Late last year a friend at work suggested we start a minimalist game, in which we get rid of one thing on the first of the month, two things on the second, and so on. We did this for two months and then it was Christmas time so we took a break. If properly carried out, we each decluttered 496 items this way each month. I saw some major progress in the two months, getting rid of old makeup, worn out shoes and clothes, clothes that didn’t fit, expired food, and many other things. I may pick it up again when the weather is warm and I can work on the garage.
Thus, I was very interested in the book Stuffocation by James Wallman. He outlines the experiment of a man who had methodically and logically worked his way to a well-paying job and all the toys and frills it could afford. But he felt that something was still missing from his life. He tried packing up all his belongings and only unpacking items he actually needed in the moment. A toothbrush. One towel. After a couple weeks, he didn’t need to unpack anything else! He sold, donated, or pitched the rest. Could everyone live this way? Could he continue to live this way for the rest of his life? Even Thoreau lived at Walden Pond only about two years.
Wallman then explained the reasons why Americans are so focused on stuff and materialism, contrasted with those in Europe or in poor countries. Stuffocation is a fascinating look at how the industrial age made goods of all kinds cheaper and more plentiful. Many people our parents’ ages bought their first of certain items as adults, like televisions. But some people are realizing that “stuff” doesn’t equal fulfillment, and it costs money to buy and maintain. Some of the individuals described even chose to downsize their jobs, so they had more time and made the choice to have less stuff, at the expense of their paycheck. But the happiest people learned that they wanted new experiences because the joy of memories can last forever.
You’ll never look at your “stuff” the same way but you may think more before spending.
Reviewed by Mary DeKok Blowers for Library Thing.