Jeremy Statton

Living Better Stories

Your Story Needs Less Stuff

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Several weeks ago I made the decision to clean out my home office.

I found things I haven’t used in years. I found things I would never admit I once liked. I found things I didn’t even know I owned.

After no fewer than 6 large black garbage bags were filled I stopped to assess my progress. It looked like I hadn’t even touched the room.

My cleaning efforts made me realize I was trying to live a good story by owning stuff.

The Stuff of our Stories

Our stories are full of stuff.

  • Stuff that we think will make us happy.
  • Stuff that we think we can’t possibly live without (even though we have for years.)
  • Stuff we used to like but don’t now.
  • Stuff we never liked.
  • Stuff we bought because somebody told us to like it.
  • Stuff that was once considered high tech.
  • Stuff we can’t even explain.

We have so much stuff, we plan on cleaning it out every spring. Typically to make more room for more stuff.

It isn’t wrong to buy things. It isn’t wrong to own things. But it is fruitless to attempt to live a good story through possessions.

Credit Limits and Happiness and Stuff

Most of us have so much stuff because we are trying to buy something besides the object itself. We are trying to buy happiness.

We see something somebody else has and we have this overwhelming feeling, that if we could have it for ourselves, then life would be good.

Or we read about a product or a gadget on the internet. And we imagine that when it comes out, and we use it replace what we already have, then life will be better.

We see someone with a new outfit and imagine how much better we would look if we redid our wardrobe.

If we eat at a certain restaurant or if we travel to a certain place or if we drive a certain car, then our lives will be what we want them to be.

If this were true, then those with the biggest credit limits would be the happiest people in life.

But the opposite often seems to be true. The more we spend the more we want. The more we spend the less satisfying what we already have becomes.

The more we spend, the less happy we are.

Better Habits

I wouldn’t tell you to just stop buying stuff. The gospel of not doing never works. We resolve to do better and after a few weeks we find ourselves in the same patterns.

Getting rid of all of your stuff isn’t necessarily the right place to start either. Maybe you should, especially if your home is a mess, but just getting rid of things isn’t enough.

Instead you need to focus on developing good habits, and then over time, the bad ones will fade.

1. Spend more of your time and money on experiences instead of possessions.

2. Cultivate the current relationships in your life, especially your loved ones.

3. Develop new relationships by seeking out the good in others.

4. Be generous. Give away your time and money for the good of others.

5. Live for a purpose that matters.

By emphasizing the positive, you can learn that there are better things in life than owning new stuff. And then the decision to do without will be easier to make.

What was the dumbest thing (besides exercise equipment) you have ever bought?

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About Jeremy Statton

Jeremy is a writer and an orthopedic surgeon. When not ridding the world of pain, he helps you live a better story. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook or Google +.

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14 Replies

  1. Mark Ackley

    Bravo! Jeremy, this is such a good lesson for life at home and work. I’m going to be featuring your blog frequently on my facebook page at Blue Sky Leadership.

  2. Arvilla N

    I love your attitude! What a great article.

  3. The best part about having moved every nine months or so since 2007: it’s hard to collect junk. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got a bedroom full of it in my parents’ house but I’m not dragging it with me every time I load up.

    My mom always swears the dumbest thing she ever bought was a futon. She and my dad had to sleep on it for 3 months while we were moving. As soon as we got settled, it went into the garbage can.

    1. So moving is your approach to not owning too much stuff?

      1. It definitely doesn’t hurt.

  4. Shelly

    I really like your article today. I spent an entire day just this weekend, doing the same thing. It’s embarrassing really. For me it is paper products. Not dumb, but excessive in my case. I have enough journals, notepads, and notecards, I could write every day the rest of my life and still have paper left! Seriously. And this after boxing up part of it to give a little friend who likes to play school! What pained me the most, is, yes, the energy spent towards cleaning it out, but also the money I spent on these items! And while it makes me feel okay I’m giving it to a kid who will love it, one day, she and her mom will clean HER room, and more than likely, this money I spent will be in the trash…

    1. I’m sure if we added up the money we throw away when we bought this stuff it would be very painful.

  5. Can you imagine the breath of fresh air we’d enjoy if we’d commit to these principles – as a family, as a community, as a city, a state, a country, etc.?

    The list of five is awesome, and a great way to truly change lives.

    1. I like that description, “breath of fresh air.”

  6. Isn’t that the truth. My wife and I have been discovering the joy of finding stuff we don’t need in the basement, and taking it to the thrift store a few blocks away. It feels so good to have a new, clean space in the house where there was once clutter.

    1. I wish I could realize what I need and don’t need before I buy it though.

  7. I found I’d buy (or “collect”) various things as conversation starters. I suppose I didn’t think people cared enough about me to be interested in me but rather the collections and their stories.

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