More, More, More! How Much Stuff Can You Stand To Get Rid Of?

April 9, 2013  |  

Business Insider recently published a column called “Why I’m Getting Rid of Most of My Stuff,” written by James Altucher an active writer on business matters and a guy whose made and lost millions in business, according to his website (his bio on BI says he’s managing partner at Formula Capital). In the column, Altucher says, “I’m sick of most of the things I own.” After boiling down his wardrobe to just a few articles of clothing, he says he and his wife went a measure better and starting staying in places he found on AirBnB. Eventually they would like to stop renting a home all together and just live this way, moving from place to place, finding beds online.

“I’ve mostly replaced my laptop and ipad and phone with the Samsung Note II (and random Kinkos or business centers),” he continues. “I don’t really collect anything. And I don’t need any extra coffee blenders or whatever you call them. Do I work? I like to deliver value. And value makes money.”

As a result of this more spartan life, Altucher says “my stomach hurts less,” he has more friends, “more quiet,” and he’s actually made more money.

Altucher is obviously an extreme case, albeit one you hear about more often. Perhaps we spent so much time during the boom years before the bust of this recession acquiring so much — and convincing ourselves that we needed every bit of it — that now that we’re forced to live with less, we’ve found we can. And that we prefer it.

Look in your closet right now and you probably have a few things with the tags still on them. (Guilty.) How many appliances in your kitchen have never actually touched food? How many jars of lotions and potions sit unused in the bathroom cabinet?  I don’t cook. Can barely scramble an egg. But I used to buy more food than I could actually eat. Mostly because an empty fridge seemed pitiful. Maybe even a little scary. Am I on the path to starvation? Not at all. I’m actually not really much of an eater. I’m that person that an all-you-can-eat affair is wasted on. And each week, I used to go through the ritual of throwing out food that had gone bad because I never got around to eating it. So I decided to stop wasting money on food.

Right now, if you go in my fridge, I’ve got butter, a couple of containers of yogurt, a bottle of wine, some left over pasta sauce (recipe from Shape magazine… I can’t cook but I can read), and one of those tiny single-serving ice creams. That will last through the end of the week with only the addition of maybe a box of crackers and some spaghetti to go with the sauce. I laugh sometimes at the emptiness of the refrigerator. And some people do think it’s a little pitiful.

In Altucher’s case, we’re talking about big things like furniture, gadgets, even a home. I live in a New York City apartment, so we’re forced to be careful with what we gather. But spring cleaning time is upon us and maybe you can take some of that stuff in the corners and extra closets and have a yard sale. You can use that money for something you really need. Or a new hobby, which is more fulfilling than stuff.

If you could right now do away with something to simplify your life, what would it be?

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