The Voluntary Life: 113 Freedom From Your Stuff

22 June 2013

113 Freedom From Your Stuff

An episode about freedom from stuff. Topics covered include:
  • What I learned living from a backpack for 7+ months
  • Why owning stuff is not wealth
  • The hidden financial and psychological costs of owning stuff
  • How your stuff can control you
  • The goal of purposeful ownership
  • Strategies for minimalism: paperless, zero data and selling all your crap


 Podcast Episode


  1. This topic interests me, as I've been de-cluttering for a couple of years now. It has been complicated by the fact that I'm the only one in my household with that urge. For example, my daughter just got a really good piano, but can't bring herself to get rid of her old "clunker" piano, so we now have two pianos in the house!

    I haven't gone fully paperless though. To me, the idea of simply scanning everything into the cloud doesn't work. It's the digital equivalent of shoving everything into a box in the attic just in case it might be useful in the future, and it creates the same mental overhead running in the background.

    Instead, I'm going through every piece of paper, either to throw it out or to get some immediate value from it. Nothing is kept "just in case", except for documents the government might want to see (mostly tax records). After this review, I find I'm keeping less than one percent of my paper, so it's no hardship to keep it. And along the way I found some forgotten things that were of great interest or gave great pleasure.

    It's the same with physical items, e.g. kitchen clutter. I go through them and either give them to charity, or use them. It's great to discover a forgotten appliance that was never put to use. I can use it intensely for a few weeks or months, then give it away without regrets. I only buy new "stuff" if it's something that I can and will use intensely for a while.

    One of the nice things about being at a stage of life where I'm financially secure, is that I can throw out lots of random "stuff" and replace it by just one high quality item that will be more useful or pleasurable than all the stuff that it replaced.

    I've had a few failures along the way though. I ripped all my CDs in 256kbit/sec AAC, but I can't bring myself to throw out the CDs because I feel I may want to re-rip them in lossless format in the future.

    Finally, there's one missing piece of the jigsaw. I don't know a really good way to synchronise my digital stuff on more than one cloud provider, to preserve it if one of the providers fails. The truly free people would just shrug their shoulders and move on if they lost their entire digital data. I'm not quite there yet...

    1. Hi Roger,

      Thanks for your feeback- great points. I do understand what you mean when you say that paperless is "the digital equivalent of shoving everything into a box in the attic just in case it might be useful in the future, and it creates the same mental overhead running in the background." I've thought about that too- am I just replacing one box with another (digital) one? I do think deleting as much as possible is great as part of going paperless. However, I think of archiving old digital documents as being a bit like archiving email- it's different to paper. I don't feel like there is anything that *needs sorting out one day* in my email archive, in the way that boxes of paper in the attic do.

      Regarding your music- if you put it in google play or Apple's service, I think they give you a high quality version from their own files of any music that is recognised. Might be worth checking out.

      All the best, Jake

  2. Hi Jake, I enjoyed this podcast and can certain relate. I learned the value of getting rid of stuff with 2 life experiences: one, becoming a parent and two after a couple of moves.

    The parent experience revolved around the idea of people trying to protect their "stuff" from kids who just aren't old enough to stay away from something that could break, is valuable, etc. I quickly, very quickly decided I really didn't need any of that stuff. My kids were much more free to roam around our home and I had more time because I did not have to maintain that "stuff." Less stuff meant we could enjoy more time together.

    I have to laugh when people come into my home and always seem to remark how "clean" my house is. It's not really, the dust can pile up! What they mean is that there is very little clutter and "stuff" around. If you don't have as much stuff and still don't like to clean, your home can still look clean just because you don't have the clutter!

    1. Love your perspective on kids and stuff Debbie! Thanks for sharing :)

  3. Hi, two years later!!

    I have just listened to this episode because of the one you have published on august 2015, and I've found myself identified with almost all the things you all comment. In the last years I've been decluttering my house as much as my wife has let me, that is enough. I've gone as paperless as I can, throwing out first and then uploading to the cloud. In my case, I think I'm not worrying for the stuff I have in the cloud as I did with the one I had in the shelves.
    Moreover, we have a two years old daughter and, since she can walk, we are simplifying, our furniture more and more, what, in addition, gives us less housework.

    I'm enjoying very much your page.
    Greetings from Spain.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.