Gettting Rid of Things, Minimizing and Downsizing My Life

Having too much stuff is overrated and feels like a burden to me at this point in my life. A good example of this is my three computers. At home I have two main desktops, but one of these is turned on for only a few days each month when I download stuff, my main desktop is on for a few hours a week when I do my budgeting, write in my journal and do general backups. On a day-to-day basis I use a little laptop for reading, listening to music and surfing the internet. I know I don’t need this many computers, and it makes it difficult to keep up with things. My main desktop has two internal hard drives and two externals, for a sum total of 6 hard drives between them all, and stuff can sometimes be scattered far and wide.

I think we acquire stuff because it seems like a good deal at the time. Thrift store finds are a great example. I have six bookcases full of books, and 99% of them were purchased used. I’d find a book that I knew was $25 online for $1 at a thrift store and feel overjoyed. It sounds like a goo deal, but only is if I really intended on reading it to begin with! You put it on a shelf and tell yourself, “I’ll get to it.” But do I need a copy of “The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson” when they’re free online, and I rarely read them to begin with?

Having too much stuff makes moving a lot harder. It’s a burden the same way that a ball and chain is. Stuff starts to own you. If you’ve got too much stuff you know you can’t do things, so you don’t even consider certain options.

Then there’s the dilemma of, “but I paid good money for this, I can’t just get rid of it!” If the money argument doesn’t convince, a final plea might be, “I MIGHT use this bike attachment someday, even if I only ride a bike maybe ten times a year!” “Sure, this book has sat on my shelf unread for five years, but who knows?” Once you’ve acquired something, paid for it, now it’s hard to get rid of it. It’s there, staring you in the face, it becomes familiar, it’s something you have to think about.

Let’s take this in another direction, away from physical things. I’m what I call a “digital hoarder.” I’ve got around 5,000 old films, primarily recorded off TCM to DVD. I’ve got somewhere around 60,000 comic books and pulp magazines in electronic format that take up about 270 DVDs. I’ve got over 100,000 old radio dramas which fit on around 250 DVDs. Of course, these will all fit on a few thousand DVDs (often more than one film per disc) so they’re not taking up a lot of physical space, but here it’s not about the physical space. The problem is trying to keep up with and organize it all. You can start to get “information vertigo,” there’s just so much there it’s overwhelming.

I’ve always heard how liberating it is to un-clutter your life, but there comes to question: what to get rid of and what to keep? For example, even though I don’t play my classical guitar much anymore, I don’t think I could ever part with it willingly. Too many memories there. I have a large collection of folklore books that I want to keep, some of which I’ve had since I was a child. Some things are just hard to let go, they feel like such a part of your life that you would almost be losing a part of yourself by getting rid of them.

On the other hand our digital age makes getting rid of things easier. I’ve got too many CD’s, they’re all ripped to lossless format and backed up so I can listen to them on the computer. I could get rid of many of those without much thought. The same goes for a lot of books I’ve got in eBook format now.

Luckily I have far-less stuff than most American’s do, and I came to this realization about the “costs” of stuff early. I’m good about clothing, I have only a few pieces of clothing that don’t get worn at least once a year and I have only two pairs of shoes, one for every day, one for “dressing up.” I don’t own a home, so I don’t have a ton of furniture. I think it’s a process, try to pare something off on a day-to-day basis.

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