Got Stuff?

Monday, January 07, 2008
Here's a good piece by Paul Graham on Stuff.

And unless you're extremely organized, a house full of stuff can be very depressing. A cluttered room saps one's spirits. One reason, obviously, is that there's less room for people in a room full of stuff. But there's more going on than that. I think humans constantly scan their environment to build a mental model of what's around them. And the harder a scene is to parse, the less energy you have left for conscious thoughts. A cluttered room is literally exhausting.

(This could explain why clutter doesn't seem to bother kids as much as adults. Kids are less perceptive. They build a coarser model of their surroundings, and this consumes less energy.)

I first realized the worthlessness of stuff when I lived in Italy for a year. All I took with me was one large backpack of stuff. The rest of my stuff I left in my landlady's attic back in the US. And you know what? All I missed were some of the books. By the end of the year I couldn't even remember what else I had stored in that attic.

And yet when I got back I didn't discard so much as a box of it. Throw away a perfectly good rotary telephone? I might need that one day.

The really painful thing to recall is not just that I accumulated all this useless stuff, but that I often spent money I desperately needed on stuff that I didn't.

read the rest here.


  1. I had a similar experience while in Ecuador. We could only take 2 suitcases for the 9 months and even so, I left a lot of that stuff there for the orphanage. When I came back I couldn't remember how I'd left my room or what was even in it. I kept it all. Moved it from apartment to apartment and still don't know what's sitting in my closets upstairs. It's "stuff" I really don't need, yet I can't seem to let go, mostly of the memories that I have attached to all of it. Sometimes I like the thought of picking up with only the clothes on my back and starting a "new" life somewhere else, from scratch. I'm sure with time though, I'd just accumulate more junk. Makes me think about all the "junk" I keep boxed up inside of me too, filed away in the "I'll deal with that later" folder.

  2. "A cluttered room saps one’s spirits." Couldn't agree more with that, I've only just moved back to Uni home and feel so drained in my room with all the boxes of stuff stacked everywhere, waiting to be sorted.

  3. Stuff can make you learn to pack light, when you find you have to move.

    Stuff can teach you how to be generous (when you give it away).

    Stuff can be a God-send in holding memories........but only for a season.

    Stuff can make one feel ever-so-blessed.....yet ever-so-guilty.

    Just my thoughts on "Stuff", as I have had to learn the lessons that stuff is made of:-)

  4. I don't particularly agree with the overall thrust, but I feel comfy surrounded by stuff. I shall however continue to consider this in the light of my natural acquisitiveness.

  5. For me there's a big distinction between stuff and clutter. I feel at home in a room with a few guitars but uncomfortable in a room with clothes strewn everywhere. Same goes for a room full of shelves stacked (neatly) with books against a room with papers all over the place. I love a kitchen full of real cooking tools, but not a kitchen full of plastic bags of shopping and pointless appliances.

    Also, as I age I'm really feeling the mental strain of clutter, mess and chaos. It goes not just for a chaotic desk, but also a chaotic email inbox!

  6. I think that for me, for whatever reasons, the more stuff I have, the more I feel the weight of it.

    I really respect people who are able to not feel the weight or responsibility of owning many things, or big homes or such.

    I tend to feel or over feel responsibility for things, so the more stuff I have, the more I feel the responsibility for it all.

    I don't know that its a good thing though, I mean shouldn't I trust God to take care of all this stuff? Why do I feel personally responsible for it all.

    Yeah, insight number 3298 into the randallfriesen experience.


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