The Estate of Goldfish

Male's ugly lamp, robot pic and chest of drawers

If I were to die tomorrow and you were to scrutinize my belongings for anything of value, you would be sorely disappointed.

I don’t own a house. I have a twelve-year-old car. I have about $500 cash, no savings and one year’s worth of saving for retirement. I have at least a dozen original works of art, but none of them are from famous artists. I have a ton of books, but none are valuable first editions.

The only things of monetary value I have are a few scant pieces of jewelry inherited from my family. My grandmother’s ring. My grandfather’s pocket watch. My great-grandfather’s gold and amethyst chain that he wore every day over his judge’s robes. They’re worth less in money than in sentimental value.


If you were to add it up, everything that I own, you might get $10,000 for all my worldly possessions if you sold them individually on Ebay or the like. At an estate sale, my entire lot would maybe fetch $5,000.

I have nothing that’s worth much. I have second-hand furniture, second-hand clothes, second-hand lamps and t-shirts. Everything I own is gently to vigorously used. Some of it isn’t even mine.

Male's oldest and most prized t-shirt gifted to me after his memorial.
Male’s oldest and most prized t-shirt gifted to me after his memorial.

You wouldn’t want to be listed in my will. If I were to die tomorrow, I’d leave more debt than valuables.

How can one work for decades in this world, from the age of fifteen years old, without acquiring anything of value? How is that even possible?

You could take a Buddhist slant on the state of my material possessions.


You could even Fight Club it:


And if you did that, you’d be right.

Part of the state of my owning nothing is intentional. It’s the same reason I have this on my knuckles:

Photo stolen from Ra's Instagram.
Photo straight-up stolen from Ra’s Instagram.

I have knuckle tattoos to remind me never to take another stuffy and conservative corporate job again that sucks my soul away little by little just for a paycheck. Among other things, that’s what stay down means. Their location prevents me from getting a fancy job again, since conservative types aren’t fond of knuckle tattoos.

I used to have earthly possessions. I used to have antiques and heirlooms that I painstakingly moved around from place to place. After living with the furniture of long-dead relatives for a decade, after carting it all around from apartment to apartment, state to state, I finally had enough.

When you get down to it, why should I feel obligated to live with the interior decorating choices of people I never met who died long before I was born? Just because we’re related, that doesn’t mean we’ll have the same taste in furniture. I would never expect my family to cart my junk around generations from now, so why must I?

I’d had enough of wood oil and “there’s a trick to opening that dresser since that drawer is broken.” I got tired of living with delicate dark wood, marble and glass. I was sick of planting my ass in the same uncomfortable chair in which my great-grandfather planted his ass. I wanted color and things I didn’t need to be careful of breaking and/or were already broken. I wanted change.

I loaned out all the antiques like a furniture library when I moved from Boston to Los Angeles fifteen years ago with the stipulation that I get first dibs if the loanees ever wanted to get rid of it. The stipulation has only come into play once when a friend wanted to get rid of the aforementioned dresser with the broken drawer, the same dresser that lived in my bedroom my entire life. He asked me if I wanted it back. I said no.

I haven’t asked for, nor do I want, any of that furniture back. The antiques of my progenitors are all happily living new lives outside of the family and I don’t particularly care whether my great-grandfather’s ass would approve of that or not.

Stuff is just stuff. “The things you own end up owning you.” Until you have a house full of family antiques that you have to carefully move around the country more than a few times, you cannot fully appreciate this fact.

Getting rid of it all allowed me to have colorful cheap-ass crap like this around instead, which makes me way happier:

Male's ugly lamp, framed robot picture and chest of drawers from Goodwill.
Male’s ugly lamp, framed robot picture and chest of drawers from Goodwill.

Yet, part of me yearns for a little homestead to call my own. Part of me wishes for a yard and a deed to some property so that I might recall all those antiques to come live with me again. Part of me wishes I wasn’t so damn broke as the result of the stay down choices I made, and rails at the unfairness of the seeming inability to be rich and happy. Part of me me wonders why I even bother with poor, since I’m not particularly happy without money either, but at least my soul is intact.

Not owning much of monetary value is my choice, or at least, it’s the result of choices I made. I don’t begrudge it. I don’t regret it. I wouldn’t change a thing. I’ll take Male’s ugly lamp over grandpa’s chair any day.