Living Without Stuff

Philip HarrisChatterLeave a Comment

I reached “peak stuff” about 25 years ago.

We were living in a two-floor bungalow (yeah, I know that doesn’t make sense but it’s true) that had (depending on how you counted) at least four bedrooms, some of which were really big. I had loads of books, videos, music CDs, DVDs and video games, a collection of old computers and game consoles, wargaming miniatures and no doubt a bunch of other stuff I don’t remember. And two cats.

I don’t remember why we had to move out of the bungalow but after a brief stay in a flat that was completely unsuitable, we moved into my wife’s childhood home and lived there for a few years while we saved up to begin clambering up the housing ladder.

Since moving out of the bungalow, I’ve been steadily reducing the amount of stuff I own. Sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly. The computer/console collection went very quickly (probably the first thing to go when we left the bungalow). The books are taking longer. When we moved from the UK to Canada, I (reluctantly) got rid of a lot of them, including a lot of Stephen King hardbacks and some cool first editions.

A lot of things didn’t make the move across the Atlantic and as we’ve only lived in one- or two-bedroom condos since, we haven’t really had the space to expand too much. I’ve trimmed down the number of books I have, digitized my CD collection and put the CDs into folders along with the DVDs and my remaining physical video games.

I tend to stick to digital products now. Almost all the books I buy are of the E kind, I rarely buy a physical video game, and I’ve bought maybe two blu rays in the past 5 years (Event Horizon and… An HP Lovecraft Documentary. I think.)

It’s not all Marie Kondo all the time, though. Despite my best efforts, I’ve expanded my collection of limited-edition books (mostly from Subterranean Press), added way too many board games, and I have a couple of shelves of RPG books that could have been digital, but for some reason I prefer physical versions of non-fiction. I also have a couple of boxes of random stuff (like demo tapes from bands my friends were in thirty years ago) that I can’t quite bring myself to ditch.

To be clear, there’s not really a lot of stuff. It’s not a hoarding situation. I promise. It’s mostly a couple of very full cupboards and one of Ikea’s ubiquitous Kallax shelf units double (or triple) stacked with books and board games. We don’t even have a second bookcase in the living room, despite there being an obvious location for one. Our storage locker has some things in it but everything’s easily accessible so there’s plenty of room for more.

But for some reason it still feels like too much. I dream of a sparse, minimalist life. I just don’t quite want it badly enough to get there.

Until now.

We’re in the middle of some extensive renovations that impact our entire apartment. Thankfully, we’re fortunate enough to be able to move out while they’re being done. So, we’re currently staying in a nice modern loft about twenty minutes from home, near all our favourite restaurants.

Because the contractors need access to the entire apartment and it’s a long renovation, we’ve effectively moved into the loft as though we were staying indefinitely. We have our PC and laptops, all our game consoles, a few weeks of clothes, running gear, bathroom gadgets etc. Basically, everything we need to lead our normal life rather than the cut-down list of essentials we’d take on holiday. Everything else we own is in storage.

You can probably guess where this is going.

I’d say about 90% of our stuff is off in a warehouse somewhere. And apart from wishing I’d brought one or two single-player board games and a second monitor for my PC, I don’t miss any of it.

All those books and games, DVDs, random stickers I got from my mate’s comic store? Don’t need ‘em.

That still shrink-wrapped copy of Horror on the Orient Express for the Call of Cthulhu RPG? Fine where it is.

The collector’s edition of the original Bioshock complete with Big Daddy statue/figure thing? Haven’t looked at it for years.

That minimalist life I half-heartedly crave? I’m living it.

So, now I have definitive proof that jettisoning all that excess baggage would result in zero hardship and probably very few regrets.

Which means that when we bring all our stuff out of storage in a couple of months, I’ll easily be able to strip down to the basics and donate everything else to charity, right?



Of course.


But there’s a lot of nostalgia associated with that copy of Horror on the Orient Express and I really do intend to run the campaign. One day. Once I find someone who wants to play the Call of Cthulhu RPG.

And the Bioshock Limited Edition was really hard to find. I’m sure it’ll be worth the money on eBay. I just need to find a few minutes to post it and then buy the packing materials and pack it up safely and put it in the mail. Of course, people online are wary of people with low eBay ratings so I’ll need to build that up first. But I’ll sell it at some point.

And the stickers? Comic Connections is closed now so really they’re historical documents. They’re not even big. They can go into my office drawer with the shrink-wrapped batman keyring and the five identical SIM card removers I might need one day. Or I could slip it into the spare cables box.

Hmm, I wonder what my friend who was in that band I’ve got the demo of is doing now…

[Living Without Stuff by Philip Harris first appeared on Solitary Mindset on 17th November 2023]

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