How Much “Stuff” Do You Need?

“I want my children to have all the things I couldn’t afford. Then I want to move in with them.”

– Phyllis Diller


One of the priests in our church likes to talk about “stuff.”  How we desire, pursue, purchase, accumulate, and discard “stuff.”  I was thinking about this the other day while cleaning out my closet and collecting clothes for donation.  Growing older (thankfully) I don’t have the same stuff mindset that I had in my teens, twenties and even early thirties.  For example:

$70 brand spanking new white Puma’s.  This was back in the early 80’s.  Probably the equivalent of buying Jordans today…which was a ton of money for a family that didn’t have a whole lot of money.

$1,000+ stereo system in my Camaro, purchased through hard-earned sweat working the grill, fryer and cash register at Mcdonald’s.

$100 satin Adidas jacket (this was during the RUN DMC years when everything I bought was Adidas).

19.5 APR on a new truck (I didn’t even know what APR meant.)  All because I wanted a new car.

Refusal to wear anything without a designer logo: a crocodile, little man on a horse, or anything else that wasn’t in GQ.

You get the picture.  Do what I did and take a look around your house.  You’d be surprised (shocked even) at all the things sitting around the house that you’ve wanted badly, spent a lot of money on (or both) and now sit in your house somewhere collecting dust.  That treadmill or bowflex machine.  That fancy new suit (or dress).  The new TV, stereo or any other piece of electronic equipment.  Maybe even the $500-a-month car that’s sitting in the garage?

Let me be clear about this – there’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting (and having) stuff.  But take some time to step back and assess your motive(s) or reason(s) prior to your next purchase:

What’s the rush?  I’m writing this post during all of the pre-release buzz of the iPhone 5.  Soon there will be massive pre-orders and people camping out in front of your nearest Apple store.  Is there something wrong with your iPhone 4 or the smartphone you just bought six months ago?  Is it to have the latest and newest thing?

Want versus Need. The universal question posed by financial experts.  Do I need it or want it?  I still have a fat tube TV.  My friends only half-jokingly say they refuse to come over and watch a game or UFC event because of my TV.  No high-def.  No surround sound.  Can I buy a new TV?  Yes…but do I need it? Not really.

Am I keeping up with the Joneses? (Or some other friend, neighbor, co-worker, family member, etc.)  Probably the worst reason for buying something.  Who are you competing with and why?  If our neighbor buys a brand new SUV, do I need one, too?

Isn’t this impulsive?  There’s a reason infomercials are on late at night.  It’s the optimal time to catch people in a relaxed and semi-conscious state.  That shake-a-weight looks like it would be a great workout.  And to get my diet down to keep pace with my new exercise routine, I should get the Montell Williams juicer, too.

I like the notion of buying experiences, not things.  Removing clutter.  Getting rid of unwanted or unnecessary stuff.  Sure, I like nice stuff, too, but I’m now more selective in what I buy (maybe too slow and indecisive, if you ask my wife).  To get started down this path, I suggest checking out two great blogs: The Minimalists and zenhabits.

Lighten your load, travel light, and make intentional purchases.  This is the path to mastering your “stuff.”



How much “stuff” do you have?