Thoughts on productivity,
communication and tech.

The less stuff, the better

May 28, 2012  

“Things you own end up owning you.”

Those words were said by Tyler Durden, the famous character that Brad Pitt played in the movie Fight Club.

I think that there’s some truth in that quote. In my experience, a lot of people in industrial societies tend to accumulate far more stuff than they would really need. The excess stuff demands attention, energy and time.

The mountain of stuff really becomes apparent at inconvenient times, such as when one needs to pack up and move to a new home or when one really needs to find a specific useful thing which – of course – is buried under a pile of less than useful stuff.

And this brings us to the problems with having loads of stuff:

  • It becomes harder to move to a new home if you need to pack and carry a lot of stuff.
  • It’s harder to find the stuff that you actually use.
  • Things require space. The more things you have, the more space you need.
  • Things get dusty. More stuff, more to clean.
  • It’s hard to keep track of everything one owns.

On the other hand, getting rid of unnecessary stuff can lead to several benefits, including:

  • It’s easier to move to a new home.
  • It’s easier to find stuff.
  • Less space is required.
  • Less things mean less things to clean.
  • It’s easier to keep track of everything one owns.
  • It frees up time – the less time one needs to spend managing unnecessary stuff,
    the more time can be spent on more productive tasks.
  • In addition to the above benefits, I personally think that getting rid of stuff contributes to peace of mind.

One reason that people keep a lot of stuff is the idea that the excess stuff will become useful one day. Because of that, it can be hard to sell, give away or throw away stuff.

But it is far from certain that excess stuff will ever become useful enough to warrant keeping. For example, if something hasn’t been used for two years, chances are that it won’t be used during the coming two years either.

The question of what to keep and what to get rid of is personal. Different individuals have different needs and the law may even require one to keep certain stuff. Therefore, I’m not going to give any specific guidelines regarding what one should or should not keep. I think that one needs to think this through properly and it may even be a good idea to ask professionals in some situations.