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  • 5 Things I No Longer Wish to Own

    By Joshua Kim September 21, 2011 2:30 am UTC

    Is this desire to shed ownership of things a life cycle story, a digital story, or something else? Do you share my desire for life as a service? Has owning stuff also lost its appeal to you?

    5 Things I No Longer Wish to Own:

    1. Software: Software as a service (SaaS) today may not always be possible or pragmatic, but SaaS is clearly the future. What enterprise or personal applications that we currently host on our servers or laptops will not eventually move to the cloud?

    2. Hardware: As we move from software providers and owners to software consumers and renters, the hardware on which we run our software will also migrate from our grasp. Good. Let the servers sit in the data centers, and the laptops be be rented and refreshed every two years.

    3. Books: A bookshelf full of books has been important to me for 30 odd years (I'm 41). The bookshelf full of books was a map to my values and knowledge, a symbol of investment, the physical manifestation of a life of the mind. No longer. The bookshelf is no longer essential to my presentation of self. A select number of reference books I'll always treasure, and move from place to place. Some of these reference books I'll actually utilize, most hold primarily sentimental value. For most of the books I'll read going forward, my preferred delivery package is lightweight. A paper book checked out from the library is wonderful. An e-book, available on all my screens from e-readers to smart phones (and all synching together), might be even better.

    4. Car: Any consumer expert (or your father) will tell you that the best plan for car ownership is to drive the thing into the ground. Even smarter if you can buy the car gently used, and then drive it pretty much forever. As an owner of 2 high mileage cars I've scrupulously followed this advice. But I fantasize about leasing. Give up the minivan for a Mini with a 6 speed, and turn it in 3 years later for a new one.

    5. House: The crash of the housing bubble has perhaps forever changed how I look at housing. Never again will a house be considered an investment, only a place to live. We know that owner occupied housing is, on average, of higher quality than rental occupied housing. And we know that over a number of years that the financial benefits of homeownership accrue, for the enforced savings and tax advantages that comes with a mortgage. But I don't think housing values will come back to 2006 levels for many years to come, and for most of us an owned home is a barrier to mobility. Once the kids leave the house (2017), I'm hoping to join the nation of renters.

    What do you own and would rather rent?

    What do you now rent that you once owned?

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Comments on 5 Things I No Longer Wish to Own

  • Why a car at all?
  • Posted by Faculty Person on September 21, 2011 at 8:45am UTC
  • I have had the pleasure of living completely without a car for the last two years. It is essential to live in a place with a decent public transportation infrastructure.
  • Posted by SP on September 21, 2011 at 11:00am UTC
  • 1. A Smartphone. Never owned one actually, but why would anyone need one? A standard mobile is enough, and use your ingenuity to find out where you are, what to buy, and talk to people, instead of an App.
    2. Flat screen TV. There are enough cathode ray TVs left to keep me going for decades. YOu can get them from the sidewalk when wasteful consumers throw them out. And their energy consumption is low compared to plasmas and most LCDs.
    3. Coal fired power stations for electricity.
    4. Costly holidays to sunny places. Warming world - seek out autumn cooler weather instead.
    5. Printed class 'readers' for students. Not done one since 2001.
  • Smarter smart device plan
  • Posted by Ken McElrath on September 21, 2011 at 11:30am UTC
  • I'd rather rent my smart devices as part of a comprehensive plan from Apple or Google that automatically upgrades my devices as they are released (about once a year would suffice).
  • Posted by Barbara Fister on September 21, 2011 at 12:45pm UTC
  • Call me paranoid, but I'd rather own a book that can't be altered or disappeared than license for temporary access to one that can.


  • paring down
  • Posted by Bim Angst , Senior Instructor of Writing at Penn State Schuylkill on September 21, 2011 at 2:45pm UTC
  • Paring down stuff is a major consideration. Having to deal with the tonnages of paper and belongings my aged parents accumulated and can no longer maintain confirms my resolve to live lightly. I own property (in the U.S. somebody has to)--including the small building where I live in one of the apartments that may help provide for my old age.
  • If you can't modify it, it isn't yours
  • Posted by Rebecca Hedreen on September 21, 2011 at 2:45pm UTC
  • That's a credo of the maker/hacker culture, but it's true in general. If there is something that you want to be able to modify, or even use in a way that isn't standard, you may have to own it. Think about physical textbooks--you can rent them, but you'd better not highlight in them, write in them, dog ear the pages, etc. It's the same with living spaces--there is a limited amount of modification you can do to a rental apartment.

    I'll keep my books, I think. (We joke in our household that we could jumpstart civilization with our personal library.) But I'd love to be able to reliably rent a lawn mower and other lawn and garden equipment, and a snow blower. But if I want to use the lawn mover to shred leaves, I probably need to own my own.
  • Simplifying
  • Posted by Kristen Abell , Associate Director, Residential Life at University of Missouri-Kansas City on September 21, 2011 at 3:00pm UTC
  • I have been on a big simplifying kick lately, really taking a different look at the things I own and how I can get rid of many of them. Books has been the hardest, but even with those, I am finding a willingness to donate them and offer the chance to read them to someone else - the chances of me reading them AGAIN when there are so many more out there are just slim.
    I still like home ownership, though. I'm not quite ready to give that one up :-). Maybe it's leftover from living on campus for so long.
  • Posted by sibyl on September 21, 2011 at 3:15pm UTC
  • What Josh’s list tells me is that he values portability and independence over other virtues. He wants to be able to carry books wherever he goes, rather than put himself in proximity to books. He cares less about the interoperability of his documents and spreadsheets within his employing institution and more about their global interoperability. He believes that the benefits of owning a computer over a long term, including not readapting his work habits, are outweighed by the benefits of technological upgrades in a short term. (Ditto for cars.) He understands that home ownership is about long-term equity building rather than short-term savings and he would rather be able to get out of Dodge in a hurry if need be. (Or maybe he just thinks the mortgage exemption is not long for this world…)

    I’m not saying he’s wrong, even though I tend to want to own the things he wants to rent. What I think is interesting is that he can choose to live this way. Affluence and mobility are part of what makes this choice possible, but affluence and mobility existed before; current technology and regulatory structures make up a lot of the choice as well.

    I think most of what I don’t want to own is paper. I used to have file cabinets stuffed full of clippings and articles from newspapers, magazines, and journals, folders full of old syllabi and assignments, and receipts and service records. Now I just want to keep URLs of articles, PDFs of syllabi and assignments, and… well, many fewer receipts.
  • this assumes you have power
  • Posted by eric johnson on September 21, 2011 at 5:15pm UTC
  • josh has valid points on moving towards digital formats, but this is also assuming that power (electricity) is always available. It takes energy to create a book, but it's a fixed entity -vs- you have to make sure your eReader hardware is charged.

  • Been there and done that...
  • Posted by Karen Nichols , Coordinator of Reference Serv/Gray Library at Lamar University on September 21, 2011 at 5:46pm UTC
  • 1. Software at work - have already begun to do this: web based guides service, texting service, stats keeper on someone's else's server.

    3. Books - have already done that. Work in a library so have access to lots of print stuff. Tend to keep collectibles - pop-up books, autographed kid's books, coffee table dog photo books

    5. House - got rid of my house over a year and a half. Needed major repairs and two hurricanes did not help it. Have been renting - one great thing: went from 1900 sq ft to 850 so got rid of a lot of junk.

    Life is changing and some things are not worth owning anymore! Also depends on philosophy and life style. As the old saying goes, You cannot take it with you.

  • Owning a car
  • Posted by Mary Burgan , Professor-English at Indiana University-Bloomington on September 21, 2011 at 9:30pm UTC
  • I have a Kindle, but I still need a few books. And a downsized house. But what I DON'T need is a car. We've sold our car and moved to Zipcar for some occasions, but mostly we have the freedom, and economic benefits, of walking and of the bus. Not possible for everyone, but if you live in a city...
  • Cool post
  • Posted by Dori on September 22, 2011 at 10:30pm UTC
  • Josh, many of the things you want to give up could lean in a green direction. Yes, charging a lot of devices uses power, but producing print I think uses more. The idea is to clean up the grid. Don't think I can or would want to give up a car, but would love to plug one into the clean grid at night!
  • Thoughts from my cloud
  • Posted by Captain Tommy Midnight , Retired Navy at None on September 28, 2011 at 1:15pm UTC
  • There seems to be a theme here: Consumer without acquisitions. I've never believed in owning a home. It's a waste of money. If one were to save the difference between renting a decent place and owning in a moderately nice neighborhood, one would have the same amount in retirement that houses used to bring with appreciation. The last 20 years of run-away real estate appreciation was a fantasy education for a generation of folks. Some people made money. Furthermore, in order to be ready to move to a new job, one needs to rent. Instability one might call it; migratory patterns might also desribe the fact that people move around for good and bad. One caution, with the move toward isolation by divestiture - e-books, no car, SaaS, transient living - the less engaged one may be. One might be driven to have values but be inactive politically as wll as institutionally. Owning, particularly land, invests a person in a country. Somewhere in here is a message about indiviuals and cultures. Where is it? Could I have absorbed a little Veblen despite not comprehending his Theory?
  • let's rent all.. all but the house!
  • Posted by Isabelle Delaunois , Head of Information Centre at Element Six ltd on October 5, 2011 at 2:15pm UTC
  • I would love to have no software and no hardware, we are already going in that direction but more efforts is needed. Just learned today that I can't connect to our internal collaboration tool via my android phone because it is not in the cloud - bummer! Have a new laptop every two years, rather than struggle with my 6 years old one, oh yes!

    I would love to lease my car, get a nice little number every two or three years, will actually go looking into that option.

    My house? That I keep, How could I explain to the landlord that his house is way better with an open plan rather than 4 separate rooms

    So, yes to a life as service for most things, especially at work, but I do believe that human nature looks for ownership - I can see it in the way our people at work create communities on our collaboration tool when asked to be active - they have to have their name on something, participating to existing community or blogs or forums is not considered by most people as being socially active. A shame.
  • contrasting renting and buying
  • Posted by Michael Quarm , what i will rent and own. at georgia perimeter college on October 6, 2011 at 2:30pm UTC
  • On the first point made by Joshua on software,i think i would totally agree with him on renting software rather than owning one.because at the end of the day the software operator has the legitimate right to shut it down any time he or she wants and at that time if you spent that much money to get it then you will be running at a lost.
    secondly i would rather own a hardware than rent it just because it will be more reliable at any time and when ever you want it.just think going to the public library everyday to use their computers and sometimes the waiting time you will spend to get on one computer.whiles if you had your own laptop you just go there, wait for no line and use your laptop as long as you want.
    why should i buy heavy books and even more expensive books from book stores if i can rent some for less and portable forms of it also?
    on the issue pertaining to cars i think sometimes it depends on the residence of the person thus state of residence.comparing my home state Georgia to a more larger state like New York or L.A.The transport system in Georgia is more hectic than it is in those two states so it will be far better to own a car in Georgia than to own one in those states.it will even be better to rent or use taxis in those states.
    Last but not the least.why should we pay that huge sums of money every month for our mortgage.lets consider our good and relieving it will be if you owned a house and wouldn't have to worry about these mortgages again.one should also compare the cost buying to renting before you make a decision on which one will suite you budget and also consider the number of years you will be spending in your home.
    <ahref="http://www.nytimes.com">The New York Times</a


  • contrasting renting and buying
  • Posted by Michael Quarm , what i would rent or buy. at geprgia perimeter college on October 6, 2011 at 2:30pm UTC
  • On the first point made by Joshua on software,i think i would totally agree with him on renting software rather than owning one.because at the end of the day the software operator has the legitimate right to shut it down any time he or she wants and at that time if you spent that much money to get it then you will be running at a lost.
    secondly i would rather own a hardware than rent it just because it will be more reliable at any time and when ever you want it.just think going to the public library everyday to use their computers and sometimes the waiting time you will spend to get on one computer.whiles if you had your own laptop you just go there, wait for no line and use your laptop as long as you want.
    why should i buy heavy books and even more expensive books from book stores if i can rent some for less and portable forms of it also?
    on the issue pertaining to cars i think sometimes it depends on the residence of the person thus state of residence.comparing my home state Georgia to a more larger state like New York or L.A.The transport system in Georgia is more hectic than it is in those two states so it will be far better to own a car in Georgia than to own one in those states.it will even be better to rent or use taxis in those states.
    Last but not the least.why should we pay that huge sums of money every month for our mortgage.lets consider our good and relieving it will be if you owned a house and wouldn't have to worry about these mortgages again.one should also compare the cost buying to renting before you make a decision on which one will suite you budget and also consider the number of years you will be spending in your home.
    <ahref="http://www.nytimes.com">The New York Times</a
    I use to buy movies,video games,software etc.until i learnt how to download and rent them from the internet.