Notes from a Floating Life Thoughts about productivity, digital living, and leading a simpler life

How Much Do You Actually Need?

Piles of stuff

Confession time: I’m not a very materialistic person. I don’t feel the need to acquire, in the words of a friend of mine, piles and piles of stuff.

Moving to New Zealand in 2012 really forced me to focus on what’s important. My family and I had to get rid of most of our worldly possessions, and focus on the essentials that we needed to bring with us. That meant a small knapsack each, a checked or suitcase two each, and my daughter’s cello.

But in late 2016, I realized that I have too much stuff. In the last four and a half years, my wife and daughter and I have accumulated quite a bit in the way of possessions. Items big and small. Clothing. And more.

I’m not sure how that happened, but it did.

Since coming to that revelation, I’ve been doing a gradual clean out of the physical excess in my life.

As part of that exercise, I’ve been considering how much I actually need and what I actually need. While I haven’t come to a definitive conclusion, I’ve come to realize what I don’t need:

  • A lot of clothing
  • All the latest gadgets, whether electronic or otherwise
  • Furniture I rarely, if ever, use
  • Piles of CDs
  • Various knick-knacks and tchotchkes that seem to pile up

And to that list I’ve added those items that I’ve bought that I thought would be useful, but never wound up using. The only things I don’t want to give up are my dead trees books. I gave away over 2,000 of them before moving to New Zealand and, being old school, I like them as much as I like ebooks. Maybe a bit more …

All of the possessions I just listed, and others to boot, don’t make me any happier. They don’t make me smarter or more productive or more interesting. They definitely don’t justify the space that they take up.

As I mentioned a couple of paragraphs ago, I’m still unburdening myself. It’s a slow process, not because I have a lot to get rid of but because I’m going through the process whenever the mood strikes me. What I’m doing is a beneficial exercise, though. It’s showing me what’s important and useful in my life. While I haven’t pared my possessions back to where I think they should be, I will. And I’ll be better off for it.

To wrap up, let me share something Leo Babauta tweeted in 2015:

All you need, you already have.

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