The War on Stuff: Final Report

I’m at the bloody finish line of this challenge and guess what…I tripped.  *%^#$ (insert swear of choice here), I messed up on a $1.94 item: LED outdoor lights which were 75% off on Dec 30.  I got too damn comfortable shopping at the grocery store that I forgot to pay attention to that one item.

Other than that I did managed to keep to my rules for the entire three months. So as much as I did fail in the end, I did still change my buying habits which was the main goal.

For example, after being completely unable to buy stuff for the last three months you might expect me to be itching to go buy a few things.  While this is true, the list is actually really short: hooks to hang bikes in the garage and a plant stand.  Yep, that’s my list as it stands right now.

I found the absence of buying stuff strangely liberating.  My life got a lot simpler for the last three months as I had to focus on everything else in my life which was great.  I finally have a plan on what I want to get done in 2012 and how I will get there.

I also got rid of a pile of crap out of my house.  My basement is actually almost clean for the first time in the five years I’ve been living at my house.  I even found some  things I forgot I had. For example, when I finally purged my half of our bedroom closet.  I found a pair of black dress pants that were tossed into the corner.  Brand new and never been worn since I still needed to get them hemmed. But given I had recently lost a pair of pants to a broken zipper this was a perfect solution for new pants for a $10 hem job.

I also realized ‘stuff’ is a damn poor word for what I was getting rid of or not buying.  Instead I will borrow a word from another language: chindogu from Japanese which means all that useless crap we buy or have.  It’s all those late night kitchen gadgets that really don’t do anything more than you already have.  For example, a slapchop, which basically does the same thing as a knife.  I like my useful stuff, I detest my chindogu.

Most of all I’ve managed to deconstruct an important thought in my head: I am not my stuff.  I like some of my stuff, but I’m not defined by it or limited by it.  Also when I no longer need that stuff I feel no guilt about selling or giving away things I never use.  For example, we gave away two beautiful serving trays we no longer us, even if they were wedding gifts.  Instead I’m now using ones I inherited from my grandparents, which mean more to me and are better size.

To help you with your war on chindogu, might I suggest the following:

  1. Do Not Buy Storage.  You don’t need more shelves or containers, you likely need to get  rid of things first then buy storage after the purge.
  2. Start with Garbage. Empty boxes, recycling cans, empty paint cans all need to get out of your house.  Your first job is to get rid of that crap so you can see what is left.
  3. Create a Rule of Thumb.  Mine was if I haven’t used this in 12 months why do I have it?  Most items that failed that test and were tossed.  If you really want to downsize drop down to six months.
  4. Get Over Getting Rid of Good Things.  I tried to give away some things that were in perfect shape and sell some things like DVD’s.  You might be able to also donate it, but if all of those methods fail in a week: trash the item.  It’s ok to toss new things you don’t need, I even did that with some Christmas gifts I got that I can’t return and I won’t use.
  5. Keep up with New Stuff.  As we unloaded all the new stuff into our house from Christmas my wife and I went around with garbage bags and tossed an equal volume of stuff.

Good luck on your war.  Any questions on how my war went?

10 thoughts on “The War on Stuff: Final Report”

  1. Tailor shops will put in a new zipper.

    Love the idea of chindogu, except Max here is a little offended, taking his species’ name in vain type of thing.

    I think it’s the TIME spent buying stuff that I regret the most. It basically doubles or triples the cost of something: the time I spent earning the money to buy the item and the hours and hours spent driving to buy the item (plus cost of gas) and the hours trolling the malls/stores looking for the item, the lineups to pay, driving home… all for what?

  2. I love throwing stuff out too, but I always feel so guilty when I throw out something that could be useful to someone else. It’s creating garbage that doesn’t necessarily have to be garbage. But it’s so damn easy!

  3. Yeah, the guilt. For 30+ years, I’ve solved the guilt problem by almost always buying at lawn sales and thrift stores, and when I move, what I can’t sell or give away goes back to the Goodwill from whence it came.

    The game for me became to buy as low as I could and see how high I could sell something for after having gotten my two, three or more years’ use out of the item.

  4. Question for you Tim, did you end up using your “Get Out of Jail Card”?

    It’s a great idea… great concept… I myself enjoy purging “stuff” it’s such a liberating feeling… And whenever I get that liberating feeling I can’t help but think of that famous quote…

    “That which you own, ends up owning you.”

  5. @ The Other Dave – I remember Tim writing a post about having to use his “get out of jail free” card. He needed winter boots. If he lived in Toronto, I’d have given him a hard time (we are still trying to live down that a previous mayor called in the army one time to shovel us out), but living where he does, I’m willing to accept that this was a NEED.

  6. If you really love a pair of pants or item of clothing, it’s super easy to put a zipper in. Not worth it for some of them, but it is a 5-10 minute job if you know what you’re doing (not counting going out and buying a new zipper). Of course, that depends on if it’s something you’ll be willing to go through the learning curve on.
    I’d do it for a great winter coat or something, not a pair of pants. But I would’ve when I was broke back in the day.
    Don’t get me going on how easy it is to hem… 😉

    Good for you for sticking to your challenge despite the $1.94 oopsie!

  7. After recycling paper , cardboard ,metal , and plastic and composting food waste we have very little to take to the dump. As far as I’m concerned throwing good stuff away that could be used by someone less fortunate should be an environmental crime. There are so many options for donating stuff such as Value Village ,Salvation Army , goodwill , thrift stores , etc. Don’t get me wrong , purging is great but don’t fill up landfills doing it.If throwing something out gives you a guilty feeling then it’s trying to tell you something.

  8. @The Other Dave,

    Yes, as Sheryl pointed out I did use my exception for new winter boots. Ironically it hasn’t been all that cold this year…yet, but I still needed them.


    Actually I didn’t want to save the pants. They were getting old and needed to be replaced anyway. The zipper was the final straw.

    As to hemming…I understand it is easy, but I have no practical experience in sewing other than fixing the odd small rip in something or putting on a button. It’s never a skill I’ve had much desire to learn.


  9. Yikes, I sounded like the frugal guilt police – sorry about that. I think it’s great that you had an (extra) excuse to get rid of them.

  10. For many years I haven’t set a New Year’s resolution – probably the result of setting and failing on too many in the past. I’ve reassessed why my past resolutions failed and decided that they weren’t SMART. You know that office mantra about setting your work objectives so they are Specific, Measureable, Achieveable … I can’t remember the rest. The point is my past resolutions were non of these. They were either too vague “eat healthier”, or too overwhelming “lose 50lbs”.
    I’m trying the resolution thing again this year but with very clear objectives. My goal is to declutter our home, which is of course too vague. To put this into practice and do it in manageable, measurable mini goals I’m vowing to get rid of 5 items per day all year. Some days I don’t accomplish anything, another I’ll go through a box of saved magazines and get rid of 40 (or 8 days worth). So far I’m on track with this approach. It seems far easier to keep up when I only think of my task in small 5 item chunks, rather than the massive task ahead of me.
    It hasn’t happened yet, but I’m hoping that during this purge/clean out I’ll come across some items I can sell and I have started thinking about a specific goal I can put that money towards. I suspect it will be easier to part with something I’ve saved so long if I can see it as getting me a little closer to _______.

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