I’m constantly amazed by how little value we place on the older things in our society these days (and our older people, but that’s a whole other issue). I can remember looking around my grandmother’s house and seeing the piano that had belonged to her great grandmother, the quilts that her mother and grandmother had made, the furniture that once sat in her mother’s house, and sets of china that belonged to several prior generations. My grandmother had very little that was new, especially when it came to durable goods. I remember her speaking fondly of all of her treasures because they brought her comfort and good memories. Even though she was well off financially, she chose to keep all of those older items because she valued them much more than anything she could have bought in a store. My grandmother wasn’t alone. When I visit my elderly aunts and uncles and others of that generation, I see much in their homes that is “old” but which has priceless value attached to it. Oddly enough, every single one of those people live debt free. Connection? Oh, yeah. Furnishing a home is a large source of debt for many people.
Unlike older generations, my generation and those younger than I do not seem to value the old things in life. Outside of a few people who seem to genuinely like antiques, most people my age would prefer not to furnish their houses with “old” stuff. It’s not cool, hip, or what they see on HGTV. Old stuff is boring and ugly and not what their friends have (or expect them to have). Old doesn’t say, “success” the same way new stuff does. Rather than take hand me down furniture from parents or grandparents, or buy old furniture from thrift stores or flea markets, they trot off to Rooms To Go and buy whole rooms of furniture on two-years-same-as-cash, and then forget to make the payments. Rather than take an old piano, they have to go buy a new one for several thousand dollars. Instead of using grandma’s quilts, it’s off to Bed Bath and Beyond for all new matching bed sets. Rather than using family Christmas ornaments, they have to buy all new to match some “theme” for their tree. And then, because what’s new today isn’t new for long, they set off again in five years to buy it all over again so they can stay on top of the trends. Buying everything new is not only costly, it’s boring.
Personally, I’ve never wanted a house that looks like everyone else’s. I like having character in my home. True, nothing matches one hundred percent but when I look around I know I’m in my home, not a home that any other person in this country could own. I have my parent’s old bedroom suite with my grandmother’s quilt on the bed. I have an armoire and a bookcase that my father made years ago when my parents were young and broke and he had to make furniture for them because they couldn’t afford it otherwise. I have lamps from my grandmother’s house and two sets of china, one from each grandmother. Most of my Christmas ornaments came from either my parents or my grandparent’s collections. I have a fabulous bookcase that I picked up at a flea market. I don’t know its history but it’s old and has a lot of character. Same with my coffee table.
Furnishing my home cost me very little. I never racked up debt on furniture, linens, china, or doo-dads because I got all of them free or for very low cost. Even if debt were not a concern, I would still live exactly like this. No amount of money can buy what I feel when I run my hand over my grandmother’s quilt or pull a book off a shelf my father made. That type of value is priceless and it stumps me why more people my age don’t appreciate it and only want new, mass produced stuff that is the same stuff that’s in everyone else’s house. And they want to go into debt to have it.
If you want to live debt free, I suggest learning to value older stuff. Even if you don’t have parents or grandparents to gift you with hand me downs, you can still find a lot of great things with character at flea markets, yard sales, estate sales, or thrift stores. You’ll be able to furnish your home cheaply, without debt. As an added bonus, you’ll get to tell some great stories about your stuff. When someone compliments your coffee table, for example, you don’t say, “Oh, I got it from Ikea.” You get to say something like, “Thanks. You know, that table was my great-great-grandmother’s prized table and the only that she saved as Sherman was marching into Atlanta,” or some other equally interesting tidbit from your family history. Valuing the old is a great way to remain debt free, entertain your guests, and ensure you live in a unique and interesting home.