Some Things I’m Doing About My Struggle with Stuff

I wrote previously about My Struggle with Stuff, my challenges with materialism, consumerism, and accumulation.  Apparently, I’m still thinking about it.  I really want to master my stuff, rather than the other way around.  Below are some of the things I’ve tried with varying degrees of success.  Note that I don’t claim to have any sort of mastery in this regard.  It is definitely a work in progress.  Although I’ve read a lot about simplifying one’s life, I still have a long way to go.

  1. Substitute experiences instead of buying things.  e.g. I go for a bike ride rather than buying something.
  2. Try to keep my home clean and organized such that everything has a place.  Accumulations of extraneous stuff then become apparent.
  3. Purge my home periodically.  I always keep a ‘things to get rid of’ box so that excess items have a convenient place.  At least once a year, we go through each room to remove anything we don’t want.  We purge our clothes twice a year with the changing of Vancouver’s two seasons (summer and wet).
  4. Hold a garage sale every couple of years.  Donate anything that doesn’t sell to charity — don’t let it come back into the house.
  5. Try to buy things used.
  6. Rent or borrow things that I’ll use infrequently.
  7. Shop less.  Never shop for recreation.  Shop with a list at specific stores where I buy consumable items, rather than those that accumulate.
  8. When I buy something new, get rid of the thing it replaces (or something else if that isn’t possible).  Ideally, nothing comes into our home without something else going out.
  9. And finally, I’m living for extended periods without my stuff.  Perhaps more than anything else, this reinforces that I’m don’t need most of the things that have accumulated in my life to be happy.

A particular challenge for me are things that I already own that have value but that I don’t use (e.g. furniture, antiques, art, and other collectibles).  Although we display some of these, the remainder sit gathering dust in the dark recesses of our home, unused and unloved.  I find it very difficult to throw them out away because they have value, but even harder to find them new owners.   Finding buyers requires non-trivial work.  Taking them to auction or selling them on Craigslist apparently requires more effort than I’ve been willing to summon.  And so they sit.

Do you struggle with stuff?  What are some of the things you do to manage it?


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5 thoughts on “Some Things I’m Doing About My Struggle with Stuff

  1. Good ideas Pat, but I have to ask if you purge clothes twice a year is that because you have to make room for your new stuff. We all like new clothes each season but do we reallllly need them? ian tried it with the girls with their stuffed animal collection. He had a rule that for every one new stuffy 3 had to go. Hard to enforce but the concept of teaching the girls to control their need to collect stuff was a good lesson. (no the rule did not really get listened to) But as they get older they are now more comfortable with the concept of purging rather than saving forever. And no the “stuffies” never did take over the house but it was a damed close thing at times. It is surprising what we can manage without. I think it is the fault of Advertising. Kids and adults are exposed to way too many sources of media telling us what we need. If you move from that media you move away from the need to buy. Sheryl

    1. Thanks for the comment Sheryl! I’m definitely not a person who shops for clothes to keep up with the lastest trends. I tend to shop for clothes only when I need something. When I do, I sometimes buy in multiples (e.g. 2 pairs of jeans) for things I know that I’ll need and to avoid having to shop for them again. The twice annual purge is more a by-product of getting out my summer clothes (e.g. shorts, tanktops) or putting them away for the winter.

      Perhaps I should adopt a tougher rule like Ian’s? For every new thing that comes in to the house, 3 have to go! The more I acquire, the less I’ll have! A good idea if my long term goal is to trim down further.

      One advantage of traveling is there are long periods when I’m not as exposed to North American advertising. This probably reduces my urges to buy the latest things. But there does seem to be a small wave of purchasing that preceeds each trip as I prepare the gear that I’ll need and one addition when I return. We try to only buy 1 main ‘souvenir’ per trip, a special object that sums up our travels to that part of the world.


  2. Here’s the thing Patrick….. You make a key observation about having to look after your stuff. BUT It’s not yours, it’s come from somewhere, it’s going somewhere and your just looking after it in the meantime. This is a little bit annoying because you have invested your money in it in the past and worry about it now and still give it space in your head and home. My advice is to STOP PAYING. Give it ALL away to a charity, you’ll feel good someone else will benefit financally and even someone else will start looking after it – let them…you’ve got bigger dreams to fulfill.
    A useful rule is to limit the things you look after to things that have a practical use, these can be toys of course. If you look around the S&M Hotel or it’s waterbourne equivelent you will find, maybe 3 small items that are of no practical use. (I include here wedding rings, which have no practical use but we like them they’re only small and only cost 11Euro each.
    Once you have enough, you have enough. You have health, money freinds and a very patient and supportive wife. What else do you NEED. By the way I think you should only get rid of clothes when they don’t function as protection from the weather or imodestly. Take your Ironman tee shirt as a model for that.

    When people come to see you or your house I hope they don’t come to see what you’ve got or what you wear. Come on Patrick let go!!!

    If you really miss it all you can alawys re-enter the system and start collecting it again.

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