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I Don’t Want Stuff Any More, Only Things

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I have been a bad parent. I only did what I knew, but I can no longer deny it: I never gave them a good home. I never made them feel useful or showed them any respect.

Today I dropped off hundreds of former possessions at the Goodwill shop. Maybe they’ll find adoptive parents who will be better than I have. I don’t even remember ever deciding to take them on as my dependents. They just happened. But somewhere along the line, all those things became stuff, and lost my respect.

Most of us live amidst stuff. We do have a few things too — well-used, well-enjoyed, and well-respected items that have an established place in our lives. But most of it is stuff.

Stuff makes us feel bad. It fills the mind with fading hopes about what we might one day do with it, taunts us with our obvious inability to manage it, and gives us the ominous sense that we’re losing track of something crucial, either in the physical mess of stuff itself, or in the mental mess it creates in our heads.

I don’t want stuff anymore, only things.

My black, square coffee table in the center of my living room is a thing.

My set of puke-green plates, which sit on the shelf above the nice white plates I actually use, are stuff.

My stainless steel water bottle, only four weeks old but already a close companion, is a thing.

My Beatles Jigsaw puzzle, which I got as a gift and immediately loved the idea of — but never assembled — is stuff.

I donated about a hundred pounds of stuff today. Sometimes it’s sad to get rid of some items, particularly if you had high hopes for them, if they were a gift, or if you associate them with someone you miss.

But how much sadder is it to hoard something in your home for years for some inane psychological reason, without actually putting it to use or giving it a proper place?

If I’m going to own an item, the least I could do is be a good parent to it. And the most fundamental responsibility of a parent is to give your children a decent home.

Stuff doesn’t usually have a home. Items of stuff are transients, surviving day-by-day in a temporary stack somewhere, leaning sadly against a garage wall, or sleeping in the darkness of a junk drawer, never sure of their fate or purpose. A particularly fortunate piece might get a chance to hibernate in a half-full cardboard box in the storage room, with some other hard-luck outcasts.

Nor do they have jobs. Just ask my broken acoustic guitar. Sorry, pal, but as a chronically disabled possession I just can’t keep you busy here. But feel free to mill about the closet behind the well-employed shirts and pants. I’m too insecure and sentimental to boot you out, but maybe one day, by some unlikely turn of events, you’ll become relevant again.

Those of us already spoiled for possessions sometimes have the nerve to wish for more possessions, even feeling deprived of the possessions we really want, while we hoard ones we evidently don’t want. Comparing my lot to that of a proverbial caveman’s, I would still be a supremely superpowered human being with only my ten favorite possessions. Thog the caveman sure would make better use of my stuff than I do, even just the contents of my junk drawer. A Bic lighter and a silver boxcutter and he’d be one grateful human being.

So maybe, out of respect for others (if not for myself), I shouldn’t own anything I’m not willing to give a proper place in my home. If I take it into my home, I should provide a place where it’s properly, officially away, or I shouldn’t pretend I have any business owning it.

Eliminate homelessness from your home

I will not be a cat-lady with my things anymore, taking on more and more tenants I can’t take care of. I don’t have them all because I love them, I accumulate them because I don’t love them.

We’ve all heard the adage, “A place for everything, and everything in its place.” I have yet to meet a person who actually lives this reality (although I haven’t met Leo Babauta or Everett Bogue, or anyone else who limits possessions to double-digit quantities.) But now I think it is the only sane way to live, and I’m determined to make it my reality. I will eliminate homelessness from my home.

If there is anything in your home that does not have a home — a place where it can be properly, officially put away, then I dare say you are taking it for granted. If you can’t bother to even give it a home, either its value is lost on you, or it has none.

The truth is most of us don’t have enough space in our homes to give our possessions the self-respect of having a permanent address. We have too much, and this undermines our gratitude for each possession.

On especially clear-minded days I’m able to live with the persistent amazement and gratitude suggested in A Day in the Future. The more I have, the less often I feel that kind of gratitude for my possessions, and the incredible things they allow me to do. Here is my new mantra, when it comes to possessions:

If you value what you have, then give it a home, or stop pretending you need it.

Is it asking too much of ourselves to own only what we have the capacity to respect? Most of us own far more than we have the energy and patience to really own.

Getting rid of things is such a freeing experience. I’ve cut my possessions in about half over the last two weeks, and there is much more to do.

Owning things has a cost, and money is the least of it

I’ll get into this more in an upcoming post, but there is a host of psychological costs to every thing we keep, especially if those things exist in a state of disorder. Clutter just feels bad to be around. As I continue to toss and donate, I’m witnessing some dramatic changes in my life.

My sleep is markedly better-quality. I stay asleep longer and dream deeper. I get up earlier and I’m never tired before bedtime.

I’m much more organized. I no longer drag my feet when it comes to errands or work. I eat at the table (the dinner one, not the coffee one) and I always clean up before bed.

Rooms take about five minutes each to clean now. Somehow, it used to take half a Saturday to clean my apartment.

Every possession I get rid of makes the others more useful. There’s less in the way, less on my mind, less ugly plastic crap, less to dilute my gratitude.

Eliminating Homelessness in my Home – Raptitude Experiment No. 9

I’m going room-to-room, closet-to-closet, getting rid of anything I am not prepared to use, properly service, and give a permanent home. With all this technology, I have so much power at my disposal it’s the least I could do.

Once I’ve decided what stays, I have to give each item a proper home — a place where it is properly “away.” If I can’t find a good home for it, I am not worthy of owning it and must give it up.

Every night, I will put every single thing I own to bed.

I’m giving myself 30 days from today, which is more than enough time. You can track my progress on the experiment page, which will be up tomorrow.

I urge you to join me, and eliminate homelessness from your home. I imagine your poor, unemployed stuff would too, if it had a voice.

Photo by Striatic


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yankeedoodle January 19, 2011 at 4:25 am

Some cliches that apply: “don’t overdo it”, “moderation is key”, “posessions possess you”, and “quality over quantity”. Before I make a purchase, I try to find the best quality products I can buy, and I try to make sure that the things I purchase have high utility and value for the money. If I’m in the market for a portable drinking vessel, I make sure the vessel is of the highest quality possible, aesthetically pleasing as possible, durable as possible, non-toxic as possible, and will serve a useful purpose for a long time. I also agree with you about splurging on a high quality mattress. We own mattresses for at least a decade (a high quality one can last up to 25 years), we sleep on them for a 1/3 of our lives, and a good nights rest is essential for one’s well-being, so it is important to invest in a high quality mattress instead of buying a cheapo one that may compromise your overall life by not providing optimal rest.

David January 19, 2011 at 6:22 am

That’s the idea: to eventually have high-quality everything. Cheap stuff has an “ugly tax” on the mind.

Char (PSI Tutor:Mentor) January 19, 2011 at 4:34 am

My things have homes ~:-) Morning meditation is walking round putting things in their place~ and my idle times during the day (coffee boiling, break from the pc etc).

I crave space and openness, could be the ASD~low stimulation helps me focus. And yeah, housework is very simple~dust occasionally, sweep weekly, wash up daily.

Years ago when life was a confusing chaos my many stuffs were a buffer that walled me from the world~ I had poor social skills and stuff was very helpful in giving me space from others.

I do not stress about people breaking in~ pc files are backed up and tv is freaking huge, so good luck to them.

The simple life is liberating.

David January 19, 2011 at 6:25 am

I have taken to watching Hoarders now and then. They wall themselves off socially, and are afraid to get rid of the wall.

Rick January 19, 2011 at 7:08 am

I’ve periodically gone through phases of getting rid of all my unnecessary stuff, but it always seems to start accumulating again! So I started something awhile ago that seems to be working nicely. I declared Thursday to be “Throw Out Day”. Every Thursday I spend about 20 mins at work, and 20 mins at home, getting rid of stuff. The idea is to identify some things that I don’t need as quickly as possible and either throw it out, put it in my car to donate, or set it aside to sell. I’ve marked this as a recurring event on my calender. I think the advantages of this system are that it’s fun, it’s more likely to become a habit and make me aware of how clutter accumulates, and it will get me to the same point as a major cleaning without all the stress. I find myself actually looking forward to this little event every Thursday, and I’ve noticed that my hoarding tendencies have diminished a lot since I’ve started doing this.

David January 19, 2011 at 3:03 pm

Good idea. We have to have some sort of regular throwing-out, because in our culture we accumulate possessions regularly, without realizing it.

It does feel good though, that’s something I keep experiencing, and everyone says the same thing. Letting go feels good.

Tim January 19, 2011 at 7:23 am

Hi David:

I enjoyed this post…because it’s well written and well thought out, but also because I can identify so much with it. Yeah, I’m a bit of a pack rat. I’ve gotten rid of some stuff too. But there’s so much more stuff around my place that needs a home and needs to be cleared. Thank you for sharing what you did – learning that you’ve cleared some psychological energy motivates me to get rid of more. Good luck on your 30 day experiment, I’ll be checking on your progress.

Joy January 19, 2011 at 7:30 am

Hi David,
When I went from a space of 2800 sq ft to 40 sq ft by choosing to live on my boat, I eliminated lots of ‘stuff’. I also bought a storage unit that I paid $100 a month to put some “stuff” in. Those things didn’t have a home, but were not quite homeless. I am now working on releasing that storage. I find I haven’t visited the unit in years, but within are photos and mementos. I also know that this ‘stuff’ takes up space in my life, even if it’s off site. And clutter doesn’t quite allow me to move forward as lightly as I’d like. Thank you for this experiment and your insights on it. I shall join you. Everything in my space shall be well loved and treasured..

David January 19, 2011 at 3:10 pm

It’s hard to quite get rid of everything, because sooner or later you run into photos or heirlooms. But you can still give that even those things a home. I don’t plan on eliminating storage entirely, though. I went through my storage room yesterday and ended up with only a few boxes (mostly CDs.) I will go through them and probably end up with one or two boxes. Not everything is going to end up with a prestigious home — but if I decide that a storage box (or better yet, a rubbermaid) is home for a particular thing, then it can stay. Most of my photos are digital.

michi January 19, 2011 at 7:47 am

I wonder how you will deal with items that have a seasonal use, such as summer clothes now that it is winter.

In the past 10 years I have moved something close to 24 times, am moving from North Carolina to Rhode Island in two days, and four months from now will move again to Boston for about 3 months. Who knows where after that. Everything I own fits in my car. I’ve grown accustomed to this “soft minimalism”, and so have my friends and family.

For example, whenever people want to give me gifts, I tell them I hate getting “stuff” (though not yet with the clever connotation you have applied!), preferring instead to get vouchers for experiences like massages or to go to dinner together, or if it must be an item then for it to be something consumable.

When I was living in Japan I learned that they had different classes of gifts, one being “consumables”, another “very useful items” such as a new kitchen towel. This last class was what we gave to the new family moving in down the street. I like that!

David January 19, 2011 at 3:14 pm

Seasonal stuff goes in a rubbermaid in my storage room.

I am intrigued by the Japanese approach. Do you have a link to more info on this?

nrhatch January 19, 2011 at 8:17 am

Wonderful post. We’ve been simplifying our lives and possessions for the past thirteen years.

*We’ve gone from 4400 sq. ft. to 1800 sq. ft. to 1250 sq. ft.
*We donate or give away stuff that we don’t use or love
*We make monthly runs to Goodwill to drop off clutter
*We transformed 60 “blah” photo albums into 20 amazing ones

The freer our lives are of clutter and stuff . . . the freer we become.
Simplify. Simplify. Simplify.

David January 19, 2011 at 3:15 pm

I am a fan of culling photos down to the best ones. A lot of people just get prints of every single photo they took. Blah is right.

Meg January 19, 2011 at 8:40 am

Welcome to the club, David. Not being owned or walled in by your stuff pays for itself again and again. Even if you can’t afford the best quality things, there is still dignity in giving them a place of respect and utility. I am looking forward to reading your next posts on the experience.

David January 19, 2011 at 3:17 pm

Thanks Meg. Minimalism is making a lot of sense to me these days. The changes in my mood and clarity of mind are really incredible. There’s so much more to do with this principle — with time, attention, commitments, spending…

The experiment page is up now (under experiments) so you can track my adventures with the house-cleaning. I’m also going to be posting more about minimalism in other parts of life.

Carmen December 4, 2011 at 6:58 am

When I find myself wandering through your wall of words, I often feel like I am sorting through balls of yarn, in large ratten basket. Often overwhelming as you seem to have many words being woven on your many looms. Somehow though, I manage to find the string I was unknowingly searching for…
I live with my own “value” placed on my “things”. Like many value systems, it is unique and personal to me, and can best be described as subjective, and without proper context to my choice of “things”, it brilliantly random. It does make it challenging to share living space with others as well, although it is a way of living I am trying to inspire my children to love through exposure. They have free will though, so all I can do is inspire. I have never considered my value system of possessions as minimalist though. The word itself evokes images of emptiness, naked landscapes, and silent spaces for me. Very uncomfortable and cold. I do hope you find the balance you seek in your physical enviroment. Perhaps because you are giving scrutiny to each of your things, you are becoming more aware of the innate ability we each have to choose. Things, people, reactions and paths. Your words speak to me more of empowerment and awareness than minimalism. Or it could be that I just need to accept the word minimal into my lexicon ( insert smile here).

David December 4, 2011 at 7:11 am

Yeah, I guess I just see minimalism as a positive and attractive concept. Not spartan, but minimalist. High quality things with no unnecessaries and certainly no junk.

Jenny January 19, 2011 at 9:18 am

Love this. A couple times a year, I go back and read Bruce Sterling’s “Last Viridian Note” which espouses a similar sorting out – not simplifying for its own sake, but jettisoning the unuseful, unloved, unattached stuff. Here’s the link – I bet you’d find it resonant. I love that he makes room for the experimental. http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/009061.html

David January 19, 2011 at 3:18 pm

Will check it out, thanks Jenny.

Lindsay January 19, 2011 at 9:18 am

I’ve been thinking about doing this and am doing a “life cleanse” sort of thing. I have it on my “to do” list this weekend to go through each room in my apartment and donate anything I don’t use anymore — even if I THINK I will some day. I have stuff lying around that I haven’t used in years. So why am I still clinging onto it? I have no idea.

Your post had perfect timing for me. Thanks for the gentle ‘push’.

David January 19, 2011 at 3:18 pm

Have fun with this. :)

Tracie January 19, 2011 at 9:28 am

Hi David,

Just over a year ago, I changed pretty much everything about my life in the space of 5 minutes, walking away from my home, and almost everything in it. There was a lot more to it, but one of the side effects was that everything I owned suddenly fit inside a few suitcases. (The exceptions were two guitars, most decidedly Things and well used).

Since then, I’ve actually managed to shed More stuff. I’ve found it addictive. Once in a while I’ll look around my room, and just be overwhelmed by what’s in it, at which point the donation box comes out again and I go to work. It’s not that I’m accumulating more stuff… It’s that my definition of “enough” keeps shrinking.

And you’re right… I’m at peace in that room, surrounded by my Things. I can lay my hands on anything I own within about 10 seconds, because everything has a clear place to be. I like everything I own so much more than I used to, and it’s easier to treat it well.

I guess what I’m getting at is… It was very strange to see all of my things piled into one very small pile in a room, to let go of everything that wasn’t completely important. It was a shock to my mind, to my eyes, but once the shock faded, I felt fantastic. I hope your experiment goes much the same way.

David January 19, 2011 at 3:20 pm

Ah, that must have felt good. I may go radical with this sooner or later, and cull down to a backpack’s-worth of top-notch things.

Tracie January 20, 2011 at 9:36 am

Ah, if only guitars fit in backpacks!

That would be a lot harder to do, I think. Choices like a blanket versus a laptop would come to mind. Even if it was only a temporary experience it would be interesting though, sort of like a “Stuff fast”.

Tom K January 19, 2011 at 10:24 am

“Don’t own anything that is not useful or beautiful to you.”

Jan Cox


David January 19, 2011 at 3:21 pm

I remember hearing that line a long time ago, and it’s been in my head recently.

Alyssa Dawn January 19, 2011 at 11:14 am

I loved this one David! De-cluttering your home is one of the basic principals of Feng Shui. And its interesting you are sleeping more soundly and have an over all feeling of relaxation. That is the purpose of de-cluttering. Iv always thought possession’s can easily posses you. Reminds me of when we were traveling and had a few articles of clothing and our toiletries tied to our backs!

Thanks for the reminder David, I’m going home to de-clutter!

David January 19, 2011 at 3:22 pm

Hi Alyssa. That’s right. I had a blast with just a backpack’s-worth of stuff at my disposal. It’s about the people and experiences.

Cordelia January 19, 2011 at 12:25 pm

Amen! I’m on a similar quest lately, to either sell / donate / or trash anything I don’t actually value having in my home. And you’re right–the more you get rid of the “stuff” and clutter, the more you come to appreciate what you DO have.

When I rid my closet of everything except the well-fitting, versatile pieces I wore on a regular basis, I was worried I’d get bored of having only so many options. But it’s so much easier in the morning to have a few quality staples to choose from instead of a mass of “nothing to wear.” And I never find myself wearing that old pair of work pants that don’t *really* fit anymore just because it’s laundry day and I don’t have anything else left. Now the only options I have are things I really enjoy, so I don’t find myself resorting to my second-class “stuff” because it’s no longer an option.

Can’t wait to keep tabs on your progress! This is a very worthy goal indeed.

David January 19, 2011 at 3:26 pm

For sure. I only want clothes I feel good in. I’ve been getting more ruthless about that for a while now.

ZFarls January 19, 2011 at 1:24 pm

Great article and brilliant way to define “stuff” I have been on a quest on my website http:throwaway1thingaday.com to rid myself of stuff. My hardest job has been overcoming the memories I had with the items. So, I take a picture and talk about the memory, before throwing away 1 item each day. I WILL get down to 100 items and these articles help. I know will know if I can’t find a home for it, to get rid of the item.
Cheers, Zach

David January 19, 2011 at 3:30 pm

My mom has been doing that for a while. She has a little list of things to do every day, and one of them is to get rid of something. She says it’s really worthwhile and usually fun.

Brenda (betaphi) January 19, 2011 at 1:57 pm

Yes to detaching and decluttering. Three lawn bags full of old clothes went to Good Will last week and three more bags are sitting here waiting for me to load them into my car. I love watching Hoarders too, but Animal Hoarders is a bit scary. Enjoyed your Day in the Future post. Wondered why you closed comments on that one b/c I wanted to say happy new year, David. :)

David January 19, 2011 at 3:32 pm

Yeah Hoarders can be really disturbing. Those people are so completely dysfunctional. They are also always overweight, and they all have a habit of going into “shutdown” mode, where they just walk away when someone’s trying to reason with them, even if they’re facing eviction or the demolition of their home.

Happy new year to you too, Brenda :)

Val March 2, 2014 at 4:37 am

I am in the process of moving my 80 yr old Dad, a lifelong hoarder. 10 storerooms and $325,000 of storage fees over 20 yrs that almost put him in the poorhouse. Now tackling his apartment he has only been in for 4 yrs, so full you can barely walk around. All junk collected from sally ann, dumpster diving, he just can not walk by a discarded something without taking it home, not to mention not being able to throw out a fast food cup or lid, piles of condiments, plastic forks etc. and mountains of junk mail, that is piled on every surface, so there is nowhere to sit, except his couch he sleeps on, because bedrooms are too full. Heartbreaking. Making him take only clothes, and a few personal items, books. Moving cross country’s and convincing him that shipping crap is more expensive than the stuff is worth. Hard going. But happy to be rid of it finally, and refusing to allow him any more storage units. Will invoke PoA if he backslides. Resolved to never do another clear out of his. Been doing it since I was a kid, now I’m 53. I hope he feels happier, lighter in mind. BTW he is skin and bones, so not all hoarders are overweight!

David Cain March 2, 2014 at 3:14 pm

That sounds very difficult. Has this experience changed your view of things/stuff generally?

Ethan January 19, 2011 at 2:02 pm

Haha this actually sounds like a great idea! I think I’ll be trying this experiment with ya Dave, I got a lot of stuff that needs to figure out whether its gonna keep being stuff, or if there are actually some nice things that I really need to ‘put to bed’ as you say lol.
Good luck to us both!

David January 19, 2011 at 3:33 pm

Good luck Ethan. You can post your progress in the Comments on the experiment page if you like.

Cara January 19, 2011 at 2:12 pm

Oh yeah. So, so there with you.

My first purge came in 2008 when I quit corporate life, sold my home and went backpacking through the world alone. It took a full 10 x 20-foot storage space to hold what I’d decided to keep of my belongings, after what I thought were several major edits.

When I returned from traveling and eventually had the contents of my storage space delivered to me in my little apartment, I was dismayed and disappointed. It was as though someone else had packed the boxes. How had I ever decided to hang on to so much flotsam and jetsam? Another huge edit followed.

A fire last summer forced everything to be put back into storage yet again, and when I was allowed to finally move back to my apartment and unpack it all again….well, you can imagine what happened.

I’m still editing. Pretty much every week.

Emotionally detaching from things is a process in itself, but once you start, I find it’s hard to stop. It’s cathartic and invigorating.

I still have too much. When I think I can’t let go, I remember standing in Ghandi’s last home when I was in India, looking at his worldly belongings behind a glass window: A plate, a fork, a book, spectacles and a pair of sandals.

One question: I’m not sure what to do with old photos and photo albums. They’re completely disorganized and mixed up and just looking at them makes me stressed….yet I can’t imagine getting rid of them. I have two big cardboard boxes full of albums and loose photos stashed in one of my two tiny closets, taking up precious space. Anyone have suggestions?

David January 19, 2011 at 3:36 pm

Photos can be tough. I’d cull like mad and keep the great ones. Do you really need 100 photos to remember someone or someplace? If they are only great photos, they’ll probably stand a better chance at being looked at.

matty April 9, 2011 at 8:38 pm

I have always thought that having many photos of friends and family act as an excuse to keep them close without having to make time in real life to see them.

nrhatch January 19, 2011 at 4:11 pm

We had 60 photo albums for 30 years (1980-2010). I bought 10 new albums and pulled ALL the old albums apart, sorting the pictures into KEEP, SHRED, and GIVE TO THE SUBJECT.

I ended up with 20 AWESOME albums (less than one a year) filled with the best photos.

I made montages for each of my nieces and nephews (and some friends’s kids) with some of the “extras.”

I shredded the rest ~ including photos of people whose names I no longer recalled at baby showers, wedding showers, etc.

Of all the clutter busting I’ve done over the past 13 years, it was the most time intensive, but it was also a blast being reminded of so many great memories.

Another option: scan them onto your computer and download them to a DVD that you can watch as a slide show. Personally, I like the photo albums better, because I can pull the one I want off the shelf quickly and easily.

Henway January 19, 2011 at 7:09 pm

I have so much stuff in my home, and sometimes I feel it would be so liberating to give most of it away to someone. When I look at all the junk I have, I kinda feel some regret because I know I wasted so much money on things I didn’t need like an iPod Touch (I already have a Nano and Shuffle), bluetooth earbuds(I already got 2 pairs of earbuds), a brand new mouse (I already got like 5 mice laying around)

Amy November 6, 2011 at 5:57 pm

I’m exactly the same. I have so much unused “stuff” lying around that are in perfectly good condition. I kind of feel guilty thinking about all the money I’ve wasted just to own “the latest generation”.

I don’t really want to sell this stuff, or throw it away either. I think I’ll try to give them away, one item at a time.

Fredrik Saterby August 24, 2012 at 2:34 am

Yeah, why do we keep buying extra stuff when we already have extra items of that kind at home?
I often find myself buying unneccesary items when I am out on a trip or when I feel good and energetic for whatever reason. When I get home, it is time to make dinner so I just place the object a little bit aside and plan to use it a little later.

But then comes the next day with other things to do, and the “project energy” sneaks unnoticed out through the window.
I think the main reason why we have so much extra stuff is that we have hope of doing extra projects with it, repairing it or living in little dreams of starting new habits with the items involved. Or showing them off to some imagined people in order to gain some imagined prestige when they are imaginatedly impressed with the stuff. And I think that most of those images have been planted in our minds by advertising and not by our personal choice.

yankeedoodle January 19, 2011 at 8:35 pm

Just don’t over do it! Being an extreme minimalist can be as bad as being an extreme hoarder.

David January 19, 2011 at 8:48 pm

Well the whole idea is to do what serves me best. At the moment I don’t see any reason to go radical with this, but if I think it will serve me then I will. If by “bad” you mean it somehow upsets other people, then I don’t think I’m going to worry about that.

Chelsea January 19, 2011 at 11:49 pm

I’m actually in the process of doing something similar. I get really attached to things, especially since I’m living in my mother’s house. Old toys and little “treasures” I stored away in the basement are slowly creeping out with a bunch of memories ready to attack me and convince me not to let go of things. Also, the crafty side of me tries to save everything that I could possibly (realistically, never) remake into things. I can’t wait to see this experiment, I’m pretty excited for you! Are you just donating/throwing away things, are you measuring their weight? I’m curious =D!

David January 20, 2011 at 6:26 am

I haven’t been measuring their weight, but I remember how many boxes, and about how heavy they were.

denise January 20, 2011 at 7:31 am

I’m in the throes of planning an international move and I so look forward to purging myself of all the stuff. It does feel like a burden and I’m bound to feel much lighter and energetic when it’s gone. This isn’t the first time I’ve done this, and you know, if it offers any encouragement to anyone contemplating participating in your experiment, there are very few things I have even a slight regret about getting rid of. The challenge? Finding good homes for my stuff. Not just getting rid of it, but ensuring that it doesn’t just become someone else’s stuff. The other challenge? Involving my young children in the process of getting rid of their stuff.

Suzanne January 20, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Kudos to you on directing your awareness to this area of your life. Love how you are always sharing this part of yourself with us (your experiments).

Cody Clark January 20, 2011 at 4:17 pm

Great post. I am undertaking a similar effort as one of my yearly goals. I am attacking the clutter one drawer, one cabinet, one closet at a time.

I like the ethos of “respecting” your possessions in an almost anthropomorphic sense. Possessions have a definite “lifecycle” and they accumulate in certain places according to their use. I’ve started creating spaces for things by how they are used and where they end up at various stages in their lifecycles. And, yes, if they end up in the garage or at the bottom of a closet gathering dust, they need to be set free so they can have a better “life” elsewhere.

It is also a good spiritual exercise while putting things away to bring to mind the person for whom this item is useful or important. Again, if no person comes to mind, it needs to be set free.

Best wishes for your endeavor.

Anna January 21, 2011 at 6:40 am
mike January 22, 2011 at 6:43 am

…Wow..Great link Anna..everyone should see this..thanks

Mike February 13, 2011 at 4:13 pm

Thank you for this education! Have posted to my Facebook page.

Ken January 21, 2011 at 6:53 am

Media had taken up a lot of my space. I used to hoard hundreds of CDs. MP3s, portable disk drives and the iPod have been a godsend in terms of clearing up space.

I used to have hundreds of DVDs as well, but it was pointless keeping most of them, as I’d only watch about 10% of them more than once.

Books are the only things I don’t mind accumulating in great quantities, but even with most of those I’d let go of, not so much as freeing up space, but what’s communicated within them ought to be available to others, instead of collecting dust on my shelves.

Sachin January 21, 2011 at 11:38 am

i eliminate “stuff”every sunday and keep only “things” with me

Leigh January 21, 2011 at 6:03 pm

We recently moved from one house but didn’t have another place to go, so we put everything we own in storage. It takes up half a small room. That’s two years worth of things (some stuff) and it doesn’t seem like much for three people.

Until you try packing it all up and carrying it in a small truck to a storage unit.

There is most definitely something to remaining light.

mare January 22, 2011 at 2:44 am

Too much stuff is a sign of too much money too little sense for a society?
Is the demand for stuff why the planet suffers? Is buying it a kind of mindlessness?
Do we have to buy it or the economy will suffer?
Is some ownership caused by our desire (perceived desirability) to own and not to borrow or share?

I think Michi’s gift notion works for the planet (providing we don’t buy each other space shuttle flights or rides in F1 cars instead..)

Respecting things would return them to their original value.
Then they may be repaired when faulty and be less likely to be broken or needlessly replaced. Buying better-quality-end products would raise the standard and the price and reduce some short-lifespan rubbish perhaps. Maybe it would be good?

Nea | Self Improvement Saga January 22, 2011 at 2:45 am

This is a freaking awesome post Dave. I love how you brought the stuff and the things to life. I just rid myself of so much stuff that I didn’t need, use, or have any plans to use in the immediate future. Unlike you, I didn’t necessarily give the stuff a good home- unless of course the trash dump was the dream home of my stuff. Nonetheless, it’s gone and I feel more free than I have in years. No more stuff for me!

David January 22, 2011 at 8:09 am

I should clarify: I don’t recommend trying to find a good home for everything you’re trying to get rid of. That’s probably impossible and will definitely hold up the purging process. But I did donate a lot of things that are going to be pretty cool for the person who finds them in the Goodwill store.

But if it can’t be donated, toss it.

mike January 22, 2011 at 11:50 am

…excellent thought provoking post…it’s really intresting..there seems to be something in the air because everyone i know is thinking along these lines of late..in a odd mystical way i think it might be a latent reaction to the downward pressure of a bad econony and having to ‘make do’ with less..there seems to be a renewed interest into ‘monastic’ style living recently so the ascetic practice of downsizing ones earthly goods goes hand in hand……”where your treasure is there will your heart be also”..

Jared January 22, 2011 at 1:44 pm

Interestingly enough I have been having the same kind of thoughts lately. I like what you have to say and will be incorporating the idea and mantra into my living space immediately. Luckily I don’t have a hundred pounds of “stuff” to deal with. Maybe 20 pounds or so. I already throw stuff out occasionally, but prevention is always best.

Keep up the great work!

Brad January 22, 2011 at 2:05 pm

Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. (William Morris)

Chris January 23, 2011 at 7:11 am

My wife and I were discussing this exact process yesterday. I appreciate the “stuff vs. thing” examples… it’s help us as we tackle getting rid of junk! Now… can I convince her to throw out those VHS tapes?

Earl January 24, 2011 at 2:07 am

For 11+ years now I’ve been traveling and living out of a backpack, with no more than about 100 items to my name. And I’m often asked if I miss having more possessions but I simply don’t. I have no idea what I would do with more stuff and at times, my 100 items seems like far too much.

Of course, I don’t have a home and that does make a difference but for me, surviving 11 years with only necessities and a handful of other things (ok, a little bit of stuff as well), has been much easier than I would have ever imagined.

I’m sure the results of your experiment will be exactly what you are hoping for…

David January 25, 2011 at 6:33 pm

Sorry Earl, I don’t know why your comment got trapped in spam purgatory like that.

I often remind myself that I’m just an animal with pants and a bit of an education — it’s theoretically possible for a homo sapien to function without all the stuff we normally have. People got along naked and possessionless for a long long time. When I think of it like that, 100 things is loads of stuff. Almost too much to carry, let alone make use of.

From that perspective, even a sparsely-stocked home (like the one I’m in now) looks like a wonderland of special powers and possibilities. Trimming my lot down to a few hundred things from a few thousand makes its usefulness a lot more apparent to me, compared to when I was overwhelmed with stuff.

I think what you do is super awesome Earl and I’ll have to track you down for a coffee one day when we’re in the same country.

Katie January 24, 2011 at 9:06 am

But how does one release the feelings of guilt? I don’t have a problem releasing stuff from my life, but I hate the thought of making my problem (clutter) everyone’s problem (overflowing landfills), and what if someone would find that thing useful? I know, it’s a little extreme, but it is a barrier to my purging.

Willow January 25, 2011 at 12:24 am

I followed Cindy’s link at 365lessthings and wanted to let you know I enjoyed this post. You make a great distinction between stuff and things.

Sooz January 25, 2011 at 4:46 pm

I’ve done this in my life too – I’ve got rid of more than half of the stuff I owned and feel so much better. I have 2 ‘stuff’ management systems – one where I decide the amount of space I’m willing to give to certain items, eg I’m happy to haev 1 shelf of CDs, 1 drawer of t-shirts, 1 shelf of DVDs, 2 storage boxes of shoes, and stick to that…if I want to add to already full areas I have to get rid of something first. I also write do a ‘what I bought this month’ blog post to keep an eye on my new aquisitions and try to get rid of one old thing for every new thing I bring into my life!

I’ll be interested to read more about your stuff extermination! :)

Denise January 26, 2011 at 6:26 am

David – this is an amazing post. I find that the more ‘stuff’ I have the more stressed it makes me and so I’ve begun to de-clutter and I loved your suggestion that if we don’t give something a home then really how much do we value & love it. My daughter in law suggested that I take pictures of my ‘things’ and write about them so that my sons will know what they meant to me and why I kept them when, at some point, I can no longer share that with them personally. It’s a lovely trip down memory lane as I begin that process. Now, if only I could get my pack rat husband to de-clutter!!! Oh well, maybe sometime. thanks again. very much enjoy your writing.

Kyleigh January 26, 2011 at 12:07 pm

I’ve been doing a similar purge over the past 6 months or so – I am only keeping the things I LOVE and donating the rest to charity. Some things have been easier than others to give away, and I do have a ways to go yet, but the FREEDOM that I feel from not being bogged down by so much stuff is exhilarating. And I am now able to take this extra energy and motivation (that was previously being stifled by the chaotic state of my humble abode) and spend it on the things in my life that MATTER. Stuff is just stuff. Living life is what matters!

Andy Parsons January 31, 2011 at 1:07 am

I wanted to add a comment to the post after this one (the one about how to become a trillionaire) but a message appears at the bottom of the post saying comments are closed and it won’t let me add a comment.

This also happened when I wanted to add a comment to another post around Christmas. I’m just wondering if that was intentional and why?

I like this post too and as always it made me think. I just don’t have any specific comments to make on it really except that I only have a small apartment and everything in it does have a place. Even so though, there is a bit of “stuff” I could do without and I will consider getting rid of some of it.

Maria Pavel January 31, 2011 at 4:55 am

I think it’s very important to acquire only the things that you can use. Acquiring things that you don’t use are just like that, crap or useless stuff contributing to a lot of mess at home. Things are created to help us and not meant to be lying around useless.

Martin @ nanny cameras February 10, 2011 at 6:56 am

Select things not in use and why not open a bargain
sale in front of your house. You will earn extra income.
great post!

Aggie April 1, 2011 at 5:30 am

You are hereby my hero.

Serenity April 9, 2011 at 11:30 pm

I am a bit late to comment here, but I am right there with you. My journey began back around ’97, when I first became location independent, work-wise. But as a single homeschooling mom of then young children (now grown – I had then while I was quite young), I still had ‘stuff.’ We moved frequently when they were younger, and a natural disaster stripped us of most of what we owned once. Then at another point we were planning a six month trip driving and camping our way across the US when our landlord informed us he was selling the building and we would have to move – just weeks after we would have left on our trip. We opted to go anyhow, and put everything in storage. Then, a few days into our trip, we found ourselves mailing boxes of stuff back to my folks’ place. Even what we had in the car was ‘too much’ when camping our way across the country!

We vowed to never accumulate so much again! When we returned, the kids and I edited everything in our storage building, and even rented a furnished place. Yet somehow things began accumulating again. Three years later, we were again swimming in ‘stuff.’ Focused on spending a year abroad, we again edited. Now, back from that year abroad, and living back in NYC after quite a long time away, I am more settled in with work I love, and ensconced in a great community. But….I’m also taking minimalism to a new level. This week I reached a point where, other than one tall glass-doored bookcase of work-related items (of which there are only the most basic necessities), I have 137 belongings – and that includes pots & pans (counted as one item, as is silverware, but I have minimum amounts of those, too–3 pots of varying sizes, 2 pans, dishes for 4). I suppose I ‘cheat’ a bit in counting. I don’t count the furniture (but it is a sofa that converts to my bed, which stores my bedding inside it; a chair; a drop-leaf table which stores 4 chairs inside it; 2 tiny side tables; a small bench; 3 bar stools; 3 glass bookcases that house EVERYTHING including all the materials for my business – and things are arranged on them with much free space around it. For instance, one shelf holds only a printer fo rmy computer; another only a small antique jewel box; another my 3 games; another just my yoga mat). Also, items such as “Socks” only count as one, though I have 6 pair; I have a small selection of jewelry that I count as one. But the reality is, for instance, with the jewelry…I only wear a necklace, ring and bracelet. I suspect the rest of the jewelry will be gone soon.

But really, that is neither here nor there. What is truly relevant is what has been happening to me over the past 2 months as I got closer and closer to this ‘bare minimum’ point. The rate at which I have eliminated has slowed, because I am TRULY down to the end here. But…I’ve spent much time contemplating the final items I am ‘processing.’ I find myself sitting with an object and meditating on it, asking myself why I feel attached to it. I feel that I have made some of the greatest breakthroughs of my life during this particular ‘elimination’ round. I find myself lost in self-assessment as I try to determine what I realize to be rather silly attachment to some things. And…I DO allow for something to be in my life simply for the joy it brings, so it isn’t about some extreme level. Rather, I have discovered deep-seated fears and….found my way through them. ANd it was by examining the objects in my life that led me there.

Perhaps the most important thing I learned was that complexity was a wall for me, a way of preventing me from trusting in my own creativity, and my own resourcefulness. The same drive that made me hold onto an item ‘just in case I someday need it’ also drove me to avoid taking risks, rather encouraged me to ‘play it safe’ and ‘do the guaranteed thing’. Now, I’m a somewhat successful author, inventor, and game creator, and in recent years I have become a natural childbirth educator and birth douula, work I love. But….there were aspects of my Self which I’d held back. My writing success came with non-fiction, but I’ve got half finished novels here. I love to dance, but haven’t danced in ages. I love art, but haven’t done anything ‘artistic’ in longer than I could remember.

With each item that fell away, space within my being seemed to open up. And I found that the LESS MULTIPLICITY IN MY LIFE, THE MORE ROOM THERE WAS FOR TRUE CREATIVITY. When I got rid of endless boxes of unloved art supplies, and just picked up a pencil and paper, I began drawing in a serious and beautiful way. When my floor was bare and there was room, I began belly-dancing again. When I had sold off my 3 computers (including my macbook air) for a simple notebook with everything stored on the cloud and backed up on a passport drive, and my desktop was basically empty, and I had only a text editor (omm,which I’ve fallen in love with), I churned out the rest of my novel….it had sat there unloved and unattended for 3 years…but I finished it in less than 3 weeks. Go figure!

And….this extended to my work as a birth doula and childbirth educator. I found that the more I said, “No!” to complexity, to multiplicity, the more things GREW in beautiful ways. I did away with advertising, and with flyers, etc. I got down to: a business card; one brochure; one gorgeous ‘flyer’ that instead of hanging places, I put inside a beautiful ornate glass frame and asked select doctors, midwives, and stores to place on their counters….and business began to boom. Less is SO MUCH MORE!

With my diet….I got rid of cookbooks; I got rid of healthy eating schemes; I got rid of grains (I have celiac, so this wasn’t that hard, as gluten was already gone). My refrigerator now looks like it should be in a magazine. White bowls hold a variety of fruits and veggies; hard boiled eggs. I open my cupboards and a small selection of canisters contain nuts, beans, raisins, and other staples. Cooking has become SO easy! I just toss things together and eat. And we are eating healthier than ever for it! And quite honestly, I just feel so inspired to see all that open space in my cupboards and fridge, with the items I DO have in there stored so GORGEOUSLY. Big bowls of luscious fruits and veggies? WOW! SO much more attractive than them living in plastic bag from the store, or in a bin. And the glass canisters, they just put the food on display! I feel MOVED to eat healthier!

The more that falls away, the more beautiful my life is becoming, every single day. And…TRULY, the answers lie in the most elegantly simple things.

So what next? I need to de-clutter my digital life. And by that….I mean I have to delete digital photos (everything has been scanned, though I have one frame with photos of my kids on the wall). And…I have to de-clutter my ipod. I have thousands of songs on there, but listen to really only a very small percentage. And…I think I will find more joy if I eliminate the clutter in there as well. I know perhaps that sounds crazy. But what I’ve learned in other areas will apply there too, I think.

I call this ‘Addition by Subtraction.’ And it keeps proving true. The more I subtract, the greater the sum of my life. I mean…now I have so little, but I dance! I eat! I draw! I laugh! Life has become delicious beyond belief :-)

Sorry for such a long post. Just…your blog truly inspires me, and makes me want to share my story with you. And…right now, I feel I’m in such a gorgeous space…but it is scary, too. I want to get that across. Because..now there is nothing standing in the way. Now I have no more excuses. Nothing else to hide behind. Nothing else to take the place of being my creative, loving, incredible self. And….that means I have to face up to the reality of…AM I creative, loving, and incredible? And that is what is left when you strip the rest away. The Truth. Who we really are, and what we are truly capable of. And I’m there, verging on discovering those realities. And it is terrifying, frightening beyond belief…and yet so delicious, so powerful, so INCREDIBLE! And…never have I felt so ALIVE.

And if you keep eliminating things, you will reach this moment. You will feel it coming toward you, in fact. I think it sounds like you are already seeing and experiencing bits of this. And the more you eliminate, the closer it comes. For me, I felt like it was chasing me…like I could not de-clutter fast enough…and yet it happened in spurts at first. And then I re-accumulated. Then decluttered more. A long process. But OH SO WORTHWHILE.

I think. So far anyhow. Who knows? There may be some frightening times ahead, as this is life, and life can hand us some challenges, that is for certain :-) But….I feel CLEARER than ever before, and somehow….I KNOW I am able to take on whatever comes my way. I know that with a certainty deeper than any I ever possessed before I’d reached this space.

Ah, thank you for your patience, dear, dear blogger. And to that of your other readers as well. I know this comment has been incredibly long – deepest apologies. Just…I needed to share, and this post seemed like the perfect place to do so. Has anyone else reached this level? Have you experienced anything akin to what I have? I would love to hear about it.

And again, David, thank you.

Love, Joy, Peace & Light!

David April 10, 2011 at 8:07 am

That is one of the most unexpected effects I noticed: That we use stuff to hide from ourselves. When everything is clean and in it’s place, your life is right there and there’s nothing to do but live it. When there’s not clutter you can’t help but know where you’re at, and sometimes it’s more comfortable not to know, kind of like when your finances become so disorganized you’d rather not check your bank balance. I think you are right about the inverse correlation between complexity and creativity.

Serenity April 10, 2011 at 8:32 am

Good morning :-) And precisely! I am so in love with LIFE now, with everything around me. I am discovering such joy in …. nothing. Everything is contained within the possibility. I have had a strange and wonderful life. At times I have had ‘nothing’ in terms of losing ‘everything’ after a natural disaster (which led to my realizing what didn’t matter whatsoever), and in terms of having well, almost anything I wanted: staying in the best hotels, traveling the world, learning to fly airplanes, one time engagement to a world-famous individual in their field/child of a celebrity, etc. I have befriended homeless people, and some of the greatest minds of our time. And yet…NEVER…have I felt so deliciously happy as I do now, with my minimalist life. And never have I felt richer. And…my social circle has become (intentionally) much smaller, and yet, feels so much richer. Due to that inverse correlation between complexity and creativity, mind you. I also discovered: it isn’t so much who the friends are, or what talents they possess, but in the willingness each of you has to go deep, to explore, and to BE. It is who and how individual beings can BE together, when all else falls away.

Life is so beautiful! And so are you, David. Thank you for your continued efforts on this delicious blog.

Nathan K June 7, 2011 at 1:41 pm

Most people desire more order in their lives; they think “if only I could get more organized, I would be happier.” Often times this obsession with order comes from the fear of chaos. If one wishes to be truly content, one must not fear chaos.

For a very light read that offers an interesting perspective on life, I recommend “The Art of Being: Recapturing the Self” by Catherine Laroze (ISBN 1584794054). I stumbled upon it randomly at my local library, and it can be had for very cheap online.

Toni R October 8, 2011 at 1:26 am

As I’ve cleaned the stuff from my life, I’ve found some surprising results in other areas. My budget is smaller and more streamlined, my car is emptied and cleaned more often, even the garden is weeded once in awhile. I don’t shop as much anymore since I have most everything I need. The chaos is largely gone (at least most days) and my stress is kept to a minimum. I now live in a little 700 sq ft house because that’s all I need.

Even so, I’m still surrounding myself with the things I truly love. I felt somewhat guilty about that until you pointed out the difference between stuff and things. Thank you for that important distinction. My books, my teacups, my laptop, my string bass are all things I love and would never part with. They aren’t clutter. They are the things I use everyday. It’s fine to keep them close. I just need to remember to find a place for them and treat them right.

David October 8, 2011 at 9:23 am

Thats so great. What a difference it makes in everything else. Thanks for sharing this Toni.

Julian McNally October 16, 2011 at 1:25 am

Congratulations on a great blog (and life, I guess) David. I trawled around and will comment on a few of your other posts when I have time, but wanted to say for now I really appreciate this one. Ties in well with “Master the GTD system” from your list.

Also brings to mind a Steven Wright two-liner:
“You can’t have it all.
Anyway, where would you keep it?”

Leslie Hood October 19, 2011 at 7:48 am

I really like this post. It sings to the Buddhist course I’m studying right now. The second precept or teaching in Buddhism is “not to steal.” I couldn’t figure out how this applied in my life; I’m an honest person. But it also means acquiring stuff (vs. things, which even the Buddha had) because the corporate system steals other people’s liberty and independence to produce cheap consumer goods. A quote: “Unto Tahinen says there are only two ways of avoiding war. The first is to satisfy everyone’s desires; the second, to content oneself with the good. The first is impossible due to the limitations of the world and therefore leaves this second alternative of contentment.” Thanks for your work, David, it is much appreciated.

Michael November 18, 2011 at 4:35 pm

This is very interesting to read, partially because I have often thought about this in the past and acted upon it. I keep my possessions to a minimum – I don’t even had a bed! (Just a matress on the floor).
I find that life is much easier with less items to worry about. It’s like you once said, David. ‘The less possessions you have, the more they do for you’. Wise, wise words.

Jason January 7, 2012 at 6:41 pm

When you hang on to things, you never move forward. I was involved in the past for years. I would not get rid of anything until I found a (person)home for the items. I was under so much stress with my belongings. I live in a small condo and had no room for the things that matter. I was spend endless weekends trying to locate a person that wanted my items. Sometimes, I would leave in bags items on people’s door hoping that they would find a home in their unit. They items I speak of were quality items, not junk you throw out. But now my life is different. When I turned 40 I woke-up to reality! My life was passing by and I had no fun out of it. I packed loads of stuff and gave away to the goodwill and have not regard it one bid. I kept telling myself did you miss any of it? Answer: No. I moved forward because I was able to read blogs like this to help me move forward to a better life. I currently live in the present. Thank you to all you bloggers, writers for this reality check.

margaret January 8, 2012 at 9:04 pm

Thank you for your encouragement … when we have less, we have more.

Jessica January 9, 2012 at 9:03 pm

Good article, or post. I agree. However, if you throw children into the mix, somehow your space is no longer your own. Watch things multiply! No control! I dejunk rabidly, but you have to save things to pass down to the next one. That, in a way, becomes minimal–saving things to use at a later date instead of re-consume. Anyway, after dejunking a couple of weeks ago, I will definitely be at it again after reading this post-icle. My husband and I intend on consuming experiences with our children, instead of things. If you have any ideas on organizing and dejunking things of a filing nature, get on it!

Steve January 31, 2012 at 8:05 pm

I have a lot of stuff. I don’t hang on to it. Instead I think of myself as the intermediary between where it was and where it should be. My ears are always open for someone in need of something that I can give them. I take it in for free and give it for free

Justin February 24, 2012 at 3:09 pm

Great post. You’ve inspired me to clean the clutter.

Kristin April 26, 2012 at 12:40 am

Needed to see this. Thank you!

Lois August 27, 2012 at 11:39 pm

David, I have recently found your blog and enjoy what I’ve been reading so far. When I got to this article, it really resounded with me and how I’ve been living. I’ve just nominated you for the beautiful blogger award as a result.

Jason Glover January 29, 2013 at 4:08 pm

This is the second article of yours I’ve read – it won’t be the last. The subjects you are touching on are real solid gold.

I LOVE getting rid of stuff; I started a few years ago after separating from my wife of 9 years. Looking back I realized that I’d become a hoarder of stuff. Since then I’ve been ditching Stuff like crazy and concentrating more and more on Things.

Jason Hartgrave February 4, 2013 at 8:19 am

The real kicker will be when you apply this thinking down into your phone and your computer, clearing out old files, orphaned emails, and obsolete programs. Those apps you download on the phone and never open again, and the list goes on. I think of all the receipts and papers I accumulate in my car, and suddenly I am feeling like a “hoarder.”

karin February 14, 2013 at 6:27 am

OMG. I’m leaving Burma after 9 years and having to ship stuff home. I’ve got so much ‘stuff’…eik! But my next posting has only a 2 suitcase policy… Busy decluttering and it feels good. Stuff keeps me chained. Bought a house I can’t possibly live in for 2 years…so now have to find someone to look out for the place….headache!

Jeremy March 28, 2013 at 10:59 am

We got rid of nearly everything we owned before we started traveling full time. I thought that we didn’t have much stuff, but when you actually go through the process of selling, donating, and discarding, it is amazing how many things we accumulated without a conscious effort

Now everything fits in a couple backpacks and we still have more stuff than we need

Dawn June 7, 2013 at 4:00 pm

Hooray for your beautifully written post!! I already shared it on my FB biz page.

I’m a personal organizer and what you wrote is exactly what I’ve been telling my clients for years. The clutter of stuff affects you in so many ways. It’s not just about time wasted searching for things or throwing $$$ away. It runs much deeper. Thank you for sharing!!

“Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” -William Morris

fabe June 12, 2013 at 6:23 am

Wonderful article. I don’t know if anyone has already mention this, but I have an other way of reducing stuff and be more concious in my consumtion.
I called it 2 for 1. Every time I want to buy something new I have to give away two of the same kind, either to charity or a friend. So if I want to buy a new pair of shoes I really have to consider if the new pair will be more useful to me than 2 of the pairs I already have. And then I can’t buy the new shoes before I have found new homes for the other 2. So in this way I have eliminated impulse shopping for stuff. It might go slower than your method, but it changes your way of thinking about the thing you own and their importance.


Angela July 22, 2013 at 12:26 pm

It’s so hard for me to get rid of “stuff” because I always think I’m going to use it someday. This article inspired me to work on clearing out the clutter. I hope I can stay motivated!

Ulrika August 23, 2013 at 10:27 am

Today I didn’t have to pick up the kid from daycare do I had some time on my hands. I sat down in the park to ponder what I most wanted to do. There was really nothing urgent so I could choose. I realized what I most wanted to do was go home and throw out a lot of things around the house. However, I stopped for a coffee while biking home (actually tea and rhubarb youghurt). And thought I’d look at this blog which I’m quite new to, maybe a week only. And this article came up! Now that’s serendipity! Am now off to go home and throw out “stuff”! :-) Love this blog!!

sunny September 1, 2013 at 5:52 am

Well said. Changed my thinking about a few areas in my home. I know which items are “things” and which are merely just “stuff”. I want to find homes for everything!

Two years ago, I too narrowed my breakfast choice down to one: a healthy smoothie. then if I crave any breakfast food items, I’ll have them for lunch or dinner.

Am new to your blog (found it via Becoming Minimalist) and will now explore your other posts.

Nick October 26, 2013 at 8:37 am

Well, having read this post I am quite literally ashamed of myself. Although I would never admit to being a hoader – it looks as if that is what I truly am.

I buy everything in 2’s sometimes 3’s. I have an obsession with collecting things, currently multitols. How many??, at the last count it was fast approaching 400!! I simply buy, open, put away…buy, open, put away…buy, open, put away…etc etc. On the rare occasion I do get them all out, I feel utterly miserable and vow to never buy another. but before the week is out there is always something else on it’s way.

Why I am like this, I have no idea. As a child my mother and father were very aloof as to my being there, as in not many cuddles, not much love and not many toys. Now in my 40’s living with my partner for the past 17yrs we have a 6yr old son who I absolutely adore. Yet I still buy stuff, either for me or my son…especially my son. I want him to have a childhood I never had. My partner, although knows I hoard, turns a blind eye to it.

But as much as a hoader as I am, I am intently tightfisted, the thought of “lining someone’s pocket” fills me with dread, so half the time I will do without but yet then spend it, sorry..waste it on more pointless stuff!!

I really need to declutter, really do. But no-one has ever given me anything, everything I own is from sacrifice or hard work, so why should I give it to someone else. Same with the rubbish tip, take stuff there and the guys say “put that to one side pal”, so I’m then basically lining their pockets as it will probably be sold at the carboot come next weekend!!

If I could press a magic button and all but the bare necessities disappeared – I’d press it in a heartbeat!!

We have a lovely house and thanks to both of us being focused during the early years it’s now paid off, we are totally debt free, which means more money to waste.

But having read this post, I see that I’m not alone, nor am I at fault. Modern living comes at a price that we are all only just beginning to realise.

I’m going to attempt to shift 50% of what I own within the next 3 months be it in rubbish bin or the online auction sites. I am determined I will sort myself out.

kate December 31, 2013 at 11:42 am

this is a great posting…..but now, really……tell me the difference between stuff and things…=)

How To Make Coffee April 24, 2014 at 8:05 pm

” But soon in 17th century it became a part of ceremonies involving the Ottoman court where coffee makers with the help of assistants ceremoniously prepared and served coffee for the sultan. To make a good cup of coffee it is best to start with bottled or filtered water (but avoid processed “soft” water or distilled water). Packaging with venting systems means that the beans can be packaged as soon as they cool.

Samantha May 12, 2014 at 3:53 am

Hi David,

I read this blogpost a long long time ago and it has always stuck. I have looked at things in a different way and am in the process of purging my home from stuff, so it changed my life for the better. Thank you for sharing your words with me and tons of other people.

Skip Hire June 6, 2014 at 8:44 pm

Awesome blog! Is your theme custom made or did you download
it from somewhere? A design like yours with a few simple tweeks
would really make my blog stand out. Please let me know where you got your design.

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