I recently read a book called Stuffocation by James Wallman. In the introduction, Wallman sets the scene by talking about, “how you, me, and society in general, instead of feeling enriched by the things we own, are feeling stifled by them.”
The book includes a Stuffocation Quiz to find out whether you have had enough of stuff. I answered ‘yes’ to nine out of the ten questions, because I do think we have way too much stuff.
I tweeted about this on 12th January, and the following conversation ensued:
My friend (@R2UK) – Ruthy!! Seriously! I’ve SEEN your house – it is NOT cluttered!!
Me – you haven’t seen inside the loft, the garage, the cupboards, under the beds…that’s where all the stuff is! Our excess stuff may be out of sight but it definitely isn’t out of mind.
Last autumn, we moved house, and the removal company needed to use one large removal van and one medium van to transport all our belongings. There are only three of us in our family, and my husband is a minimalist, so I have no real excuse to have quite so much stuff. I am trying to de-clutter rather than just put everything in our new home but the garage and loft are both full.
So how did I get in this mess? When I was growing up, going shopping was seen as a leisure activity and coming back with a shiny new item or items was always the aim of the game. What made things even worse is that I foolishly bought stuff for fantasy versions of me, rather than buying stuff I actually needed in real life. I wrote about this here.
Well now, having read the book, I’m going to buy less and continue de-cluttering. Items that we are not using could be used and enjoyed by other people. I’m never going to manage to be a full-blown minimalist, but I am going to make sure that there is more space and less stuff in our home.
The book also talks about the value of experiences, so I’m going to prioritise experiences over stuff. I grew up being told that spending money on experiences, such as going to the cinema or eating out, was a waste of money because I ‘would have nothing to show for it’. But this is nonsense.
On Thursday night I went to see Suzanne Vega in concert at Bridgewater Hall, and it was a really great night which I will remember forever. The ticket cost £27 and it was worth more to me than £27 of stuff. I also spent £15 on her new CD, but I queued up afterwards to get it signed by her and it was a much nicer way to buy a CD than clicking on ‘add to basket’ to order it via a certain online store!
In summary, I found Stuffocation to be a really helpful book. I’m planning to try the quiz again in 6 months time, and I hope to answer yes to a maximum of 5 questions by then. Wish me luck!