Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Lure of Stuff

Walking downtown Prescott and with nothing better to do, I wandered in and out of antique stores. Lots of stuff. Jewelery. Coins. Commemorative items. Dishware of all kinds. Toys. Stuff from the past. It was all there. For me it was more about nostalgia from my childhood. Didn't want or need any of it.

There was already stuff in Wandrin Wagon that had not been used (or seen) in many years. Sleeping bag. Wood carving/burning materials. Music CDs. Food blender. Microwave. Etc.

Yes. A microwave. After six years on the road, there was a weak moment when I was passing through Wal-Mart and noted the $49 microwave. The financial justification took about a minute. It would be great for last minute thawing; heating tea water; reheat soups rather than dirtying up a pan -- and -- a soup bowl. Unfortunately, I didn't ask myself how often I had soup.

Two years later the microwave is ballast. (A rock as ballast would provide more enjoyment.) That microwave is not plugged in. The easiest thing would be to donate it to a thrift store. Not so easy. It appears that I have placed some illogical value on it. Unfortunately, there is space to keep it.

Then there are the Hawaiian shirts. How many shirts do I really need. A personal wardrobe does not require 30 shirts. A wardrobe would be complete with a half dozen shirts. Couple of shorts. Underwear and socks. Launder once a week and the entire wardrobe can be quite small.

The accumulation of stuff happens so very slowly. How does this happen? Many RVers subscribe to the mantra, "When something comes into the RV, something else has to go." It's a good line, but in reality the latest acquisition always finds room.

Ten years ago when I became a nomadic explorer, I downsized from a 900 square foot home to Wandrin Wagon's 200 square feet. 98% of the stuff went to TJ, Vanita, thrift stores and the Denver library. Once I had gotten rid of all the stuff, I realized that I really didn't own any of it. It owned me. The stuff required maintenance. It was a freeing experience that I was no longer responsible for the stuff.

Why is stuff so alluring. Some TV or magazine ad told you that you needed it. Life would be much better with the new item. Note the shills in the ads. Before the purchase of the item, they are sad and talk depressed. After the new product is in their lives, they smile. Every other person in the ad is also smiling and having a good time. Doesn't matter what the product may be. Better larger TV (they didn't tell you the manufacturer will announce a larger one next month). New kitchen appliance to make life easier (they didn't tell you it clutters the counter). New music system with fantastic bass (annoys the neighbors). Household furniture from beds to recliners will make life great (incomplete without a dozen colorful pillows). Did you know you needed this stuff before you saw the ad.

No doubt I was lured in by the ads. That was then. Today however, I am a "recovering stuff purchaser".

There are exceptions. Shopping for Hawaiian shirts continues. It's an inexpensive vice that will be continued at thrift stores.

Buy experiences -- not things. You will remember the experiences. Things end at garage sales and thrift stores.

Wandrin Wagon is my storage. No renting space or shed for me. If I will need it, it travels with me.

Ever think about The Outrageous Cost of Storing Stuff

Or a Slate article: Storing More Stuff Than Ever

Or a TED video Less Stuff, More Happiness


  1. We noticed stuff had a lot less of a lure when we trashed our TV and canceled our Costco membership.

    I like the size of our tiny rig, it prevents me from pursuing my last "stuff" vice, yard sales and flea markets! My husband is thankful too.

  2. I can really relate. I am in the process of freeing myself and have grown to have great disdain for my 'stuff'. After ridding myself of much, my question is why? Why did I think I needed so much?

  3. I love Hawaiian shirts. Ordered two online and after wearing them once decided to make throw pillows out of the material. I made a wall hanging out of the other. Now I can enjoy the colorful design all the time.

  4. I think Rene and (?) Jim hit the nail on the head: the fundamental downsizing, that gives rise to all other downsizings, is to get rid of the television.

  5. Brings to mind George Carlin's classic comments on "stuff"

    Jim Bob in St Augustine

  6. The first thing we got rid of when we bought our 18 ft tt was the tv. As Boonie observed it gave rise to more down sizings.... Amazing how little one really needs (Hawaiian shirts aside).

  7. It is amazing how your "stuff" expands to fill your space - whatever it is. No TV helps. What I can't resist is books, though now I can read them through my iPad/Kindle app.

  8. Nice post. I live in a stick house but when we moved here we spent 5 months in our travel trailer. It was a good experience getting rid of everything that didn't fit in the trailer or the pickup. Now we are trying to retain that minimalism while still having places to sit, etc!


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