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Our Irrational Obsession with Stuff

Updated: Apr 3, 2021

I recently met an individual, let’s call him Billy, who was explaining that he was having some difficulty on the dating front. He believed his problem was the location of his apartment which was situated in an area of suburbia where he was surrounded by either young families or retirees. This made it incredibly difficult for Billy to meet a potential spouse.

We got into a discussion about how he selected the apartment in the first place. Billy explained that he had moved from an area of the Midwest where he was able to rent a four-bedroom house for the same price as his now two-bedroom apartment. Essentially, Billy had to pare down substantially for the move.

Although Billy enjoyed living an urban lifestyle in the past, he couldn’t afford a two-bedroom apartment in the heart of a nearby city and was, therefore “stuck” in suburbia–with his only excitement being a game of bingo or pinochle with his neighbors.

The Solution is Less Stuff, Not More Space

I’d venture to say that Billy’s problem wasn’t the “apartment,” but the “stuff” in the apartment. Billy lived alone and rarely had visitors stay overnight. In my opinion, there wasn't much need for a two-bedroom apartment with the exception of storing additional crap that likely added little value to his life. In fact, all this stuff was likely blocking him from a number of unique experiences that urban life can present.

This irrational obsession with acquiring and storing stuff is a problem that affects the vast majority of America, myself included. We make the decision to surround ourselves with a bunch of things we don’t really need, with money that we may not have–cluttering our homes and our minds while simultaneously draining our bank account.

In Billy’s case, his stuff is the blocker for his dating life. If he was able to pare down even further, he could transition to a smaller one-bedroom or even, gasp!, a studio apartment, he could move into a swanky downtown area of a single-laden metropolis. Boom. Problem solved. Bumble away.

Not All Things are Bad

Not all stuff is bad. It’s important for us to develop a systematic way of surrounding ourselves with the things we actually use and those that add value to our life. So, herein lies an important habit, consciously determining what those things are and getting rid of the rest on a regular basis.

This concept has been heavily promoted by Marie Kondo in her book, “The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up.” [1] In this book Ms. Kondo recommends a systematic way of going through your home and identifying those objects. Simply stated, pick up any item in your house and ask yourself, “Does this bring me joy?” If the answer is no, throw it away or donate it.

How can Pairing Down Improve Your Life?

Freeing your life of stuff you don’t need can have a profound effect.

  1. It Saves you Time- Less time is wasted cleaning and finding a spot for all that clutter. However, as you already know, you can enhance this time by listening to Podcasts while doing so.

  2. It Saves you Money- You’ll continue to watch your bank account grow as you stop spending money on crap you don’t need. Even more money can be saved if you transition to a smaller house or apartment since now you have less stuff.

  3. You’ll Appreciate what you do Have- You’ll also gain a greater appreciation for the things you do have and with all that time savings noted initially, you’ll have more free time to enjoy them.

  4. It Helps you Declutter your Mind- Finally, decluttering your home can help you declutter your mind by creating a more organized environment for you to function.

Making a habit of decluttering our lives means you’ll have more time, more money, and more brainpower to devote to the people, activities, and occasionally, the things, that allow you to live a happier life.

It’s up to you to Take Action

But remember, reading this blog alone won’t help you to change. You have to take action in order to reap the benefits. Start by targeting one drawer, one closet, one bin of random junk and ask yourself if each item brings you joy. If not, discard it. Then lather, rinse, repeat. Make it a habit of targeting one area of your home each week.

To stop accumulating more stuff, consider getting rid of one item each time a new item is purchased. By adopting a more minimalistic mindset, I can assure you that you’ll continue to see your home and, more importantly, your life transform for the better.

Less is so much more.


[1] Kondō, M. (2014). The life-changing magic of tidying up: The Japanese art of decluttering and organizing. Ten Speed Press.


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