But take a quick inventory of your closets, your drawers, your cabinets and you'll probably find--unless you number among that rare breed, the true minimalists--that most of the stuff you own you really could live without.
If push came to shove, and you had to whittle everything you owned down to a very few items, I can tell you what you'd keep. And it wouldn't necessarily be what cost you the most in terms of money. It would be the stuff with stories behind it.
The quilt your great-grandmother sewed by hand. Your parents' wedding portrait. Your high school ring. The concert poster from your first date with your spouse. The "art projects" your kids brought home from school. And all those photos and videos and scrapbooks that document your own experiences and your family's history.
Stories = Value
I know this because I once lost 99 percent of my stuff in a fire, and that's about all I really miss. So here's my theory about stuff: Stuff is valuable to us in direct proportion to the stories behind it.
Think about it. Don't you have some white elephant that you keep just because it once belonged to a favorite relative? Or how about that "abstract art" your children made for you in pre-school? You look at it with pride and nostalgia, and when visitors ask about it you say something like this:
"Isn't that adorable? Emily made it for me when she was only four. She had a hard time keeping it a secret (I could tell she was hiding something), but she managed to wait until Mother's Day morning and then delivered it to me at the breakfast table. I still remember how proud she looked!"
It's not only in our personal lives that stories enhance the value of material objects. It's in the marketplace, too. In fact, an informal experiment by New York Times Magazine writer Rob Walker and his colleague Joshua Glenn indicates that people are willing to pay more--lots more--for things that come with stories.
Walker and Glenn asked a group of well-known writers to invent stories to go with nearly worthless objects they picked up in a thrift shop, and then post those items on eBay. With listing prices beginning as low as 29 cents, the final value of these trinkets rose by as much as 4,000 percent when buyers could read a compelling story about them. (The proceeds went to charity.)
For example, the auction for a tiny, truly ugly, yellow plastic bear started at $1.00 and ended at $51.00 because of an accompanying story that began with the words: "The sorcerer drove too fast."
Hard to believe? Check out the results for yourself at www.significantobjects.com.
Just another reason it makes sense to market yourself and your business with stories. You've already got them. Why not make the most of them?