Getting rid of stuff

It’s so easy these days to get stuff without even thinking about it. That’s Amazon’s whole value proposition. How to go from thinking about something to buying it in mere seconds.

But getting rid of stuff is another matter altogether.

My dad mentioned that some people are trying to get to the point where they only own 2,000 things. And others are even more extreme, trying to get down to 500 or less. I’m assuming he got this from that show about hoarders they’ve been watching. Then he laughs and says, “Your mom and I are probably more in the 100,000 range”.

It kind of stuck with me because I’d never really thought about assigning a number to quantify how much stuff I have. Or should have. (And what exactly is a discrete “thing” anyway?)

I tend to hang on to stuff that might be useful in the future. The problem is, I can’t keep all that stuff in my head. Even in our small apartment, I forget what little doodads I might have squirreled away, which means that when I need something, I’ll just go out and buy it—only realizing later that I already had something that fit the bill.

Stephanie and I almost always have some paper grocery bags by the door filled with odds and ends for Goodwill. Predominantly clothes, but occasionally housewares. It’s like our household is constantly molting. You’d think at some point we’d just be down to nothing, but it almost never makes a dent. And it’s not like we’re constantly shopping either. Stuff just accumulates.

I have a real problem getting rid of stuff of value. Old electronics. Special equipment in good condition. Unusual or rare items. I sold a handmade lamp base on eBay a while ago and with the cost of packing and shipping, it ended up costing me to get rid of it. It would have been cheaper just to Goodwill it. At the same time, it makes me happy knowing that someone who actually wants it now has it.

Putting things on Craigslist is easier, and dealing with people locally removes shipping from the equation, but still it’s a lot of work, writing the ad, taking and uploading a picture, doing the back and forth with people over email, setting up a place and time to meet. Half the time I don’t even get a response. Or people express interest and then bail.

All this work just getting rid of stuff, and it’s no wonder people become hoarders. It’s so much easier to just do nothing. To stack and squirrel, rather than filter and pitch.

That said, I want to get rid of stuff. A lot of stuff. It’s my new mantra.


Oh gosh yes. It does indeed accumulate. We have to live with a “one in/one out” strategy, which has seriously reduced the amount of stuff I buy (particularly semi-consumables like clothes or books). Or if I want to swap stuff out of storage, an equal quantity has to go back in. But the satisfaction of knowing that I have everything that I need is great.


I like to sell books on craigslist. I know it’s a web behemoth, but it feels surprisingly intimate when you’re mailing a book to a real person’s address at the post office. One of the only ways I feel good losing books.

A friend of mine said she’s had good luck selling used books through Amazon. Considering how many people are already there using it to search for books, and since it sounds like listing a book for sale there is free, relatively painless, and the book will remain listed indefinitely, it sounds like a pretty good deal to me. We’ll see. So far I put three autographed books up on Craigslist and I’ve gotten no bites. In general I find the Craigslist audience to be kind of temperamental.

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