Five Ways to Stop Having So Much Stuff

Five Ways to Stop Having So Much Stuff

After five weeks essentially away at the National Voice Intensive, then seven weeks with Viva Musica in Kelowna, then three weeks in Victoria, when I finally returned home, I was struck by just how much stuff I have. After living out of my bike panniers for so long, when I returned to the single room office I live in, it seemed palatial. Opulent. Over the top. Even a little overwhelming. So many clothes! Books! Utensils! Supplies! Toys! So much… everything!

Time spent away from home offers a great new perspective on what you actually find valuable, and on what you are attached to because it once held value, or on what has just accumulated over time. This makes the time when you return home, the best time to clean house and better enjoy what you have.

Wrong kind of hoarding.

As any screenwriter or playwright will tell you, whitespace on the page is important. A page packed from margin to margin with text is imposing for a reader; they are more likely to just put the page down without reading it.

It’s the same with us and our homes. The more the clutter, the less likely we are to actually pick up one of those old projects and complete it. It’s in the whitespace that we can breathe, consider, and take action. Every grocery bag’s worth of stuff removed is like a breath of fresh air.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not advocating us all Buddhist monks or permanently living out of our backpacks (as an old friend of mine has done for several years now). I truly do appreciate having and using my stuff: my array of clothes, games, books, music and DVDs. But when half of these possessions remain buried in boxes for 364 days of the year, that’s a clear sign that what I own and don’t need is getting in the way of what I own and could be enjoying.

So, all that preamble out of the way, here are five (perhaps unusual) ways to reduce:

(1) Take out your garbage and recycling!

Seems silly and obvious, but I know I had six bags of soft plastics, a broken breadmaker, and other dead electronics waiting to be recycled. Finally getting around to sending these to pasture really made a difference to the whole mood of my room.

This image was selected as a picture of the we...
(Photo: Wikipedia)
(2) Distinguish between treasured items and memory aids.

There is a difference between your grandfather’s old watch which he gave you a month before he passed away, and a small plastic Eiffel Tower souvenir from that trip you made to France. Ask yourself: Do you need the souvenir in order to remember your grand adventure? Or would your digital photos do? If so, then lose the bulky mementos. It’s the memory that’s important.

(3) Learn that you don’t need to possess everything you enjoy.

In our North American consumer culture, it is far too easy to take that mental step of ‘I enjoy this, so I should own it.’ This applies to books, music, DVDs, games, artwork, clothes, you name it, as though the experience of enjoying it is lessened somewhat if you can’t put a physical (or digital) copy of it up on your shelf afterwards. Nonsense!

DVD collection
(Photo credit: nickstone333)

When I sort through my books, CDs, and DVDs (or when I finish one for the first time), I ask myself, “Do I honestly believe I will read, listen to, or watch this again, rather than go for something new?”, and if I have any hesitation, off it goes to the charitable donation bin.

To further incentivize myself, I have decided to consider donations of items to charity to be an act of tithing (as I have previously written about here), assigning an arbitrary value to each item (~50₵ for a shirt, ~1$ for a book for example). I then take that value off my monthly tithing figure.

And then I finally get through all the books I have accumulated but not read, and DVDs I own but have not watched, I intend on going through my treasured classics and on becoming a library person, searching their website with a wishlist and coming home with a bag full of goodies, a miniature Christmas, every month, all without cluttering up my home. John August has written up his own reasons for giving away most of his books here.

(4) Develop a Feeling of Abundance.
Freedom Android
Freedom Android (Tiago A. Pereira)

Much of this dragon-hoard-of-gold mentality comes from a feeling of scarcity – that we need to hold onto all these things because we may, perhaps, want them later and not be able to find them! But in most cases, especially with the advent of bittorrents and the internet, that’s just not true. Even books currently out of print may see the light of day again if Google has their way. From libraries, to ebooks, to wikipedia, to Netflix, the more we have access to, the less we need to own. And to be honest, it’s just a much healthier and happier mindset to live by – to trust that what you might want will be out there for you if you want it.

Along with old books, CDs, costume items and DVDs, I recently gave to a nearby charity bin a number of kitchen utensils I haven’t used for over a year, knowing that, if I need one of them again, I can always go to a dollar store to pick one up.

(5) Foster a Joy for Discovery.

When sorting through old items begins to feel like a chore, stop and enjoy some of the items you have unearthed. That is the best reason to be doing this, after all – to enjoy what you have.

Stay classy and live eagerly,
Andrew Wade

Six Secular Reasons to Tithe

Six Secular Reasons to Tithe

For me, tithing consists of setting aside 1/10th of what I earn, to be given away for the benefit of others. While I am a Christian, the benefits of accepting a tithing mindset and habit are huge for anyone – regardless of spirituality – who chooses to take on this challenge.

Note: My definition of tithing includes using this 10% of earnings for non-reciprocal gifts, donations to charities, help for friends and strangers in need… whatever you feel is appropriate, which may include giving to religious institutions, but doesn’t need to.

Hunky-dory? Great. Onto the reasons:

Tithe Tenth Mormon
(Credit: More Good Foundation)

(1) Good Deeds

Let’s get the obvious one off the bat. By giving money to worthy causes and actions, you help make the world a better place than it was yesterday, and that is huge. Whether you’re helping education and health by deworming the world (, giving to a local shelter, or encouraging mentorship (, you’re making an impact.

(2) Budgeting

While the actual 10% figure isn’t too important, taking on this challenge requires taking note of your income and figuring out just what it is you’re actually earning. Also, it’s unlikely you’ll give exactly 10% of what you’re earning each month, or some opportunities might come up that require you to give a little more, so some numbers may carry over into the next month. Spreadsheets may be scary to some, but I personally find it a lot of fun (yes, fun) seeing one adjustment affect my next year’s worth of numbers. A skill well worth learning in case the public school system didn’t help you in this regard.

"Have you seen this man? He is Ant Hill H...
(Credit: Wikipedia)

(3) A Way to Forgive Thieves

If you’re like me, there is nothing that gets in your craw, that rankles you, that makes you downright peeved and pissed off so much as having something be stolen. The worst part of it all is that feeling of powerlessness, which can often devolve into a fear for one’s own security. It’s not hard to go from having a possession be stolen to adopting a mindset of distrust toward anyone you don’t know (or perhaps even toward people you do know). Which, as I’ve discussed before, is not a good way to live. But with a set tithing plan in place, I’m able to stick a mental trick on myself and choose to let the object that was stolen instead be a gift. If they’re resorting to pilfery, they probably need it more than I.

With this method, I then take the replacement cost off my tithing amount, so I’m not even short any money in my budget. It still sucks to have stuff get stolen, but I am now able to consider it a gift, forgive, replace, and move on, without my finances taking a hit.

Cover of "Pay it Forward"
Cover of Pay it Forward

(4) Karma / Pay It Forward

Alright, perhaps not an entirely non-spiritual reason, but plenty of people believe in a worldview where doing a good deed will come back around in the end. I don’t necessarily believe this concept, but I have respect for people who do.

(5) Encourages a Positive Perception of Money

It’s too easy in our society to become obsessed with the goal of obtaining money for security, or even hoarding money for money’s sake. Intentionally giving away money each month instead reminds us that money is just a tool to help us pursue other goals – not a goal in and of itself. Doing so also reminds us of what we hold to be more important in life. Don’t get me wrong – money is a fantastic tool, but that’s all it is.

(6) Encourages a Generous Mindset
Giving encourages more giving – a positive reinforcement loop that creates more generous individuals. Before I started tithing, I would often spend time debating the pros and cons of any behaviour or action before (possibly) making a decision. Since I’ve begun tithing, however, I find I am far more likely to freely offer aid to someone in need, without hesitation. It’s a far more fulfilling way to live.

I also find I am far more willing to accept and ask for aid from others, now that I know just how good it feels to be a giver. Generous minds build communities, neighbourhoods, friendships. Optimism. Happiness.

I encourage you to at least give tithing a trial for a few months, and open your eyes to all the opportunities to give and support the people around you, and around the world.


Passive Income Update:

As previously stated, I am on a plan to produce a monthly passive income of 80$ per month by the 1st of December. I have decided that I will let this goal include any passive income stream I create in that span, rather than have it need to come all from one source.

GOAL: 80$ per month.

PROGRESS: 7.16$ more in passive income per month due to moving cash from a low-earnings savings account to a higher earnings situation.

STILL TO GO: 72.84$ per month.


Thanks for reading.

Andrew Wade