Everything I Have

Writing a thesis on sustainable consumption makes you inspect your lifestyle. Actually, I look at what I do and buy in gloriously geeky detail. And so far, it makes me want to experiment. Not that I want to downshift, no. But it’ll be interesting to see what value I actually assign to everything I own. Of course, all my stuff seems to be relevant to me. Seems, yes. I’m not sure. In a Facebook-discussion with my friend Justus Bruns, I was pointed to this talk of Bruce Sterling by Alper Çuğun.

In his talk, Bruce explains how you go about such a Relevant Personal Stuff Assessment. Start by dividing everything you own into four categories:

1. Beautiful things. Aesthetics are very important. But is it so beautiful you’d want to show it off? Exhibit it? Do you tell your friends about it? If not, it’s not beautiful. Take a (beautiful) picture of it, get the bar-code in case you’d want to re-buy it and share the picture with your external hard-drive, only. Because, “you weren’t born with it,” according to Bruce.

2. Emotionally important things. Also, emotional attachment is important. But, are you going to tell anybody about it? Does the object carry a narrative worth sharing? Or is it just emotionally blackmailing you? If there’s no associated story, better to get rid of it. Again, take the picture. Write the unworthy-of-sharing story too, if you wish.

3. Tools, devices and applications. With getting rid of tools, you lose nothing. Bruce: “You’re only gaining time, space and health.” If you want to keep tools, make sure they’re of highly technical standards. Do not duck-tape your tools. Or make do with tools. They probably break more than they fix.

4. Everything else. Get rid of stuff you never touch. Or haven’t touched in a year.

Amazing project by Simon Evans: Everything I Have

Then, Bruce emphasizes that there is stuff that should be of the highest quality imaginable. Those are objects you use everyday and are physically close to you. That’s a bed, yes – because you spend almost a third of your lifetime in it. Sell Everything else and buy that bed, and a back-friendly chair. And proper cosmetics, because they sit on your cheeks, and eyelashes. Proper shoes. The stuff you wear, and touch on a daily basis. He promises that your “quality of life will skyrocket.”

He even promises that “you will look different, you will act differently – you will become much more of what you already are.”

I have a notebook. And a pen. And lots, and lots of stuff. Time to make some.. lists.

NOTE Although I endorse the idea of getting more value out of less stuff, it is also important to think of what you do with all the books, clothes, crockery and toolboxes you’re going to get rid of. Make sure they get a second life into someone else’s list of Beautiful things or Emotionally important things.


10 thoughts on “Everything I Have

  1. interesting to consider that our western economy is fueled by “everything you don’t have….yet”, trying to make you a list at least as impressive and long as the one shown containing all the have’s; that’s a totally different economy.

  2. Pingback: Everything I Have « Crunchy & Chic

  3. I’ve done most of that, sold/gave away most of my books as far as I could. I never had any extensive CD or DVD collections thankfully. Not having much stuff is hugely liberating both for the space in your house as when you plan to move abroad. I hardly buy anything anymore except good clothes and good gear. It’s quite pleasant.

    And if you feel you need to consume, put your money into immaterial things: travel, theater, cafés. I reckon you’ll be happier than you’ll be at home surrounded by all your junk.

  4. as far as i am right, most of the cultural heritage we have now, was undervalued 100/200/300/400/500/… years ago, and may even have been disqualified (Rembrandt or Van Gogh’s paintings for example). It’s against human intention to throw nice things away, even they are not so beautiful or emotional related.

  5. Jan Wouter, of course I agree with what you say. But when I speak for myself, I try to live with less stuff – that means targeting my consumption patterns at the core by limiting what I acquire, rather than buying lots of things, and throwing them away as if I never owned them. Given your comment, you are indeed more likely to discover a forgotten treasure in your attic, than I am.

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