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How to Want Less Stuff

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Gas prices and GDP woes may have Americans tightening our belts, but that doesn't mean we're happy about it.

We sure love our stuff -- shopping for it, setting it up, displaying it, and demonstrating its superiority (speed/capacity/color/taste/size) to the other, lesser stuff out there.

Of course, no discussion of stuff is complete without a reference to George Carlin's famous monologue about it. "The whole meaning of life is trying to find a place for your stuff," he says. "That's all your house is ... a pile of stuff with a cover on it."

Good point, George.

  • The only reason most people move is to find a bigger place for their stuff.
  • When someone breaks into your house, they're not interested in your fourth-grade mementos. No. They're after the good stuff.
  • Stuff is so important to us that an entire industry exists simply to keep an eye on it.

A while ago my colleague Selena Maranjian wrote about stuff and gave advice on how to want less of it. She quotes a nice four-step system provided by "NaggingFool" from our "Living Below Your Means" discussion board:

Step 1: Avoid people who want you to want more stuff.

  • Throw away catalogs without reading them.
  • Don't watch commercials on television.
  • Don't read the adverts in the weekly paper.
  • Don't hang out in shopping areas for recreation.

Step 2: Realize how much junk you have now, and how much trouble it is.

  • Take a complete inventory of your house contents for insurance purposes.
  • Do a weekly "27-fling boogie" a la Flylady (go through the house and find 27 things that you don't want to keep anymore).
  • Visualize moving all of your stuff to a new home, or your heirs going through everything after your death.

Step 3: Learn to appreciate the stuff you have.

  • Keep warranties.
  • Perform basic repair and maintenance.
  • Loan things you don't use frequently to other people.

Step 4: Think about what else you might want, instead of more stuff.

Hi ho, it's off to the mall we go anyway
Of course, at some point you're going to have to replenish the pantry, replace some light bulbs, and maybe even buy some stuff to keep the other stuff you have in good working condition.

More Foolish pre-shopping prep:

Dayana Yochim recently sold a trunk and back car seat's worth of "stuff" at a yard sale. She has at least two more loads of stuff ready for the next one. The Fool's disclosure policy is always free.


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  • Report this Comment On July 17, 2009, at 9:08 AM, PatSandefer wrote:

    Excellent!! I couldn't agree more. I've never commented on a Motley Fool article before, but this was so right on, I had to!!

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