Monday, July 13, 2009

Deciding on Value--Part #1

Ezzie, in referencing my posting on closet organization, made a comment that before Klal can organize things in a better fashion it has to decide what is valuable to it. Yes, assigning value to something is important, but what is value?

There are more than a few elements that can contribute to how we view the value of something. Among these are money, time, effort, sentiment, utility, context, changing circumstances and innovation.

Money. How much money will it cost us to obtain something initially? What monetary costs will there be in maintaining that item? How much money would we actually save or lose if we don't purchase/have that item? If money is limited, how can we apportion our money to cover all we believe is valuable? If something costs a great deal of money does that make it more valuable? If something costs very little does that make it less valuable?

Time: How much time will it take to use an item? How much time will be saved or lost if we purchase an item? How much time will it take us to replace the money we spend on an item? For how long can the item last? If we look at how long an item can last and how much it costs, both initially and in maintenance, does the time/money element exceed the usefulness of the item? How often will the item need to be replaced/repaired? Is there a time limit for how long an item will be valuable; that is, does it have value only for a specific time period in our lives? If time is limited, how do we apportion our time to cover all we believe is valuable?

Effort: How much work and effort will it take on our part to use/maintain an item? Can we put forth that effort without taking away our ability to put forth effort towards other items that we also consider valuable? If effort is a limited substance, how do we apportion our efforts to cover all we believe is valuable?

Utility: How useful is an item to us? In what way is that item useful? Are there any other substitutes for that item that are of equal utility but that may cost less monetarily? When we say an item is useful to us what precisely do we mean? Does it save us time, money or effort? Does the utility of an item exist only within a specific time period of our lives or is it useful throughout our lives?

Context: Looked at as only one item in the total context of our lives, how valuable is an item to us? Is it more or less valuable than other items? Is it tied inextricably to other items or does it stand alone?

Sentiment: This is the most difficult area to view objectively. Sentiment may or may not have anything to do with logic and reason, may not be quantifiable. Sentiment is emotive in nature: how do we feel about an item? What is its history with us? How does that item make us feel?

Changing Circumstances: What can happen/is happening that can change the value of something to us? Do items, viewed as valuable at one point in our lives, retain that value throughout our lives? How or why might that value change?

Innovation: What happens to the value of an item when a newer item comes along, in the same class, that seems to do more than the item we already have? What value do we assign to something that is "new and improved"? What happens to the value of items that are "old and unimproved"?

In addition to the above factors that are involved in deciding the value of something, we also take into consideration other factors. First, other people in our households. Is an item valuable only to one member or only some members of a household? What happens when one member of a household disagrees on the value of something with another member or members of the household? Is there a hierarchy of deciding whose valuation of something should take precedence? What if two or more members decide that something is valuable and should be purchased, but there is money/time/effort only for one of the items?

Second, there is the problem of wants and needs. What one person considers a need, and therefore may see as of high value, may be considered a want by someone else, and therefore be less valuable. Within a family, how are such differences and distinctions between wants and needs adjudicated when affixing value to an item?

Third, and a very important element when discussing what is valuable to Klal as a whole, is the public versus private distinction of value. What happens when your idea of the value of something is different from or in conflict with the idea of value that others in the community have? Can a community decide on the value of certain items and impose that value on each individual member of the community? Under what circumstances? Are there any exceptions? How do we determine which items should have their value fixed by the community as a whole and which items are left to the individual to place value on? What happens when members of a community cannot reach a consensus about the value of an item or practice?

In short, deciding on the value of even one single item can be difficult for an individual. It can sometimes seem impossible for an individual trying to place a group of items into a value hierarchy. Having to take into consideration other people's evaluations of an item can be complicated, if not sometimes impossible. Clearly, deciding on the value of something would be far easier if there were some immutable objective criteria for what is valuable and what is not; however, the criteria for deciding value are neither immutable nor are they objective.


leahle said...

Maybe one of the problems is that people don't think through the questions you listed. They accept somebody elses decision about what is valuable. They think that person knows better what is valuable. So I think the problem is that lots of people never think about the value of things, never question whether something is really valuable or not.

Ezzie said...

It's why it's important to start bottom up. People are much more able to detach from "sentiment" and other values that can hurt the overall effort when they're forced to look at the entire buildup.

Allen said...

I'm not sure I understand what you mean Ezzie by starting from the bottom up. Do you mean by this that the first thing to do is to set out a hierarchy of things the community wants and needs and put the most important, the most valuable on the bottom, with the others building on top of those as funds are available? If you do, then some of ProfK's points still apply. There may be conflicts in a community as to what should be on that bottom.

I wouldn't discount sentiment so quickly either. Whether people will admit it or not, sentiment and nostalgia and a feeling of being connected to those who came before us because we maintain what they established can be one of the deciding factors in how we value things. You can't legislate it out of existence by saying don't take it into consideration. It can be far more ingrained then any of the other factors. If you are not considerate of people's feelings about things, if you don't find a way to be practical while still recognizing sentiment and nostalgia, then you aren't going to be successful.