Affluenza - one family's experience

    While I haven't seen it, apparently PBS aired a show or series called Affluenza.  This show explored how americans own way too much stuff, and how reducing the amount of junk in our lives will let us live simpler, happier lives.

    Our encounter with affluenza began in 1993.  My parents gave us our aging 1987 Dodge Caravan to use at college.  In the summer of 1995, as I was getting ready to leave for graduate school, we exchanged the '87 Caravan with my parents for a '92 Ford Explorer.  In the summer of 1997, we came out to Hillsboro from Minneapolis with the '92 Explorer, and a 1958 Starcraft motorboat that we bought from Tricia's parents.

    Around the beginning of 1998, we bought a 4 bedroom house in Hillsboro.  Shortly thereafter, my parents gave us back the '87 Caravan, which by this point had major mechanical problems (it had a range of about 5 miles before it would stall).  In August of '98 we bought a Trailmanor RV.  Sometime in the first half of 1999 the Ford Explorer's transmission gave out.  We learned that the '92 Explorer's transmission was the same one they put in some of their passenger cars (!), and that it wasn't good for towing much of anything.  So, in July of 1999 we bought a '99 Ford F250 pickup to tow the RV.

    But wait - it gets better!  In early 2000, we moved to Portland, and began renting a townhouse.  At some point, my parents, in their unflagging generosity, bought us a '00 Toyota Corolla.

    So, at this point, we owned the house in Hillsboro, and were renting the townhouse in Portland.  In addition, we had four vehicles:  the '87 Caravan, the '92 Explorer, the '99 F250, and the '00 Corolla.  We also had the '98 Trailmanor RV, and the '58 speedboat.  Oh, and I also had a moped, by Kinetic Honda (India's Honda), that I used to get to work when we lived in Hillsboro.

    With all the extra vehicles, I left the Caravan at Intel, to run errands in Hillsboro.  We would commute together with the F250 or the Explorer to Hillsboro, and Trish would drop me off at Intel.

    One day, Trish was out with the Explorer, and the transmission failed.  She was stuck!  I got in the Caravan, and started driving toward where she was stuck.  Half way there, the Caravan died.  I jogged over to my parents house, borrowed their Corolla, picked up Trish, bought a tow rope, and used the their Corolla to tow the Caravan into the Intel parking lot.

    Since we couldn't get the Caravan to start again, we donated it to Volunteers of America - they came and picked it up.  To get rid of a lot of our junk, we had a garage sale in Hillsboro, and made $1800 in 4 hours!  In May 5th of 2000, we sold the '99 F250.  A few days later, we sold the '92 Explorer.   In early June, we sold our house by auction.  In late July, we sold the Trailmanor RV.

    In the period of a few months, we went from 2 houses, 4 cars, an RV, a boat, and a moped, to renting one house, one car, a boat, and a moped.  Since we only have one car, the moped stays at Intel in case I need to run errands in Hillsboro.  When Trish uses the car, I ride my Brompton folding bicycle from our townhouse to the MAX, Portland's light rail system.  30 minutes later, I'm in Hillsboro.  With a seven minute bike ride, I'm at Intel.

    It feels so wonderful to have less!  Our insurance is cheaper, we can park our car in the garage, and it feels great to own less.  It lets us focus on what really matters in life.


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