05 January 2012

Stuff Control

One of the things that keeps coming up on my radar lately: recommendations that we simplify our lives by divesting ourselves of stuff. Postconsumers and Leo Babauta tell you how to decide what to toss.  A Guy Named Dave has thrown down the gauntlet with his 100 Thing Challenge.

Getting rid of stuff is important.  More important, I think, is not acquiring stuff in the first place.

Let's say, for instance, I decide to purge clothing: give a bunch of stuff to charity, keep just enough clothing to get through half a week or so.  In a year or two, the clothes I have left will be worn to shreds, and I'll need to replace them with new stuff.

I think it makes somewhat more sense to stick with the clothing I already own, and make the commitment not to buy anything new until what I have has become unusable.  Better yet, make a commitment to reduce by, for instance, buying a new item only when two items can't be used any more.

The purgers say you should get rid of stuff if you haven't used it in six months, or maybe a year.  Also important, I think, is to avoid buying stuff (on impulse?) that won't get used regularly.

On the other hand, I own things (camping and hiking equipment, mostly) that I used to use regularly, but when The Offspring was a wee thing, that stuff saw the light of day very infrequently.  By the six-month or even the twelve-month rule, a lot of those things would have gotten tossed out -- and now, if I could afford replacements, I'd be buying new camping gear.

In fact, I'm glad I held on to it all.

Same goes for kitchen utensils, bath towels, and all other stuff around the house.  I don't see the point of purging perfectly good stuff, if there's a reasonably good chance you're going to be able to use it in the future, just for the sake of owning less stuff.

(I do realize there's another side of the argument: the problem with owning so much stuff that you end up moving to a bigger apartment or house just to store it all.  That's for another day.)