Do You Love This Thing?

Image: California Historical Society

Our ideas about stuff are weird. We spout platitudes about how objects shouldn’t matter, while remaining locked into a pattern of feverish consumption. It’s akin to the way we treat food: we don’t savor it like the French, instead, we devour mass quantities.

We make bad decisions when it comes to both food and stuff. It seems we’re so concentrated on the “having” part that we fail to actually enjoy much. It’s shameful to admit, but we’re starved of happiness and experience due to our excess.

The time has come for us to reconsider our collective relationship with objects. What things do we really want, need, or enjoy? How many items do we wish to move, store, and maintain? Might we be willing to invest more in things that last longer, provide greater value, or are more pleasurable to use?

There’s little wrong with finding satisfaction in objects. In fact, loving things might be a path out of the madness our consumption has spawned. By carrying a lighter load, we find ourselves less burdened, and with more time for experiences. We also lessen our demands on a planet pushed past its carrying capacity.

To live deliberately, we must eschew the home overflowing with crap, in favor of a small number of selectively chosen objects. (I don’t know about you, but I’ll actually wear out a pair of good jeans, while the many pairs I bought “on sale” remain untouched, in a cluttered closet.)

This shift will require us to reprogram ourselves, starting with our values and habits. We need to beat down our hoarding tendencies, and curtail knee-jerk reactions to special offers and bulk purchasing. These will be replaced by the shared act of acquiring only things that improve our lives. In doing so, we will reacquaint ourselves with notions of quality and craftsmanship, and re-learn how to treat our stuff with care.

Buy less, experience more, and know the joy of good things.


  1. While I agree with the need for quality stuff over quantity, I also have developed that ethic from circumstantial reasons.

    Having less random crap: (Circumstance) I’ve moved about a bit in the past 15 years, so that refined my thoughts on ‘do I really need this (random item)?’

    From a less wealthy background: (Circumstance) Growing up and being told to make things last (because they might not get replaced) really taught me to value quality. Good quality stuff costs more, but hey, it lasts!

  2. This idea is SO great in theory. However, when it comes into practice, there is an immense amount of variance. While I may only truly love 10 things, others can truly love 1000. Even if you asked the person with 1000 items to scrutinize every single thing, she may still return with the same conclusion. Since perspective plays such a huge role when it comes to items we keep, how do you suggest combatting this in order to “save the world”?

    1. For some, this will never make any sense. They’ll want more things and find it difficult to imagine any other way. The funny part is that when you do try to surround yourself with better things, you tend to find more pleasure in them.

      Instead of asking others to sacrifice their stuff, I think it might be more helpful to simply live better lives with less stuff, and see if others take notice.

  3. “The funny part is that when you do try to surround yourself with better things, you tend to find more pleasure in them.”
    This may be a true statement for you and me; however, not a true statement for all. I definitely agree we should be the change we want to see. Yet as a lifelong minimalist, I have come to the conclusion that there will always be people who live with more and are immensely happy. I think we as minimalists have this idea that if you own a lot of stuff you MUST be making up for something you are lacking in life. From those I have spoken to, that’s not the case for all. Sure there are those that buy and keep to fill a void. There are many who purchase things, enjoy their beauty, and choose to care for them. For me, I’m trying to find where I draw the line in tolerance and spending/owning. It’s a tricky situation!

    1. It is tricky. On a functional level, it’s even more so. This weekend, for example, I found myself in need of a heat gun. I don’t want a heat gun, but I needed one in order to get a job done. Personally, it’s easy with things like clothing; what’s tough is all this stuff I need for a short period of time, but don’t really want to own. (It’s a pity there aren’t easier ways to share such items.)

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