minimalism

I own fewer than 250 things*

This was supposed to be an update on my inventory. But it turned into a weird simultaneous anti- and post- consumer rant. I decided to leave it this way, because it was the first time I thought some of this so far through. But I thought this note was important, because it may seem disjointed.

On March 5th of this year, I took a personal inventory. A literal inventory. I have heard people refer to their “personal inventory” in other rainbows & unicorns, life-coach, spirituality ways before. That isn’t what I did. What I did was count all the stuff I own, and write it down in a spreadsheet. You can see my blog post about it here. About a week later, I got rid of 1/4 of the stuff, and I blogged about that too.

Almost a month has passed since then, and I have gotten rid of even more stuff. I started with about 375 things, and I am now at 249. The first pass, getting rid of 1/4 of my stuff, was easy. I was motivated to do it by having done the inventory, and blogging about it. Plus the idea for writing it all down was sparked by wanting to get rid of some of it to begin with. I had recently upgraded my wardrobe, and lugged all my old clothes to Goodwill. This made me look at all the stuff I was holding onto for no real reason.

Between that post and this one, I got rid of less stuff. But it was much tougher. I got rid of some of my favorite clothes that I just didn’t wear often enough, or was just a little too beaten up. I got rid of some books that I had already read, but were given to me as gifts. I got rid of a bunch of electronics that I used on a daily basis, but didn’t feel good about having or using. I got rid of an almost brand new pair of track pants, because I was wearing them to the gym, but I canceled my membership.

That was tough. I had just paid a decent amount of money for them, and I gave them away. I’m glad I did it, but it was basically money down the drain. The same goes for a fan I bought last year, and some of those electronics I was talking about. I’m glad I did away with all of it, but it made me realize that I need to think longer-term when it comes to the things I buy and bring into my home and my life. I probably got my money’s worth out of most of that stuff. If not, I at least got some of my money’s worth out of it. But if I had thought long-term before buying any of it, I might have been able to avoid spending the money altogether.

That’s what this is really about for me. I want to know that all the time I spend at work is going towards things that will make my life better. I have become aware of a growing sentiment in our culture that things are just things, and we should be able to forgo all of them, because there is nobility in doing without. I suppose that is true to an extent. However, this burgeoning sentiment is a reaction to an even longer-held belief that we should be working ourselves to death to get lots of money to buy lots of things. Which, in turn, is a bastardization of the work ethic that came out of the Great Depression when people did have to work hard for everything they had. But then it got easier to get things, and instead of working less hard, we (as a culture) kept working hard but getting more things. The things keep getting cheaper, in both price and quality, and we keep working harder to get more of these things. It’s silly really, and the backlash seems justifiable. The problem is that the people taking the opposite view aren’t thinking it through either.

I think it’s demeaning to dig through a dumpster, looking for expired food, in order to feed myself. But dumpster diving is something anti-consumers do. I also don’t want to piss my money down the toilet for the next iThingy, when my current iThingy is still in perfect working order; just with one fewer bell, and a whistle that isn’t quite as loud. These are the two extremes, obviously. There must be something to both of them. So why not try to find the glorious middle?

For example, between the original post and now, I spent quite a bit of money on a “safety” razor, brush, shaving soap, and other accessories. It was about 1/2 a day’s pay. But it was absolutely, totally worth it. Shaving went from something I have to do to something I enjoy doing. I won’t go into more specifics now, because it now feels like it could be its own post. But I am glad I spent the money. It also increased the number of Things required from 1 (a razor – I wasn’t even using shaving cream, because I couldn’t tell a difference), to many more than that. But those Things improved the experience; the way I feel about something I have to do. It may sound silly, but it did improve my life.

I want the things I buy to improve my life, at least a little. And I don’t want to buy things that won’t; no matter how much I may want them at the time. And right now, I take much more pleasure in getting rid of things than in getting things. So hopefully I can cut the list down even more.


  • There are exceptions to what I counted and how. See the original post for the “rules.” Those rules have been modified slightly: I am now counting things in the kitchen and bathroom which belong to me.
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