What My Old House Can Teach Us about the Economy

11/22/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

My house is old. Not old compared to my friend's house in England -- which was built in the 1600's -- but old for Los Angeles. My house was built in l927. Much of the house we have restored and kept just as it was in the 20's. We have the original built-in ironing board complete with built-in swinging iron holder. We still have the old ice box. The top compartment was where you put your ice, and your food went in a separate cupboard below. There is an opening in the wall (we sealed it but you can still see it) where the milkman would deliver the milk. There are archways and niches and high ceilings and although the house is small, it rarely feels that way.

The closets are small. They are the normal size for the 20's, but very small compared to the walk-in monsters people have today, they are tiny. For us, this is actually good and where my house can teach us about the economy. People in the 20's had less stuff. They didn't need huge walk in closets with shelves just for shoes and racks and racks for all their clothes. They didn't have that much to choose from. Why do we need more today? My house has taught me that we don't. It has also taught me that our stuff will expand to fill whatever space we live in. Maybe the same principal as a project taking the entire amount of time you allot, even though you could finish it faster.

Having small closets means we have less to choose from, but we know what we have. I read somewhere lately that we wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time. Maybe we only need that 20%. We have to get rid of something when we get something new because we don't have the space to just keep adding things. That is a good thing. As comedian Steven Wright says, "You can't have everything because where would you put it."

The other thing my old house can teach us is perspective. The previous owner told me that he was under the house one day, fixing something, when he saw a piece of the Los Angeles Times from 1927. It happened to be the real estate section. Without picking it up he read the listing for a house in Monterey Park (near downtown Los Angeles) that had 5 bedrooms, 4 baths, and 3,000 square feet. That was a huge house for the time, by the way. The price was $5,000. When he went to pick up the newspaper it disintegrated.

So my house knows a few things. It knows that we don't need that much stuff and that, in fact, we are better off with less. It also knows that what is going on with the economy today will pass. Prices will eventually go back up, and even higher than they were. Maybe not today, or tomorrow, or even 2 years from now, but eventually things will get better. So clean out your closets, and look forward to better times. From my house to yours...