How Much Stuff Do You Need?

“Nothing is enough for the man to whom enough is too little.”
 — Epicurus

Which of the things that you own do you use every day?

Once a week?

Once a month?

Once a year?


Which things really bring you joy or provide value?

As I discussed in my previous posts, I’ve been focusing on reduction of superfluous stuff. Among other things, that means a reduction in physical objects. Not things I use regularly. Not things that bring me joy. But things that mostly just take up space.

Over the past 6 months, Stephanie and I have donated about 6 garbage bags of clothes and 75% of our books. We’ve thrown away old food, kitchen tools, cosmetics, and papers — things we kept “just in case” or forgot about because we never touched them.

I don’t miss any of it. Sure, the process itself can be challenging. When you’re looking at that t-shirt your mom gave you for Christmas 5 years ago that you wear at home but never out of the house (and 14 other shirts like it), nostalgia sets in and tries to convince you that you should keep it. But you don’t need to keep it, and you like other shirts better (even to wear around the house). Honestly, how many t-shirts-for-at-home-wear-only do you really need?

Going through every item you own in this way can daunting, but at the end, it feels great. Lighter, almost. Somehow all the shit you owned had been subtly weighing on your mind — not enough to notice until you get rid of it all but enough to matter. Now your mind is a little bit freer than it was. Your space is less cluttered. You have more money, because you aren’t spending it all on stuff like you were before.

“Minimalism” is today’s hot term for this concept, but to me, it’s not about having minimal stuff. It’s about having the right stuff and the right amount of stuff. For instance, I love denim, and I have more denim than most “minimalists.” I’m OK with that, because I really like denim, and it brings me happiness to have several pairs of jeans made from different types of denim.

On the other hand, I probably have fewer physical books now than many people do. I love reading, but I realized that having shelves full of books that I read once and only somewhat enjoyed didn’t bring me happiness. So I’ve donated most of my books, only keeping a few that have special importance or that I want to reread. The right amount is different for everyone.

What is the same for everyone is the mental and physical clutter (and financial expense!) that comes from acquiring and keeping stuff just because it’s habitual or because society tells you to.

Other Resources
 mnmlist [blog]
 The Private Life Of A Girl [blog]
 The Minimalists [blog] — not my favorite, but it’s a decent place to start
 The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up [book]

Originally published at essential.

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