The Brits and Us

by teresalaynebennett

photo of Tatton Hall's library

The 8,000 books at Tatton Hall

QUESTION:
What do members
of the British aristocracy

and the American middle class
have in common?

ANSWER:
A whole lot more
than you might think.

By my very scientific calculations, my husband and I have toured 8,723 great houses, castles, country houses, and palaces – give or take ten or twelve. Well, maybe not 8,723, but you get my point: LOTS. We’ve observed some things along the way. Actually, it’s pretty much the same concept – repeated over and over.

Collecting

For hundreds of years – even before William the Conqueror crashed the party – the British aristocracy has been intent on adding to their acreage, square footage, art collections, furniture collections, wall-sized portraits of themselves, titles, status, yadda, yadda, yadda. In fact, each generation viewed their job as not just hanging onto what their ancestors had accumulated, but substantially adding to it.

photo of 17 chests lining the walls of Dunham Massey's Stamford Gallery

17 chests in this long gallery!

Do you know anyone in your family who just kept buying and collecting and then left it all for the next generation – who didn’t like it and didn’t want it – to deal with? Ah ha. See what I mean? When we go through life thinking our job is to pile up stuff for the next generation, we very likely are creating an unsustainable liability, instead of an asset, for our heirs.

Maintaining

Many factors combined to deprive the aristocracy of the armies of servants needed to farm the acreage, scour the great house, gussy up ALL the property, and wait on them hand and foot. (More about that in the post, Sustainability.) Their aristocratic lifestyle simply was not and is not sustainable. When you own A LOT of stuff, you must have A LOT of servants, period.

Do you know anyone who has need of so many servants (read: electronic or electric devices, machines, tools, hired help) that when something breaks down, it’s a serious problem? If several break down one right after the other, is there a cash-flow problem? See? If we need a lot of “servants” (gadgets and widgets and tradesmen) to maintain our lifestyle, we have the same problem as those British blue bloods.

Here’s the pay-attention bit.

1. Don’t make getting more and more – of anything – your life’s work. Decide what’s enough for you, and stick with your decision – regardless of what your peers say.
2. Don’t assume your heirs will like what you like or want what you want. Limit your purchases to what you can fully appreciate, then STOP accumulating.
3. Don’t create such a complicated lifestyle that you need hordes of “servants.” Learn to live more simply than most members of the American middle class.

Living a sustainable life is a goal worth striving for. We’ve talked with owners of some of these estates, and they don’t sound very happy or content. In fact, they looked and sounded more than a little burdened to us.

Do you know anyone who seems weighed down by all the stuff he’s accumulated that he now has to care for, maintain, dust, store, insure, etc.?

Are you that person?


© 2013 Teresa Layne Bennett

red box with white text of Luke 12:25: ". . .life does not consist in an abundance of possessions."

Jesus correctly nailed it over 2,000 years ago!