Getting rid of stuff

I have always liked getting rid of stuff.  Even when I was really little, when my parents would yell at me to clean up my room, I would grab a Good Will bag and throw all my stuff into it.

When I had a house it was full of stuff.  It made me tired.   So, I made a rule.  Everyday I had to get rid of at least 10 things.   I did that for months.   Everything I got rid of increased my energy.

Then one day I couldn’t think of anything else to get rid of.   I started feeling so tired.   I told my son and he posted on his geek board that I had beer making supplies to give away for free.  Within hours there were a couple of geeks taking away my brewery and my energy surged.

After my big purge, I was robbed and then I had even less stuff.

Then I sold my house and  I had to get rid of almost everything.   There was no room for sentimentality.

It was so freeing to dump all the pictures of my past into the garbage.  I don’t need pictures; I lived my life; I was there.

Now, I have less stuff but I still try to  get rid of one thing a day.

It’s a good goal to set: by the end of everyday— less stuff.

What’s an uncluttered life worth.   Certainly more than any of the clutter is worth.

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Hermit, long distance hiker, primitive cabin dweller, seeker.

20 thoughts on “Getting rid of stuff”

  1. I am trying to do the same thing. I find it hard to sell some of the more expensive stuff I bought not more than several years ago. It’s probably because I hate losing money and because of my tendency to correlate the amount lost to however amount of meals it equates to. I feel so sick and it just bugs the heck out of me that society lives the way it does today. We have become slaves to the system of capitalist-imperialism. We don’t really own the things that we buy–it pretty much owns us. Ever since childhood, we are taught to be materialistic…wealth means happiness. I’ve never heard anything more paradoxical. I’m pretty confident in saying that more than 95% of the U.S. population is enslaved to the system of buying. It is how we are controlled and it’s the perfect system for capitalists because it is extremely addicting. I’d assume that that is also why you hate logos–because it supports the cause. We just look like complete tools. Keeping up with the Joneses or seeking happiness through material wealth seems to be traits of a philosophically immature or insecure being. In many religions including Christianity, it is even considered a sin. I don’t really know what I’m getting at but I’m going to try the 10-a-day idea. It’s going to be hard.

  2. Hey Crow, I agree with this post mostly but only in the case where you are putting yourself in unnecessary debt in order to keep up with the Jones or in stuff that you are no longer really going to use. For example if you will never watch the TV again or if you are making payments on a 52″ TV that was bought just to entertain you or keep up with the Jones then by all means sell it. However if you own the TV debt free already and it does entertain you (without becoming an addiction) then by all means keep it since it isn’t hurting your budget.

    I think once you are out of debt some “stuff” is OK to have as long as you moderate yourself and don’t go back into debt trying to keep up with those around you.

    Stuff can’t make you happy but it can entertain you. In your world backpacking entertains you so that’s where you spend your money, in another persons world it may be books or movies. Neither is right or wrong as long as they don’t become addictions or money pits that cause us to be slaves to they system in my opinion.

    What do you think?

  3. I have so much stuff it makes me sick to my stomach when I think about it. Unfortunately the majority of the stuff that I “see” is the wifes, and I can’t just get rid of the 10 things/day.

    However I am going to start mentally purging what I can, and try to at least rid of my side. That’ll help me clear both mental and physical cobwebs.

  4. I have no debt and yet my stuff still drains me. I just close the door to my room rather than look at it.

    The problem I have is that I keep thinking I ought to have a garage sale rather than just throw it in the landfill or give it away on freecycle (I get irritated at the vultures on freecycle).

    Every time I’ve gotten rid of things, I’ve mostly not missed any of it. A few things I’ve been sad to have thrown out, but it’s really not that important.

  5. Sometimes getting rid of stuff frees you up, sometimes adding stuff frees you up. For example, adding an extra bank account with ATM/debit card means you don’t have to worry so much about the primary card being disabled by the bank for some reason. Another example, if you find a pair of footwear that really works, then stock up before the company making them decides to “improve” them. Several years ago, I bought 50 pairs of boots when I finally found something that worked for me. I keep them in my storage bin and now I can forget about footwear issues for the rest of my life: no more shopping, no more waiting around for a backorder shipment to arrive, no more hassles returning and replacing things that don’t work. Another example, since I make my own gear, I always make 2 of everything so I always have a replacement in the storage bin. And I keep a big supply of fabrics there, since fabrics are sometimes out of stock. And I could go on like this. Filling up the storage bin with spares adds a trivial amount of clutter there, while reducing the figurative clutter elsewhere in my life.

    The hard thing for me is getting rid of some favorite backpacking gear that I never use. For example, I make my own synthetic quilts and I prefer synthetics and that is all I ever plan to use in the future. BUT, I still have this really nice down quilt that I spent a lot on and only used about 100 nights. Very hard to give it away, even though it is no warmer than my synthetic quilts. I can sense it is draining energy, far more energy than the 50 pairs of boots (actually the boots seem to be giving energy rather than draining it), even though both the down quilt and the spare boots are both sitting in the storage bin.

  6. Richard- It is not about being in debt or not. Since I already have all the stuff that I have, I can certainly keep them. I can also buy much more if I wanted to but to what point would it all end? I feel like I’m an evangelist of radical simplicity. I can say from experience that having lots of things–even ones that provide entertainment does not give happiness. It veils the insecurity that prohibits happiness. True happiness can only be attained through clarity and a grounded philosophy. Since then, I’ve given up my career as a well-payed mechanical engineer and adapted a job/lifestyle that I can truly be satisfied with when I’m on the dying bed. I’ve never been so happy in my life.

    Frank- 50 pairs! Unless you go through like 2 pairs a year, I don’t see a need for as much as 50 pairs. It also brings into question if you do wear through 2 pairs a year, is it really considered a good boot? I agree with you on backpacking gear. I have some weird fascination with pots and stoves. It will probably be the last of my gear to go.

  7. Richard:
    For me, It’s really important to own as little as possible. Every item I own I have to keep an inventory of in my head and I have to house it. It weighs me down. I hate stuff.

    It’s not about the money it’s about quality of life. Life is better without a lot of stuff.

    It’s about streamlining. Not just possessions, I strive to streamline everything in my life. I want my life to be easy so it frees me up for truer pursuits. Life is easier and more beautiful with less stuff.

    Still if I’m not diligent, I end up with too much stuff.

    I have read post from people who say they really want to live simply but they could never give up their books. So they are deferring their lives because they can’t part with all those books. When I point out to book lovers that you can download over 20,000 books for free at Project Gutenburg or get the library to get them any thing they want, it becomes clear that it’s not the reading of books they love it’s the owning them that they love. I’ve known people who buy books and then don’t even read them.

    Yeah, if TV is your thing, go for it. You couldn’t pay me to own a TV. I haven’t lived in a house with TV reception for over 25 years.

    When I go to the laundry, the woman who owns the laundry sits there and watches TV. I think, what kind of hell must her life be like.

    Backpacking gear and TV are not at all the same thing. Like, I don’t ever sit down and watch a big pile of gear spout fragments of inane thoughts while it tries to sell me stuff. It just sits there quietly until I pick it up and go hiking. Then it keeps me alive, healthy, and happy in the wilderness.

  8. Diane:

    Yeah, I tried listing stuff on Craig’s list for free. I’ll never do that again. They call up and ask you all these questions about what you are giving away and then they say they are coming and they never show up.

    Between Powel’s book store and Amazon I sold a lot of books. Probably made 500 dollars. I actually thought it was kind of fun selling my books through Amazon but it was slow.

    I did have a garage sale when I sold my house. Probably made 300 dollars or so. It seemed a little undignified to push all my stuff out on the lawn and try to sell it, and then have all these people looking at my stuff. You don’t make much from a garage sale. Like, something you paid hundred dollars for, people will give you a dollar for at a garage sale.. seems better to just give it away then you have the joy of giving something away instead of the selling it for next to nothing. But you might be better at the garage sale than me. I was ready to give everything away for free in the first hour if I could just get all those people away from my house.

    If I was to do again I would just put it out on the street with a free sign…. course I did that with a car once and people wanted to part it out right there and I had to keep saying, “you want the door handle, you have to take the whole car.”

    At the barter faire there is a free store. There are hangers and crates set up so you can display your stuff. All my stuff gets taken.

    I love the idea of a free store. Because there is plenty of stuff if everyone would let go of what they don’t need. But yeah, the hoarders can be a problem. They swoop in and take everything and then try to sell it or just hoard it.


    Yeah, I have too much backpacking gear as well. Last year at the barter fair I gave away a bunch of my gear but I still have too much.

    Once, I found a pair of shoes that worked and then they stopped working for me.. I think feet change.

  9. I have considered the possibility that my feet might change. However, I’ve been walking for 4 years now and the boots seem to be working better than ever as times goes by. It appears my feet were crippled before, due to wearing bad shoes when young and then developing bad walking habits. Once I finally found some boots that fit properly, my feet were able to heal (which took about 2 years) and ever since I’ve had no further foot or knee problems, not even blisters. What a difference from the past!

    I’ve had ups and downs with all sorts of gear (which is one reason I started making my own), but nothing is as critical as footwear and footwear is too much trouble to make myself. My impression is that if footwear doesn’t work, and there are so many ways for footwear to fail (I would say 50% of hikers have foot problems), then you are in a for a world of pain. Nor is barefooting an option for most people (snow, volcanic rock, desert thorns are quite rough even on the toughest feet), though I’ve tried it.

    Jeff: the boots last about 1500 miles before I replace them due to tears in the lining and cracks in the sole, and I definitely walk that much each year. So if I replace once per year, I’ll have enough for 50 years, which is probably excessive (I’m already 50 years old). However, I sometimes walk 3000 miles (I did last year, for example) and need 2 pairs of boots. Also, some of the boots may be defective and I won’t know this until I test them for a few days. “Quality”, in the sense of durability, of footwear is irrelevant if they don’t work for a person. You may be one of those lucky ones for whom finding working footwear is easy. But for a lot of us, finding something that doesn’t destroy the foot is a real problem. It is quite likely that materials will be discovered that are superior to the materials in my current boots. My concern is that the fit might change. There are many, many ways to screw up the fit of shoes. My impression is that, as time goes by, people are becoming less physically active and thus their feet are degenerating. The manufacturers respond by producing footwear that only works for the degenerate feet of weekend warriors. Those of us who walk a lot, on broken ground while carrying a backpack, and consequently have big muscular feet, are the rare exceptions. Hence manufacturers are quite likely to stop making shoes for us. Which is why I stocked up.

  10. Frank:

    About manufacturers producing footwear mostly for the degenerate feet- sounds like you are thinking into it too much. Though I’ll admit that I don’t know a thing about choosing proper footwear. I always have good initial impressions for a shoe and then I’d change my mind several months later.

  11. I have indeed thought a lot about feet, like anyone who has suffered in the past from foot problems and who wants a real solution to the problem. As for “degeneracy”, that may sound harsh, but it’s the correct word. It means falling away from a higher to a lower condition. The higher condition being health and strength and the lower condition being sickness and weakness. Weekend warriors may not realize they are sickly and weak and thus degenerate, but wait until they try long-distance hiking with their weak feet.

    One of the reasons you don’t hear the word “degeneracy” to describe modern men and women is that not merely are they physical degenerates, but moral degenerates as well, and hence don’t want to be told the truth. Most of them, for example, are unwilling to suffer even a small amount of pain in the short run (by exercising and eating properly) in order to avoid a much greater amount of pain in the long run (from all sorts of muscular-skeletal problems, diabetes, heart disease, etc). The moral and physical degeneracy is encouraged by those with a financial interest in a large supply of sick people to medicate. Thus you’ll hear about quacks doing surgery for bunions when the proper solution is simply to strengthen the muscles and wear proper shoes. Other quacks are in the business of selling orthotics as a permanent solution to fallen arches. (As a temporary solution, to help guide the foot back to healthy alignment, orthotics are fine.) Again, the proper solution (which costs nothing and hence would put many podiatrists and manufacturers of orthotics out of business and which would also require people suffering from fallen arches to spend a few minutes each day exercising) is simply strengthening the muscles which support the arch together with properly fitting footwear. Incidentally, being a little paranoid and suspicious of people’s motives like I am is a sign of mental health. People who never make waves and also try to get along with others are suffering from yet another form of degeneracy–mental degeneracy, meaning a fall from the higher condition of intelligence and independent thinking into the lower condition of stupidity and unquestioning obediance to the rules of society.

  12. If you want to know about degenerate feet, try mine on. My 3000 miles this past year and a half have left them in quite bad condition. Before that, they were fine.

    I walked into my room to see what to clean out. Ugh. I closed the door again.

  13. Diane: Just get rid of one thing a day. Open the door, grab something, and toss it in the Good Will sack. It gets easier. Pretty soon you will be ready for your big escape. Good luck.

  14. Frank:

    “Incidentally, being a little paranoid and suspicious of people’s motives like I am is a sign of mental health. People who never make waves and also try to get along with others are suffering from yet another form of degeneracy–mental degeneracy, meaning a fall from the higher condition of intelligence and independent thinking into the lower condition of stupidity and unquestioning obediance to the rules of society.”


    Though, wouldn’t you agree that there is no shoe that is absolutely healthy for feet as opposed to being barefoot? Even having said that, I wouldn’t ever wear Vibram Fivefingers.

    I’ve gotten rid of close to 20 things and I still don’t feel a difference. Too much crap.

  15. I highly recommend barefoot hiking as a way to understand your feet. But I don’t think it is realistic for long-distance hiking. Maybe it’s okay walking strictly in the forest in warm weather. But walking barefoot in snow or over volcanic rock or through thorns–that is going to be quite tough, far too tough for me and probably for most other people who grew up wearing shoes. So that means we are forced to compromise. Yes, footwear can hurt us, but it can also protect us, and often enough the latter factor outweighs the former.

    I think everyone has to figure out their footwear solution the hard way. First, thoroughly understand the feet (studying the anatomy of the foot muscles helps, as does walking barefoot on rough ground), then maybe study the history of footwear and its manufacturing process, to know how we got to the present state of the art, then test a lot of things under a lot of conditions until you find something that works. You’ll definitely want to test walking for weeks on end through slop, on rugged ground, so that the feet are constantly wet, because that is a test many footwear solutions fail. Freezing water is another good test. And deep snow. And very pointed and jagged rocks. And thorns. And bogs that try to pull the footwear off your feet (running shoes often fail this test). And desert heat (goretex lined boots fail this test miserably). Also, experiment with how your footwear works when it gets wet then freezes during the night–can you put it back on in the morning? Finally, some shoes are very fragile. I replace my boots after 1500 miles of rugged hiking, but they could be made to last 3000 miles if necessary, though both sole and tops would have splits at the flex points by this time (I’ve tested this). However, I’ve seen some shoes that fall apart after 100 miles of rugged hiking.

    Sandals, like Crow uses, have the advantage that there is usually no problem with fit (though it IS possible to have sandals that don’t fit). I used sandals myself for years for precisely this reason. Unfortunately, sandals have a number of disadvantages, the worst being the tendency to cause heel cracks unless you are extremely diligent about moisturizing the feet each night, which is a hassle, which is why I eventually moved back to boots. But for someone who hasn’t yet found the right boots, sandals might well be the best solution.

    I haven’t tried the Vibram Fivefingers, so I can’t really comment intelligently about them. They sound like a good idea, even better than sandals since they might solve the heel cracking problem, but then again there may be some gotchas that don’t become apparent until you are on a long-distance hike under rugged conditions (snow, bogs that try to pull the things off your feet, jagged rocks), as opposed to just day-hiking.

  16. Yeah, the sad thing is that I might never truly find that shoe because I’m always hesitant of spending anywhere over $60 for a shoe or boot. Most of these nicer, branded, endorsed, high reviewed boots/shoes are always over $100.

  17. My aunt’s husband (a Swede) told me about his “1 year rule”. While cleaning your house you find something that you have not needed, have not thought about, or even seen in the last year than toss it. Since hearing this I have done it every time I go through my “stuff”, cleaning, looking for something else that I do need. It works great and you don’t feel bad about throwing it away because you didn’t even know you had it.
    Another great way to get rid of stuff is to move. When ever I move to a new apartment I go nuts packing crap that I never use so I just throw it away.
    My dream is to one day only have enough stuff to fill a midsized car or backpack 🙂

    My god do I hate selling my things! My wife loves selling her old stuff at garage sales and flea markets. Of course she is getting money back but that money usually goes towards buying “new stuff”……which is the same as the “old stuff” she just got rid of.

    Another thing I hate is what you mentioned about people wanting to give you a dollar for something you had to work hard and save your money for. Better to just dump it off at the salvation army or something.

  18. Hey crow, I’ve been throwing stuff away and giving it away for the last week and a half or so now and I’ll admit it does feel better to be getting rid of stuff and gaining more room and cleanliness in it’s place. I think I’ll continue down this path until all my stuff is compacted and hopefully along the way I can convince my wife to do the same.

    I’ve found so far releasing the sentimental things is the hardest but when I detach myself and look at things as if they were someone else’s it’s much easier to get rid of stuff that isn’t really useful anymore.

    Unlike you I’m keeping some things from my past but I’m digitializing them by scanning them into the computer and then putting them on DVD’s. This way my kids and other descendants can see what life was like for me and maybe learn from some of my mistakes. If they don’t know why we did something they will be more likely to try the same things that failed for us.

  19. That’s a good idea to digitize stuff. When I threw all the pictures away, my son wasn’t intending on having kids. But now there is one on the way.

    Also I was thinking it would work for stuff as well. Take a picture of it, digitize the picture then toss the stuff.

    Good job.

  20. Yeah, taking pictures of stuff is also a good way to throw out stuff.

    A couple moves ago, I was moving into a tiny apartment with my now-wife, and there wasn’t nearly enough room for all the stuff I had. As I was digging through it, deciding what could go and what would stay, I found that more often than not, the reason I wanted to keep something was because of the memories attached to it. Without the stuff, I might never think of that memory again, and it would be lost to me.

    So, for everything like that, I took a picture of the item, printed it out, and wrote a little summary of the memory on the back. The item could then be thrown out without fear of losing the memory.

    I like having the physical photo instead of just a digitized copy because it will last much, much longer than the digital copy will. In 50 years, I could dig through a box of stuff and find the photo and get the memory. Not so with the digital file unless someone spends a lot of effort moving files to new media every few years.

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