Accretory debt

There’s a concept from the world of software development called “technical debt”—basically, that code you write today needs to be maintained in the future, and the jankier your code is today, the harder it will be to maintain in the future.

There’s an analog to this in the tangible world. Call it accretory debt.

I’m helping clear out my parents’ home. My sisters have done the vast majority of the work if for no other reason than proximity, but I’m spending my xmas break catching up a little. My parents accreted a lot of stuff. I wouldn’t call it hoarding, exactly, but it’s not far off. There’s a lot of good stuff as well as a lot of stuff that just…never got dealt with. I found tax returns from 1997. My 2nd grade report card. The last of my mother’s baby teeth. My grandfather’s college diploma. There’s going to be an estate sale to try to sell the good stuff, although there’s so much in it that we tend to devalue everything that’s not obviously valuable, and there’s not enough room to display even the stuff that is obviously valuable. Surveying all the stuff is demoralizing, and we keep finding more.

Some of this stuff has been stored for the last 35+ years in the dank basement of the rambling house my parents moved into when I was in college, where it has rotted and/or been chewed on by mice. Now we need to haul it all up stairs, rent a roll-off, have a scrapper come out, have a shredding service come out, etc. Failing to deal with that stuff in a timely manner has inflicted a debt on the future.

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