The things you own end up owning you.
–Tyler Durden


We do some strange things. We try to get more space — more living space, more office space — and then we fill it up with stuff. We fill it up with stuff that we don’t really need, stuff that we think is going to save us time from time to time (like a food processor or a juicer or a SlapChop or a Magic Bullet), and then we get other stuff to help us better organize that stuff (like closet organizers and baskets and storage bins) and take up all the extra space that we set out to get in the first place.

But how much of that stuff do we really need? I mean, how much of it is stuff that we actually use on a daily basis to get through our actual life, and not because it’s there?

I don’t know much about Zen Buddhism. Really, not much at all. But I do know that it has something to do with removing clutter from your life and getting rid of bulls**t distractions that keep you from focusing on the things that really matter — like your own happiness and well-being. And I remember hearing that one of the tenets of Feng Shui is that you should eliminate mess and clutter because clutter represents a delayed decisions and you shouldn’t put off making decisions.

But how much clutter and how many distractions do we keep in our lives? What if we got rid of everything that we don’t need to get through our average day? What if we stripped our possessions down to only we need to work and eat? What would be left? Some dishes? Some pots and pans? Some clothes? And maybe a computer or two?

What if we completely let go and freed up all that space in our lives so that we could actually enjoy it?

8 thoughts on “Stuff We Own

  1. Having recently gone from not having much, to having still less, there’s definitely something to be said for letting go, chucking all the useless clutter and gadgetry, and trying to lead a simpler life.

    That being said, however, you’ve got to know what’s important to hold onto. F’rinstance, don’t EVER leave your super expensive, really nice mattress behind in a move. Even if you’re leaving town and crossing a border. I really regret leaving that behind, as the replacement we bought is absolutely not the same, nor worth the money we spent on it. It’s crazy how true the saying “you get what you pay for” can be in certain cases.

    I definitely don’t feel the need for an iPhone, though…

    1. I learned the hard way with bedding, too. About 6 years ago, I left my entire bed set behind in an apartment. I was moving in with a girl.

      I’ve not had one of my own since. Do you know what it’s like to go 6 years without a good night’s sleep in your “own” bed?

      It feels like you have no home.

      Which is curious, because when it comes to territory, even animals have possessions. I guess what it comes down to is not having more than help you, because they then just hurt you.

      Take animals: if they have too much territory, more than they can use, they can’t really defend it all properly.

      An us, people, we accrue a lot of possessions because they offer convenience, but when it becomes inconvenient to store them or they make us lazy and less self-sufficient, and then we’re less well off.

  2. Funny thing is I already live with the bare essentials, I just love work I guess. Everything seems to fade away when you just work most of the time. I do have a iphone but utilize that for work also, so its not much of a luxury tool.

  3. I recently went thru my closet and threw into a bag all the t-shirts I haven’t worn in ages. In the end that was one heavy-ass bag! I am now going thru my winter clothes to see what I didn’t wear, and my summer clothes to see what I didn’t wear last year, and all will be bagged and sent off to Goodwill.

    As I have moved my office outside of the home, I am now going thru that box of crap that I admit is hard to part with, but necessary. All this to make room for toys for my daughter. :)


    1. Man, the simian hoarding habits start at such a young age. It makes me wonder how much of it is nature and how much of it is nurture.

      I recently went through my son’s toy box to get rid of everything that’s broken or that he’s outgrown. I tried involving him and asking him what he wanted to keep, and he pretty much wanted to keep everything. Also, whenever he latches on to something new, whether it’s a new toy or just some object that he’s claimed as one, he carries it everywhere, talks about it constantly, and even takes it to bed.

      It all kind of reminds me of “the leavers and the takers” analogy in the book Ishmael. It also kinda reminds me of how a dog or cat will hoard toys. Maybe it’s perfectly natural (and even beneficial) to take-on and protect a few possession, but maybe that’s what “resisting temptation” is all about: in a state of nature, the opportunity to actually own something rarely presents itself, so when you find that perfect club or spear, you want to hold onto it; but in civilization, the opportunity is everywhere, so it might be a good idea to resist because, as they say, it’s never good to have too much of a good thing — and in this case, the possessions make you reliant (and weak and lazy) instead of helping you out.

  4. I’m CONSTANTLY trying to throw things out that my boyfriend brings home. I can’t stand the clutter; it drives me crazy. Needless to say, the more we work on de-cluttering our lives and living simply, the better off we are (IMHO).

  5. I love throwing things out. No one else in my household does, but they have never noticed when their stuff is gone. So I make a habit of being the Household de-clutterer. And I never barter with the kid! I just give it away and make sure she never sees me do it. I figure when she’s older she can learn the process of making executive decisions, but right now all she wants to establish is “THAT’S MINE”.

    With that said – the idea of living in one of those uber modern stark “Design” homes featured on… I don’t know, Dwell, gives me the heebie jeebies. I like being surrounded by a little bit of stuff.

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