of Style and Zinsser’s On Writing Well, I start over.

The most important thing they have taught me? When to stop writing.