The Unbearable Heaviness Of Stuff

My wife and I recently returned from a four-month extended trip in our motorhome.

While the motorhome is definitely a luxury, it isn’t really big. I mean, it’s a big vehicle, but it’s not very big as a house. In fact, it comes to about 300 square feet.

When you’ve been living in a 300 sq. ft. house for 4 months, and you come home to your full-size house, you see a real contrast.

Our house seems large to us now, yes.

But that wasn’t the shocking thing.

The surprise for us was how appalled we are at how much stuff we own.

It began to weigh on us.

After all, we had just spent four months without all the stuff. Why did we need it now?

We began to realize the truth of the saying, “you don’t own your stuff; your stuff owns you.”

We decided to start lightening up.

Simplifying.

Here’s our plan for phase one of what we are referring to as “un-stuffing”:

1. Get rid of 80% of our books. Boy, do we own a lot of books. The good news is, we have read most of them. But why do we feel the need to own all of them? Chances are we will not read them again. And the ones we do want to read again are available for free from the public library. Or very inexpensively on the Kindle. So the books are the first thing to go.

2. Get rid of the DVDs. We have quite a collection of DVDs, too. Most of them are great movies, and we really enjoyed watching them. But the truth is, at least 80% of the DVDs we own are just gathering dust and will probably never be watched again. When you add the fact that most of our movie-watching takes place via Netflix, Hulu, or some other on-demand digital format, keeping all these discs doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense.

3. Get rid of anything broken or unused. I’m surprised at how many things fall into this category. For example, I have a lot of electronic gadgets that I haven’t used in years. Why am I keeping them? The same could be said of a lot of our clothes, kitchen gadgets, and a plethora of other “stuff”.

I am pretty sure that even after getting rid of the books, the DVDs, the broken stuff, and the stuff we don’t use anymore, we will have more stuff than we need.

I mean, we’ve proven we can live with the very few items were able to put inside of our 300 sq. ft. motorhome. So even after this initial “un-stuffing”, I bet we’ll still be hanging onto more stuff than we need.

That’s okay. We are willing to take it in stages.

Progress, not perfection, you know.

What about you? Do you have thoughts on simplifying, or “un-stuffing”? Share them below.

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Ray Edwards is a world-renowned copywriter and communications strategist, writing for some of the most powerful voices in leadership and business including New York Times bestselling authors Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen (Chicken Soup for the Soul) and Tony Robbins. Ray is a sought-after speaker and author, hosts a popular weekly podcast, and blogs at RayEdwards.com.

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  • juhotunkelo

    Yeah, definitely a good idea to de-clutter… we did this a few years back and it was a really blessing. Especially since it enabled us to move around a lot more freely without having to ‘take care of’ quite so much. Also, the thought of some day moving to a much farther away place seems a lot easier now, should an opportunity present itself…

    • http://writingriches.com/ RayEdwards

       @juhotunkelo Makes me think of Clooney’s backpack analogy in “Up In the Air”. That analogy was a bright point in an otherwise downer of a movie…

  • http://www.Christian-Parenting.org dhammett

    Great ideas to unclutter! 
    We spent 3 months in Africa and after that experience knew we could lose a great deal of our ‘things’. We subsequently moved back to Africa 10 months later to live and emptied our house out of 90% of everything we owned.
    For me I know the push to get rid of it was good, but with just a wish to declutter, little would have been done. Having a deadline was necessary for me. 
    Your plan to work on different areas is great, and for many like me, they also will need to set a deadline or it will just stay in the wish list category. :-)

    • http://writingriches.com/ RayEdwards

       @dhammett Good point. We’re leaving for the winter at the end of September and have set that as a hard deadline for being rid of 80% of our stuff.

  • williammcpeck

    In our materialistic, consumer driven society, we all collect (accumulate) stuff.  What I find even more maddening that having a lot of stuff is buying more stuff when I need it because I can’t find the stuff I know I already have.  I suppose I am just doing my part to support the economy.  If we all stop buying stuff, our economy would collapse.
     
    It is said that we live to the space we have.  Ray, I am sure you lived quite comfortably in both the motorhome and your full sized house.  The issue only surfaced because you were able to experience both and draw the conclusion that you could live nicely within 300 sq. feet and with less stuff.
     
    I have no immediate plans to un-stuff.  The conversation does raise a couple of big concerns for me:
    * We may all be forced to simplify if we don’t change our ways and course and get the economy back on track
    * Materialism will remain alive and well unless we change the current, predominantly accepted happiness – success paradigm.

  • Tonet

    Hi Ray,
     
    This so true! I have spent the last five years travelling to the UK to do careing for 8-9 months at a time.
    Moving from place to place for a few weeks at a time was really like living out of a suitcase. Then staying in a tiny room in between jobs.Just me and the bed and my computer. And my suitcase!
     
    When I finally decided to stay at home in South Africa – pressure from the kids – I had a real clean out, starting with all my cloths that I had kept for ‘just in case’. I realized that I would never have that hour glass figure again, and at my age and did not need it either.
     
    I was amazed at how much I was able to give to our ‘Hope Centre’ who deal with AIDS patients and supply them with cloths and food parcels in the locations every week. I see one of your commentors has moved to Africa so he will know what it means to give to people who have nothing. It does something to your soul. Also makes your house and you feel much lighter somehow (o:
     
    Good article. I so enjoy reading what you have to say.
     
    Toni
     
     

  • RyanHealy

    I’ve gone through multiple purges through the years. One book I liked (with the exception of her astrological stuff in the back of the book) was Cleaning and the Meaning of Life by Paula Jhung.
     
    Last time we moved, we got rid of so much that we were able to pack our entire house into a single moving truck. Since then we’ve accumulated more — hard not to with young kids. I find it’s the toys and bicycles and kids crafts that get out of control.
     
    Getting rid of stuff periodically throughout the year is essential, I think. It feels so good “travel light.”