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Dimensional Fund Advisors’ Real Estate Securities Portfolio is the fund we use to gain exposure to U.S. Real Estate, the best performing asset class in our portfolios so far this year, up more than 20%.  The second largest holding in this fund is Public Storage, whose trademark orange garage doors are a familiar sight all over the country.

If you know anything about our investment philosophy, you know I’m not here to tout an individual stock, but I bring this up because one of the many drivers in this fund’s success is, directly or indirectly, America’s relationship with stuff.

Whether in storage units, basements or other facilities, Americans accumulate a tremendous amount of stuff.  While it has become popular to say everyone needs to get rid of it all, that’s far too broad a statement to make.  Some things should be kept and maintained for heirs.  Some sold or donated to someone who can give an item new life and purpose.  Some truly does just need to be thrown away.  It all depends on the stuff and the person involved.

Whatever the goal, with Boomers downsizing, younger generations shifting back to urban areas and the cost of hanging onto all of our stuff continuing to rise, there is a greater need today to protect, sell or get rid of our personal property and there are more ways than ever to do so.

What Do You Have? 

Step one in taking stock of your stuff is doing just that, taking stock.  It’s impossible to answer the question of what’s to become of it all without knowing what’s there.  More importantly, perhaps, is protecting the stuff you know you want to keep.  If anything were to happen to your home or storage facility, the best outcome from any insurance claim will come from having a current list of possessions and their estimated value.

There are more tools than ever to help you do this.  One favorite that I recently came across in local law firm, Ritter & Randolph’s newsletter, is the Insurance Information Institute’s Know Your Stuff website.  This service allows you to list possessions, store photographs of property, PDFs of receipts or appraisal documents and can easily be managed or manipulated via computer or Apple or Android based apps for smartphones and tablets.  Lists can be stored in an online account and it’s also a good idea to keep a hard copy in a safe or safe deposit box.

What To Do With It?

Taking stock in your stuff will not only help maximize it’s protection, but also offers the opportunity to evaluate what’s really important.  A close family friend went through this exercise while downsizing recently and realized it was the memories tied to the possessions, not the possessions themselves that were truly important.  As part of their downsizing process, he took digital picture of everything he gave away and sold.  Now, he has a well organized photo album of memories that allow him at anytime he chooses, as he puts it, to “visit his stuff”.


This is often where our best laid plans come to a grinding halt.  We may have every intention of paring back some of our possessions, but the overwhelming decisions around selling, donating or disposing of items becomes a powerful incentive to do nothing.

Through some simple internet searches, there are more tools than ever today to lower this hurdle.  For those that wish to dispose of goods, many local providers offer dumpsters.  1-800-GOT-JUNK and the like will come and do it for you.  If you wish to donate, Goodwill, AMVETS or other organizations will take most things.

Most recently, I had a personal experience with The Discovery Shop, a Cincinnati organization that collects clothes, furniture and other goods for resale on behalf of the American Cancer Society.  What made it particularly appealing to me, besides a family connection to cancer, was how easy they made it to donate.  We were able to e-mail and text photographs of items to the store and, if interested, they would come to the house and pick it up.

If there are items you’d prefer to sell, there are many consignment shops who will work with you.  Take pictures of what you intend to sell and bring them to a few shops to determine who fits your needs best and get their advice on what will sell and what will not.  If you prefer a more full service approach or have a lot to part with, there’s a local company in Cincinnati and other markets offering just that.  Everything But The House (EBTH) is an online personal property and estate sale provider that bills itself as taking all of the headaches out of this process.  We’ve had a number of clients and contacts use their services with positive results.

Rather than re-hash all they do and how it works, check out their website by clicking on the link above, or this recent article from the Cincinnati Business Courier on their recent success here. 

Taking stock of our possessions and making meaningful decisions as to whether we should keep them or find some other purpose for them can be a big saver of money, time and stress.  Getting through these initial hurdles can be the difference in whether or not this is the year you take stock of you and your stuff.

Have a great week!

Sidenote: Not to bring up acquiring new “stuff” within a blog on this topic, but we’ve also had positive responses from those shopping the various sales through EBTH on acquiring that unique or rare item for their home, collection or gift.