10 Unexpected Costs of Owning Things

af_header_005I am sitting on my couch in the middle of my dining room writing this, nursing a very sore body. This weekend we gave away and sold everything we own. Our king sized bed, 30 boxes of books, the guitar I meant to learn how to play but never did, even our Panini grill and espresso machine (and so much more). I thought it would be hard to lose the things my husband and I collected in the past eight years, but you know what? It was actually very freeing. The act of physically moving these things out onto the sidewalk, setting prices and then watching as strangers walked away with even the most personal of our possessions, was a strange kind of relief. Even as I reflect back now on what I might miss, I’ve come to realize just what I’ve gained by letting go. Here are 10 Unexpected Costs of Owning Things:

1. The things you own have a cost of ownership. Even if you don’t use it, you’re paying for it. Over the years we’ve lived in bigger and bigger places. When we first met, I was renting a single room in a house. Everything I owned fit in the 15X20 space. Our first apartment was 2 bedrooms and 700 sq feet. When a few years we graduated to a 1300 sq ft house with 3 bedrooms. Soon it was the 2000 sq ft home that we had to buy more furniture to fill up. It seems insane now, to pay for larger and larger living spaces just to store our stuff- but that’s what we did. Over the years, we could have saved thousands on housing and utilities, just by downsizing our lives.

2. You are carrying around the emotional weight of the things you don’t use. I always wanted to play the guitar. Six years ago, my husband bought me one for my birthday. I learned “Leaving on a Jet Plane” and “Eight Days a Week”, got some blisters and promptly gave up. But the guitar stayed with us, and periodically I would feel bad about not playing. Now my guitar has found a home with a drummer who had been looking for a cheap ax for months. And now I can finally admit it: I am not interested in learning the guitar; I don’t want to spend my time focusing on that particular skill. It’s ok; there are lots of other things I am interested in. And now I can just let that aspiration go.

3. You don’t learn your lessons on overspending, because you never face reality. You stuff the pair of shoes you never wore into a closet somewhere and forget about it. While I was pulling storage containers out, I was amazed at how many things I owned but hadn’t used. I think I had 4 different unopened blushes (makeup). I kept putting them away under the bathroom sink and forgetting about it. But I wasn’t learning my lesson. I wasn’t connecting the fact that I bought something I didn’t need, so I wasn’t getting the message to change my habits.

4. You let yourself buy status symbols—whether an exhaustive book collection, to show off how smart you are, or artwork from around the world to prove you have traveled, you let yourself belief these tangible proofs are more important than the fact that you have read a lot or you have traveled a lot. This will shift your priorities slightly, as the acquisition of these items becomes a priority in itself. What if you didn’t outwardly give the world clues about who you are?

5. You use objects as comfort. I admit it, I’m a secret nester. I like building a cozy home, and filling it with things that make me feel happy. It’s interesting though, because even though we’ve had a guest bedroom for the last 3 years, we rarely have guests overnight. I think it just makes me feel good to have it, to walk past that room and smile at the coordinated duvet and pillow shams. But the truth is, you don’t need those things to be happy. It’s a wicked habit, and I can’t help but think I’ve been influenced by a lifetime of Pottery Barn magazines.

6. You are weighed down. If you can’t carry it, you can’t travel with it. The whole point of selling this stuff is so we can move abroad and travel as we please. As we were buying it though, we weren’t thinking, “Lets buy this, so we can be even more chained to our possessions. Maybe we should get two, that way we can be landlocked even if one breaks!”

7. The more stuff you have the more blind you become to it. There were so many books, DVDs drawers full of stuff that I hadn’t remembered seeing for years. And yet there they were, in plain sight for years, just obscured by the details of so many other things. We didn’t appreciate what we had, because there was just too much of it!

8. If you are overspending, you will never see that money again. When you sell off your stuff, expect the going rate to be 25% or less of what you spent for it. We have spent thousands over the years and the whole lot when for a couple hundred bucks.  Ouch.

9. Each object has a path before you bought it. We don’t often think about where things come from, but everything that you buy has been manufactured somewhere. When you think about the never used guitar that was made in China, by someone making pennies a day, shipped overseas, using lots of gasoline, driven across the country to a store near you, just so it could sit in your closet. At some point it must occur to us that we’re not just wasting our money, but the planet’s resources as well.

10. You like the idea of owning something more than the reality. For years I held onto all my books, because I really liked owning them. But two things happened this weekend. First, I realized I hadn’t opened many of them after the first time I read them. Second, I was passing on my favorite books to other people, who were excited to read them. Instead of keeping a great book for my collection, I will now always pass it on.

What are you some ways the things you own, own you?

126 Comments

  1. Anthony Connor

    I sold my ancient Legos from an era long gone in my life. Sucked, but it got me $68! Now to tackle that trombone and Star Wars collection…

    I’ve gotten rid of clothing that would just take up space. I would never wear that shirt or pair of jeans. So begone with them! Getting use to wearing the same stuff, ’cause overseas lugging a load of crap I never wear here but THINK I may need over there, uh, isn’t going to happen.

    Indeed, the more you have the more you want. So don’t be like Lot’s wife and look back at what you’ve left behind. Forget that crap! It is all vanity. Need a trombone?

    Anthony Connors last blog post..Calling Rio and the Enigma of Paulo

  2. What a great post! I just found this site and am trying to catch up on the backstory and other great nuggets of wisdom.

    My boyfriend and I are planning to leave in September for our RTW trip, and I’m having a hard time convincing him to let go of (at least some of) his stuff. Unlike me, he’s never traveled for an extended period of time, so I think he’s just gonna need to get out there and see that we really don’t need as much junk as this consumer culture convinces us every day. But that first step’s a doozy!

    BTW, a great site that takes a deeper look at your issue #9 above is The Story of Stuff: http://www.storyofstuff.com. It’s done in a lighthearted way but really makes ya think!

  3. I wish we had done like you did!! We are taking off soon (6 days – YIKES!) to ride our bikes from Alaska to ARgentina and expect to be on the road at least 2 1/2 years. I wanted to get rid of EVERYTHING!! However, we have a barn behind our house where we can easily store our stuff while we rent out the house, and my husband wanted to keep anything we might, possibly use in the future – rather than buying it again once we get back. While I admit there is a bit of wisdom in that decision, it would be kind of nice to pare way, way back and simply live without a bunch of stuff once we get back.

    http://www.familyonbikes.org

  4. “Things you own end up owning you” – Tyler Durden

    The shiny new car that you park WAAAYYY in the back of the parking lot so it doesn’t get scratched.

    The home that you mortgage – that you become a slave to. You put up with being demeaned at work so you don’t lose your stuff.

    You’re not your khakis!

    Great article BTW!

  5. Christine

    Anthony: No doubt! My husband nearly wrestled a man to the ground when he offered $15 for his comic book collection. And the trombone? Ebay is your friend.

    Sonia: If you’re doing a RTW trip soon, he’ll learn quickly enough how much extra stuff will slow him down. Sometimes nothing is better than personal experience. Good luck on your trip!

    Familyonbikes: I’m so excited for your trip. I can’t wait to read about it. And truth be told, if you have a barn to store stuff and you can rent out your house, then there’s nothing wrong with storing stuff. The key is not to buy it in the first place!

  6. Christine

    Will: You got the reference, yay! I was beginning to lose hope 🙂

    I actually sold my DVD copy of Fight Club on Saturday, in fact the entire day felt Tyler Durden-esque, as I convinced people to take my crap and give me money.

    I have to admit that the idea of actually blowing up my apartment is somewhat appealing.

  7. I have a comic book collection that will be worth me until its worthe something or a die….i think the latter will happen first.

  8. Christine

    Matt: Then you won’t be too happy to know that I chimed in and said, “We’ll take it!”

  9. Found your site through Reddit. The funny thing is that I am at the same stage as you are, except that it took me ten more years (kids will do that to you). I still have 3-4 years of purgatory before they are done with school but, in the meantime, we are getting rid of our useless stuff and looking at alternative carreers (The Canadian Space Agency is looking for new astronauts, both my wife and I applied).

    Fortunately I was able to travel a lot which is why I am pretty sure that your banner was taken on Waimea Bay.

    Andres last blog post..Zwinger Museum (2)

  10. Christine

    Pizi: Comments are working….

    Your comment got stuck in my filter because it got marked as spam. I released it, so now it’s posted.

  11. I’m glad so many people are wising up to the fact that materialism isn’t good for anyone… keep up the good work, I love your blog!

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  13. I second the new awareness on materialism. It’s still not anywhere near the level it needs to be. Maybe if the economic downturn is bad enough it will leave a lasting mark. I’m always tempted to sell of the last bit of stuff I have, pack up my Jeep and just go.

    The one type of item I won’t be getting more of is furniture. I’m going all bean bags.

    Chads last blog post..Rules of Thumb are Useless and Dangerous to Your Financial Future

  14. Christine

    Andre: Great site, amazing pics.

    The header was actually taken at Crater Lake Oregon, which I’m told is incredibly cold, and that guy leaping into the water is pretty brave considering the frigid waters he’s about to plunge into. It wasn’t taken by me, but this guy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/powderruns/

  15. Christine

    Han: Thanks! I wouldn’t call myself entirely unmaterialistic, but I’m getting there…

    Chad: Bean Bags! Excellent. I’ll have to consider that…

  16. Well I only have about 50 books. I could get rid of half of them I guess, but there are some books that you just like reading over and over again, and had an important effect in your life, so you want to keep them.
    Besides that, I also collect some old computers, which again are a hobby of mine, so I guess it would be hard to get rid of that They were worthless when I got them, and they’re worthless now, so it’s not a matter of money wasted there.
    Having said all that, I’m already living in a foreign country (I have been here almost three years, so it might soon be time to move).

  17. Wow, this article is perfect for me right now. My husband and I are cleaning out our house, one room at a time. I got rid of so much in my closet that I’m down to just a couple pair of jeans (with one for doing work around the house), a few blouses, a few tops and a couple suits and dresses. It feels so good to be rid of all of the junk I wasn’t wearing. This weekend we did the office, and boy did it feel good to throw out, give-away and re-organize.

    I will be reading the archives of this blog to catch up. Love to travel and get rid of stuff. 🙂

    Thanks for such a great post!

    Loris last blog post..Losing A Passport… And Getting It Back (Replaced)!

  18. Getting rid of STUFF is up there on the scale of great things to do just below finding a huge tax break that gets you a big refund. We went to India for a year. Got rid of stuff before we left so we could rent out the apartment. Got back from India. Half our luggage never got through customs. Our apartment renter threw out all our old furniture and stuff. We had to start all over again. Re-furnished the apartment for a couple hundred dollars by buying on the net. Any time I wanna read a book I download it (if it’s a classic, free from gutenberg.org). It’s been almost a year since we got back and about the only thing we buy is food. We’re not doing our share to support the consumer economy, but we’re happy!!!!!

    newyorkdude
    newyorkdudeinindia.blogspot.com

  19. Christine- very well thought out and written post! You inspire us! Our family of five is currently undergoing a huge downsize as well, not to travel (yet!) but to just live more simply and cheaply. It’s freeing, healing, and bonding for us!

    Hope your soon-to-be travels are wonderful and rewarding.

  20. Rachel Stern

    My husband and I have been married 8 years (second marriage) and we each brought “stuff” to the marriage. We have five girls between us but now, we have a mostly empty nest. For past 8 years we have spent every summer going up to the mountains every weekend. This year, we are staying home and working around the house. We cleaned out our basement, attic, and garage — and now they are EMPTY. We are planning to paint and finish off the basement.

    I love owning things. I am def not ready to get rid of as much as you have — but I can see myself downsizing a bit.

  21. Christine

    Amber– Thank you! And your post is lovely. I look forward to seeing more from you…

    Sarah– Thanks so much! Nice Jeweler site you have!

    Rachel– Good for you. And unless you’re going to be living out of a suitcase, I don’t think everyone needs to downsize like we have. But I will tell you it feels great!

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  24. One of the best tips I’ve ever read years ago was to take pictures of gifts or sentimental objects. The idea is to keep the photo as a memento rather than keeping the object itself that you don’t use or don’t have room for. The tip was in a book that pre-dated digital cameras, but now we don’t even have to store a physical photograph anymore.. it can be kept on a disk.

    I wish I knew what book it was from. Ironically, my mom gave it away.

  25. # 7 really struck a cord with me:

    7. The more stuff you have the more blind you become to it. There were so many books, DVDs drawers full of stuff that I hadn’t remembered seeing for years. And yet there they were, in plain sight for years, just obscured by the details of so many other things. We didn’t appreciate what we had, because there was just too much of it!

    I recently moved from Toronto, Canada to London, England. I must admit that moving overseas is a great way to determine what you have that you don’t really need. All those books I’ve read once and will never read again, DVDs that I once watched half-heartedly and then threw in the corner, clothes that I wore once but didn’t throw out just in case. Nothing like the cost of overseas shipping to figure out what is worth keeping.

    What really shocked me, though, was the cost of getting rid of things. I knew that buying couches, dressers, beds, TVs, etc. had a cost when purchased. I never knew they had a cost to get rid of. Most of my furniture was 10 year old IKEA stuff, which had $0 value in the open market. The best one could hope for (even with Craigslist) was that someone could pick it up for free. What I couldn’t give away for free, I had to pay some guys $400 to come and cart away!

    Remember that – it doesn’t just cost to buy stuff, now it costs to throw it away too.

    Greg

    Greg Wessons last blog post..The Long and Winding Road to an Elementary Address

  26. We’re a couple of years further on than you – we’ve been living out of backpacks since March 2006. We lived out of a car all of February that year after we sold everything. Well, I have to admit it wasn’t everything. We have one box of good wine aging at my father-in-laws and about 30 boxes of books. We couldn’t bring ourselves to part with them, but the storage is free.

    Now I think back, I probably would have got rid of most of them. Not the wine, though. Sell the lot, people: leave nothing behind.

    I’m going to mention this post on today’s Indie Travel Podcast…just going to record now.

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  28. 1. The things you own have a cost of ownership.
    – the traveling experiences, that you will not loose ever.

  29. I enjoyed this post because I am going through a major downsizing. I live in a 2-bedroom apt in Las Vegas, a city I moved to in order to earn my PhD. My place is expensive, but it’s Vegas, baby! I wanted an impressive place with a lit pool and a guest room for my friends and family. But after awhile, as I lived paycheck-to-paycheck, I had to admit that I had way too few guests to justify paying for – and filling- a two-bedroom apartment. The price of air conditioning, car insurance, and the stress of living for the next paycheck were making it hard to actually live.

    I decided to give it all up and simplify my life by moving my 43-year-old self into a condo owned by two friends in the town next door. I have sold my major furniture and “Freecycled” (freecycle.com) the rest. By exchanging 1200 sq. feet for an 11×11 room I am saving over $400 a month and breathing a lot more easily. I have vowed to live more simply and to use my money for things that matter more: savings, charity, and life experiences that actually have meaning- not material things. I am quite happy with owning only a car (necessary for my job and school in this region) and the few things that can fit into my room. I feel unburdened and free now!

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  31. Jonothan

    It’s very useful.

    You’ve done a good job

    Many thanks

    ——————————————
    moving overseas

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  33. I live in a 20×20 studio apartment (size includes kitchen and bathroom). I own very little and it’s a great thing knowing that I could pick up and leave whenever I want with very little holding me back. Heck, if the apartment burned down I wouldn’t really have much to worry about either.

    Well – all except for the cat. The cat owns me.

  34. Ibod Catooga

    I sold my cat to a cat collector and I sold my doobage to a doobage collector.

  35. I’ve always fancied the idea that I’m not tied to my material possessions and yet I sit here, knowing full well that I’m so wrong it’s unbelievable. I’ve got a couple of shelves of geeky/computer books that I don’t need now that I’ve read them, CDs I rarely listen to, a couple of pair of sandals I bought for that “perfect summer” (I’m British, there’s no such thing) and piles of assorted crap stuffed in cupboards and drawers.

    I have no idea how to even start getting rid of it all.

    Jems last blog post..Age Is a Bullshit Excuse

  36. Mike Oxley

    Should start a list of the essentials e.g. chair, tv, phone, etc… and then everything else should go on the rent-as-required list e.g. snowboard, suitcase, books

    Maybe start a “sharers” club. $20 a year each plus you get to chuck all your possessions in. The more you put in the more points you get. Points get you loan of whatevers in the pot e.g. snowboard, technic 1210s, wedding suit. You can buy/break stuff out of the pot at a value set by the person who chucked it in the pot. They get 50% if that happens.

    Start it in the bay area, craigslist v2 but with the nightmare of inventory.

  37. We all cannot support well stocked personal museums of artifacts……

  38. “When you sell off your stuff, expect the going rate to be 25% or less of what you spent for it.”

    Unless you bought used things to begin with. I’m the 3rd owner of my car, and the 3rd owner of my couch. Even if I never sell it, I’ll never lose much money on a $200 sofa. Throw a blanket over it and nobody knows it’s not brand new.

    Buying new is the biggest sham in this country. If “new car smell” was an option (cost: $10,000), nobody would get it.

  39. well it is said wise you should possess things but not let the things possess you. owning stuff is cool, but letting it take a good chunk of piece of you is not cool at all.

    likewise, one should let things go and not get attached to any particular stuff.

    Rahuls last blog post..First Vice President of Nepal… Step Down

  40. Interesting post. I’ve gone through a similar process some time ago and sold most of my stuff or gave it away to friends or family. The inital idea came from Paul Graham’s essay about “Stuff” http://paulgraham.com/stuff.html.

    There’s also the “100 THING CHALLENGE” here (http://bit.ly/1HU56T), which is also very interesting.

  41. Cristobal

    Christine,

    Thanks for the site.

    Allison,

    I have also traded a 2-BR place in L.V. for a tiny room-‘n’-bath in Henderson. The $400/month I save are going into my 401(k) account. Jeez, if I could get at that dough, it might just go like water. No room for junk, of course.

  42. everytime i go to buy a dvd or peice of crappy jewelery for example i imagine my overseas saving fund and it being less 20 dollars, and it stops me from buying things i dont really need.

  43. Beautiful post.

    I don’t feel owned by my things, because I don’t feel I own them.

    I don’t think of myself as owning or possessing anything (how can we OWN something, anyway?), but as being blessed with the opportunity to care for it for a while.

    It makes me comfortable with being surrounded by less, because caring for a piece of furniture or a pair of shoes or a jacket takes more attention and kindness than ‘ownership’ would. And it makes me think more carefully about whether I have room in my life (not in my house, but in my psychological space for caring and attention) for anything ‘new.’

    At some point each item, each object, will pass out of my life and go elsewhere, and I want to make sure that the memories and energy it carries are good for the person who’ll have it next. It may be a bit of an old-fashioned perspective, but it’s one I’ve come to appreciate.

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  48. I totally agree with Christine. The points she says are so true. It is sad to say, but this fits me exactly. I have way too much stuff and I have recently found that out. I look through my draws and they are bulging. I find old papers, brochures, and other random things from years ago. My bathroom closet has bottles of extra shampoo and body wash that I won’t ever use. I have make-up that I never throw out because I say “I may use it”, but in reality it just sits in my draw for more months, while I use the same few products. I buy new stuff when I haven’t finished the old things. I buy way to much and things I do not really need. I do overspend, and if I am more careful I can save a lot more money. Her statement on “It seems insane now, to pay for larger and larger living spaces just to store our stuff- but that’s what we did,” reminds me so much of my family. My parents and I moved because our house was too big for us. There were a few rooms that we never even went in, they were just there for show and company, it was ridiculous, and so we moved. Reading this article inspires me to clean out all my junk, because really if it’s stored away in draws or on top of closets, it really is junk. What is important to us is usually kept in easy to reach places or brought around with us frequently. The rest we don’t really need. I think she is really amazing for packing up and traveling the world. I love traveling and I would love to do what she did; one day if I get rid of my things maybe I can!

  49. I think people hide behind things: its easier to concentrate on the external than the internet. I know that I accummulate junk if I don’t move house or country on a regular basis: its crazy the stuff you accumulate without even trying!

    lissies last blog post..Emigrating to Australia

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  51. Hi Christine! I love this post. I will admit-I like my stuff. But I have been seriously downsizing everything I own over the last year, and when I take a critical look at it all I only would keep about 5-10% of it if I were to move.

  52. I have to admit–you’ve tapped into my greatest fear. I’ve never really thought of myself as terribly materialistic. Everything I own fits into a tiny shoebox of a bachelor in downtown Toronto. But the books. I own lots of books. And you’re right–the books that I truly love the most, I tend to give away. I only keep the ones that I plan on reading, or have read once and don’t intend on reading them again. This horrifies me; I’ve always loved having so many books, but as I start to plan my own travels, I realize that these books don’t really mean all that much to me because they ARE the ones that I wouldn’t take with me anyway.

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  54. Karen Mondragon

    So enjoyed reading this and boy was getting the heart stabs while doing so. I keep cleaning out stuff and sending it to the trift stores but there’s always more. It’s a never-ending battle of the bulge, so to speak. I haven’t grown to the point of actually getting rid of everything! I think I’d need a great deal of counseling first! Thank you so much for this soul searching piece. It is giving me renewed enthusiasm for diving into my “junk” again, and what better time than Spring to clean house!

  55. Another unexpected cost (as it were) is that everything needs cleaning which takes your time and effort. After all an unread book simply gathers dust – I agree that passing it onto another reader is a much better solution!

  56. What a great post Christine! I totally agree with you that owning more things has become a burden more than an improvement in the quality of life. There are many things that I rarely used (I have a dust collecting guitar too 🙂 and I do not know what to do with these white elephants. I have thoughts of donating them away but just did not have the motivation to do it. It is important that I deal with it so that I can move on in life with lesser baggage. Thanks once again.

    Alvin´s last blog post..The best time to buy a house

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  58. Finally, the world is catching up to a critical thinker who tried to get his point across via comedy many, many years ago. This dovetails very nicely with George Carlin’s monologue on ‘Stuff’

    • Brilliant! Like you’ve taken the words right out of my mouth. This lifestyle we lead as Americans is wonderfully luxurious and fortunate, but wildly consuming and on-going. Let go! And live. Thank you for sharing your insight. I am currently where you were when you wrote this, at the beginning of letting go. Thank you for sharing!

      (Please note my website is BRAND NEW and I don’t know what I am doing so it is a long work in progress, but I know I will get there!)

  59. We sold our stuff on ebay, very time consuming but we got a lot more for our money than selling stuff on yardsale. Great post!

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  61. My husband & I did give away most of our stuff to go sailing in 2000. We kept a the smallest rented storage unit available- the lesson learned don’t pay to store stuff – it’s double the cost. And I didn’t really like the stuff that much anyways. But I do know the pleasure of being free of stuff. Now we are done sailing for awhile due to illness and living in a house. I need to remember that stuff owns me. I take pleasure in knowing everything I see from where I am sitting typing on this computer was bought from craigslist or garage sales. (except for the rugs…I have cats and so I can’t trust used rugs not to be previously “used”).

    I am so torn about buying stuff because I want to cut loose and travel again. Although I am not sure it is the traveling I want or the running away part. Geographic cures always seem right to me when the going gets tough. My illness prevents me from doing the geographic as I really do need the stability of one place at least for a few more years.

    I will live vicariously through the travelers I meet online and I will focus on living a minimal life.

  62. Florence Paterakis

    Over the past few years I have had a real thing against “stuff”.
    I watch my friends get married and continue moving farther and farther away so they can afford bigger and bigger places to house all their “stuff”. What’s the point?

  63. On June 29th, our house burned. I felt free and my husband felt bewildered. As the restoration and salvage team went through the house seeing what could be saved, I realized none of it mattered to me it was just stuff. The house and debt of the house were weighing us down – now is our opportunity to be free. I work from home and my husband could work from home. Now I am weighing our options – insurance will pay to replace our items at replacement value, they will pay to rebuild our house (a total gut job down to the bricks) – what if we used that money to pay off the house and land, bulldoze the house, sell the land, and become free? I realized this morning that I did not have a long list of chores to do – no huge house to clean or projects that needed to be done. We are living in a rented RV at the moment and it takes 5 minutes to clean.

    Any advice on the next step? I am not sure that my husband can comprehend how different our lives could be. We are 49 and 52 and have no children except for a black lab and 2 cats.

  64. I spent a lifetime of accumulating ‘stuff’. Sure, nice stuff, but ‘stuff’ nevertheless. Over 30 years of collecting antiques, same with books. I had a garage full of ‘stuff’ that didn’t fit inside the home. I had more ‘stuff’ than I could ever hope to use. I went to Costa Rica for what I thought was going to be a short time. While there, I decided to move there. I came back to Canada for 3 weeks, had a huge 3- week garage sale, sold my beautiful home, all my antique furniture, all my ‘stuff’, and moved to Costa Rica with 2 bags and two small tote boxes. (one with my most favourite dozen books out of 700) It was indeed a freeing experience.

    I’ve been here now for almost 3 years, and have only bought a few, basic needs. .. a simple washing machine, a bookcase, a toaster oven. . that’s about it. I used to own 7 mixing bowls, now I own 2 (will double as a salad bowl), no more microwave, no more TV, no more car, no more three ladders, 2 wheelbarrows, 2 lawnmowers (1 gas, 1 hand), no more 3 couches, 3 armchairs, ….no more tons of pretty antique dishes that, while I did use them, still, how many plates, bowls, and platters does one really need?

    True, I live in a semi-furnished house now, which came with a couch and 2 chairs, oven, stove, a handful of plates and cutlery, and 2 simple beds – that’s it…. which means I don’t need to buy those items. Do I regret leaving my old life style, and living more simply now? Do I regret all those high expenses, and living in the rat race? Nope. Never. It’s great, it’s liberating, and it makes way more sense. I pay $200/month rent for a lovely house with garden, and my total living expenses now are around $8-10,000/year. That includes rent, electricity, water, internet, food, entertainment, restaurants, and a trip or two per year. I encourage all who read these posts to re-evaluate what’s really important to them in life. Life is short, and gets shorter with every passing day. 🙂

    Mags

    • Thanks for the post. It was an awesome thing that you did. I commend you for breaking free from the madness.

  65. correction: that should read fridge, stove… not oven, stove.

  66. I moved to CA 25 years ago from the Manhattan suburbs. My three kids and I lived on the first floor of a beautiful old house. We had a huge garage sale. We sold or gave away everything except the piano,a guitar, a couple of antique chests,some clothes, and a few things we all thought we couldn’t live without. For years, whenever I cooked, I couldn’t find the pot, or the dish to present it in.The most painful were the books. They told the story of my emerging spiritual life and the story of my children growing up.

    A new life provides new interests, new friends, new paths. Often the old no longer fit. New things usurped the place of the old.

    Now it is time once again to move on. I am waiting until I hear the call, clearly.

  67. I am actually just picking up on this – my family moved recently, and actually putting my stuff in boxes was shocking – there was so much stuff that I never wanted in the first place. Since then, I’ve been slowly getting rid of the outright trash. I used to have a full closet, a wardrobe (Not holding just clothes, but still), and storage in my desk. In my new room I have no closet, but there’s only one moving box of stuff that doesn’t fit in two of the above three.

    I’m doing much better already, especially with a pretty packrat-ish fmaily.

  68. I sold my car after months…errr years of talking about it. It became a running joke- whenever I said I was going to do something, someone would always reply “oh sure, like how you’re going to sell your car?” I finally did it! I live in the city, and was spending more money on parking tickets than gas. I was worried that being without my car would be limiting and so far I haven’t even missed it.

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  70. Thank you so much for sharing! Sounds like this has been a very powerful undertaking. You are very brave.

    Happy travels,

    Mike
    .-= mike´s last blog ..Amazonas =-.

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  72. Too many possession weigh us down, both physically and mentally. Sure it is good have nice clothes, DVD’s, car, etc nothing wrong with that in my mind. However it is a good idea to have a wee clear out from time to time.
    .-= William Wallace´s last blog ..Cool London Picture =-.

  73. Our oversized house is bursting with not-worthless objects collected by three or four generations of middle-class Americans. That’s because our house can fit the stuff, so it comes here when they die. Now we have too, too much STUFF. Furniture, framed prints, books, toys, appliances, gimcracks, doodads, and partially disassembled gizmos. Sometimes I think of having a fire sale — with a match and can of gasoline. But once I listed my grandfather-in-laws old woodworking tools for sale on Craigslist, I started to feel better. No one’s called yet, but it’s a start.

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  75. Great advice — “If you are overspending, you will never see that money again.” Like my dad said: “It’s much easier to save twenty buck than it is to make twenty bucks”. As always, enjoyed your perspective, Christine.
    .-= Daniel´s last blog ..Best of Two Go RTW: November 2009 =-.

  76. I tend to de-clutter fairly often, and I’ve recently adopted the principle of not buying anything I don’t absolutely love.

    But the spare bedroom…? I need my spare bedroom. We sometimes have enough friends to stay that we fill both spare bedrooms, the sofa, and the floor! 🙂
    .-= Rachel Cotterill´s last blog ..Language In Fantasy =-.

  77. I’m in the middle of getting rid of all my stuff right now (preparing to travel the world for a year) and I can’t believe how much junk I’d acquired over time. So far it’s been a bit of an emotional roller coaster, both extremely freeing and a touch sad at times to see the stuff go.

    I took photos and scanned a few sentimental items, digital reminders are way better than storing clutter. The sense of relief when it’s all out the door I’m sure will win out over any regrets. If I ever settle in one spot again I’m making sure I remember the true cost of stuff. 🙂
    .-= Catia´s last blog ..CN Tower, Toronto, Canada – Photo Gallery =-.

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  79. Wow, I just wrote a guest post for Timeless Information (.com) and talked about balancing the art of materialism. I do not collect junk but I love my belongings. I admit there are things that I do not actively *use* but I keep them for memento purposes. I do sell a lot of things that I don’t use or donate a lot of older clothes and furnishings, but at the same time, the luxury lifestyle brings me comfort and joy and I can’t imagine parting with it….although I don’t mind buying new things all over again if I sold these! So I guess my point is this – if I have balance, and know exactly where I have put everything I ever bought (I am insanely organized), then I wonder if it’s ok to nurse this attachment and enjoy the joy it brings me! A very thought-provoking post.

  80. I love this site. I found it while looking for writing ideas on what to do after quitting a job. Now I’m hooked. With my article on the back burner I am working to catching up on past entries. But this one hit me and I thought I’d comment.

    From the time I was a kid I was referred to as a pack rat. Clothes books, trinkets, old candy box tops because it had a cute flower ( which is often removable) attached stuffed animals. When I grew up parts of that “trait” came with me. I couldn’t toss out Anything, my husband and I had to buy storage bins to store paper I could not part with. Needless to say my husband was getting frustrated with me.

    Several times I had began the process of “getting rid” of stuff I didn’t use , want, or need anymore, but before long that ended and I just added more stuff.

    Finally I no longer had to be wishy-washy anymore, we had a house fire and those things were destroyed. I didn’t have to worry about “getting rid” of my stuff anymore they were lost forever. As I sat in the hotel room that night it occurred to me, the only real important thing
    that matters was what I had right here *points to noggin* in my memory. I could re -write my stories, I could buy new things, but I could never replace what i valued the most to me- my husband. So that night as I slept I thanked God because he did what I was unable to do get rid of “stuff” that really doesn’t matter in the first place.

  81. natural acne guy

    love #10

    i have wanted a nintendo wii for aaages. a friend let us borrow one for a month and after 2 weeks we never played it.

    Good way to save $400 😉

  82. Probably my biggest regret in life is that I had a dream of going to Australia and I found an improbably way to be there for 6 months BUT I had a great apartment full of great stuff and then there was my car and I just couldn’t think of getting rid of all this – I would never get this all back.

    A few years later I realized I was owned by all that stuff and moved to a 10×8 bedroom in NYC, keeping only my bed, a dresser and 2 small chests of drawers. I couldn’t even sell most of the stuff and spent huge chunks of time taking things to the Salvation Army and eventually dragging what was left to the curb.

    Last year I found myself owning most of the stuff in my 2 bedroom NYC apt but when I had the chance to move to Paris I didn’t hesitate: if it didn’t fit in my 3 duffels and 2 backpacks I got rid of it. Now I’m trying to downsize from the 3 duffels too.

    I cannot understand people who pay to store their stuff. If you’re not using it get rid of it. The more stuff you have the less freedom you have for your mind, body and soul.

    I strongly recommend everyone watch “The Story of Stuff” at http://www.storyofstuff.com/

    And everyone simply must watch George Carlin’s monologue on stuff!

  83. Correction: “improbable” instead of “improbably.”

    And that’s 10 feet by 8 feet, not meters 🙂

  84. Hey, I just found this blog! My husband and I did the same thing, selling everything to travel the world. It was so rewarding, but I can completely relate to all your are saying about our worldly possessions that we try to hold onto. I am also a Pacific Northwesterner. We should chat some time about travels and writing. My travel site is http://www.spankyandsarah.com. Cheers!

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  86. The “idea of owning thing” is a great point. How many times do you stress about whether or not to buy something……buy it, and then never think of the expense again…..or use it? 🙁

  87. Wow, this is so great and so true. I’m currently in the process of preparing for an 11 month world trip and recently I’ve been sorting through all my STUFF to see what I could/should sell and I’ll admit it, I def like the idea of my stuff more than I actually like/use it. Thanks for sharing your wisdom!

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  89. Wow, this is a great post! I’ve been traveling for almost two years now and never really had a “home” outside hostels and hotels for a few nights. Now I’m in Hong Kong, house-sitting for a friend of mine for a few weeks and all of a sudden, I’m spending like crazy! “Living” in a home is costing me more than traveling! I’ve bought groceries to cook at home, cleaning supplies, household items like toilet paper…it all adds up! Even though I don’t technically “own” the apartment I’m house-sitting, even owning it temporarily is adding up BIG time for me.

    AWESOME POST!

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  91. Kerstin Molinas

    hi I was really impressed with the theme you used with this blog. I use blogs my self so good job. definatly adding to favorites.

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  94. I want to clean out my room this summer, I’ve been keeping stuff for years that I don’t want and will never use just because I got the stuff as a gift. Old gifts that I feel guilty getting rid of take up so much space, but I’ll feel good once they’re gone.

    I wrote a similar post in my blog, and one of my methods of making ever day feel like vacation is to de-clutter.

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  98. I agree on everything, but I need to point out something for number 9. (I’m sorry if this has been mentioned before, but I didn’t have time to read through all the comments). It is true that over buying can be harmful to the environment in many ways, but can you imagine how unemployment rates would surge if everyone suddenly started ‘consuming’ less? We saw this happen during the latest financial crisis, now imagine if people made a lifestyle of this. While they would benefit, thousands, if not millions of people would lose their jobs. It’s a sad truth, but it’s the truth. Our society and economy is built on consumerism.

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  101. Yeah – my house just feels like a place to keep all my stuff……while I go out and buy MORE STUFF!

  102. My husband left, so it is just me and my two teenage girls, they will be off to college in a couple years. I looked around and realized I will not want to live alone in this big house with all my “stuff”. I decided to do a search to determine the best solution to sell stuff, and found your site. Also my grandmother passed last year and left all her stuff, it is emotionally difficult to decide what to do with that as well. I decided I will not do that to my children, it is such a burden. I’m sure they will have enough stuff of thier own. Thank You for great insights. I have a great weight off my shoulders. 🙂 [In history a person would be buried with their stuff, surley that is enough to have!]

  103. Frederiek

    Interesting article, some of the statements crossed my mind before. I rent a small place close to work during the weekdays. That’s only temporary so I only have the basics there. When I return to my (owned) apartment over the weekend I’m always amazed about how much stuff I have collected there over the years. Stuff I never miss when I’m out during the week.

  104. Hurray for you! I love it when people become more free. We have been freeing ourselves from stuff for several years now. After our kids left home, I went through the medicine cabinet and removed 79 things that weren’t mine. I thought, if I have this many things I don’t need in just this tiny space, how much more do I have? We made 2009 The Year of 1000 Things. Our goal: to rid the house of 1,000 things. At the end of the year, we had removed 1079 items. It wasn’t even hard.

    We kept what we loved. We kept what we use and we share. Our house is too big – we SHARE it with roommates. I don’t play the guitar anymore so I put it in the living room and visitors pick it up and play (really).
    We actually wrote sharing into our wedding vows. “Our home will be a welcoming place for the community.”

    When you share, your possession don’t own you. You are holding them in trust, for the time being.

  105. Max Schneider

    My dad kept stuffing everything into the basement, it was ridicolous. There was always talk of ‘may be one day’ organizing it.

    One day my brother came by and said “Let’s do it”. So we did it. Most of it was trash (sure you need some spare plastic bags but how many do you really need? I say a drawer full is enough) or broken (trash) or useless (trash). Sure there are some useful items (namely the camping gear) but even there was room for improvement (do you really keep that old leaky tent if you have a much better one? No).

    At first dad was really upset, he really believed he was his stuff. But later he realized that it was a freeing experience and that there is no need to keep clay for 25+ years just because he one day might have grandchildrech that might want to play with it for one afternoon. I mean: Really?

    However my brother didn’t help only because he is such a good guy: A week later he came by to store *his* stuff in the newly available space because he is moving. He promised to take it one day though.

    Empty space has a tendency to be filled – one must really make an effort to defend it.

  106. BakoymaTravels

    Point number 2 hit home for me. Emotional investment you hang on to, it’s so true… Good for you that you found a new home for your guitar! Thanks for sharing!

  107. All of it so true! We got rid of a great deal of our stuff before I moved to England last year and we haven’t missed it!

  108. arteacher

    It’s not ‘stuff” it’s ‘SHIT’. I know that’s crude but that’s what you have to realize is it is all shit. Stuff has value, shit is easily discarded. I’m guilty of it all and I am in the process of freeing myself from being buried physically and psychologically by SHIT.

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