you have too much stuff

From an essay by start-up guru Paul Graham:

I have too much stuff. Most people in America do. In fact, the poorer people are, the more stuff they seem to have. Hardly anyone is so poor that they can’t afford a front yard full of old cars.

It wasn’t always this way. Stuff used to be rare and valuable. You can still see evidence of that if you look for it. For example, in my house in Cambridge, which was built in 1876, the bedrooms don’t have closets. In those days people’s stuff fit in a chest of drawers. Even as recently as a few decades ago there was a lot less stuff. When I look back at photos from the 1970s, I’m surprised how empty houses look. As a kid I had what I thought was a huge fleet of toy cars, but they’d be dwarfed by the number of toys my nephews have. All together my Matchboxes and Corgis took up about a third of the surface of my bed. In my nephews’ rooms the bed is the only clear space.

Stuff has gotten a lot cheaper, but our attitudes toward it haven’t changed correspondingly. We overvalue stuff.

How to wean your self from too much stuff?

The worst stuff in this respect may be stuff you don’t use much because it’s too good. Nothing owns you like fragile stuff. For example, the “good china” so many households have, and whose defining quality is not so much that it’s fun to use, but that one must be especially careful not to break it.

Another way to resist acquiring stuff is to think of the overall cost of owning it. The purchase price is just the beginning. You’re going to have to think about that thing for years—perhaps for the rest of your life. Every thing you own takes energy away from you. Some give more than they take. Those are the only things worth having.

Definitely worth the read.


Written by fabiorojas

September 28, 2009 at 12:26 am

4 Responses

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  1. […] tip to Fabio Rojas) 0 people like this post. Like  Share and […]


  2. George Carlin opined that the only necessary stuff was “money, keys, comb, wallet, lighter, hanky, pen, smokes, rubber and change.”



    September 28, 2009 at 3:32 am

  3. George Carlin forgot his towel.

    Paul Graham’s website is filled with interesting essays. A lot is VC-focused, but even that can be worth reading.


    Luca Masters

    September 28, 2009 at 1:41 pm

  4. Paul Graham. Hmmm, I don’t worship him like some people seem to, but I think some of his essays are worth commenting on by our educated audience of social scientists. See for example ‘The Hi-Res Society’ and his essays on reproducing Silicon Valley. A lot to agree/disagree with (I mostly disagree).



    September 28, 2009 at 6:15 pm

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