Less Stuff

Waldo linked to a great essay by Paul Graham entitled Stuff. Simple premise that most of us are aware of: We have way too many things. These things start to control our lifestyles, requiring larger spaces to hold our things. Restricting what we can do because us things preclude us from doing so. Houses grew astronomically in the last 30 years (look at the McMansion plight) and why? Simply to hold more things.

Stash It Away

When I moved out of my house and into an apartment with my then girlfriend in 2003, I put a ton of things in a storage unit. Door 2 Door storage. They drop off a pod, you fill it up, and then they take it away. I paid approximately $70 a month for my stuff to sit in a storage unit. In the mean time I broke up with the girlfriend, moved into a friend’s house, then bought a house, and then sold my share in that house and moved into a relatively large apartment. Three locations where I didn’t notice that stuff was missing or didn’t need it. Granted, there was a couch and coffee table in there that I now am using again, but the bulk of it is paper in boxes and items I did not want nor need.

Yet after getting all that stuff out of the storage unit, the “oh but I might need this someday!” voices start. And I realized how addicted I was to just… crap.

Absolut [sic] Minimalism

My friend Todd is able to live in an apartment half my size by ruthlessly getting rid of stuff. Todd could pack a car and be gone tonight. The most difficult thing for him would be to wrap all the (full) wine bottles he has. It’s not that he keeps these long. He just enjoys wine and keeps a good amount in regular rotation. Wine, Basic kitchen stuff, A bed. Clothes. A laptop. Some quintessential books. That’s about it.

But there’s something elegant about it. A very clean apartment. A very simple lifestyle. No distractions. But that’s not for everyone. Too many of us are infatuated with objects.

Why?

Friends of mine know that I am a five-year-old child who likes to ask “why” about pretty much everything. The stuff is a symptom of a problem. Why searches out that problem. I don’t think the problem is necessarily a personal one, but a societal one. Paul Graham discusses this briefly.

Suburbia has spawned sprawling complexes of things to buy to fill up your space. Pier One, IKEA, etc. are all vestiges of this. Temples to commerce surrounded by seas of asphalt where worshipers park their cars (because you can’t walk to the temple) and go inside to pray to the almighty dollar by spending it feverously.

I don’t hate these people. I am one of these people. So the question is: how does a pack-rat like me give up the ghost on stuff?

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