Detach from Your Stuff


Bora Bora Bed.previewI remember my young adult days as one of the most carefree times of my life.  I lived in a tiny apartment (many times with roommates) and had little disposable income.  I did not have a credit card.  I couldn’t afford designer clothes, gadgets, or extras.  All of my possessions fit in a few boxes, and I didn’t have to worry about vehicle expenses, home maintenance, or anything of the sort.  I felt awesome and light as a feather.

I was free.

Getting away from your stuff

I am lucky that I have a place to visit in Vermont where, for extended periods of time, I am rather “stuff-free”.  Every time I visit with my family, it feels incredible to get away from it all.  Upon my return to New Jersey, we always reassess and try to figure out how we can declutter our lives even further.

Why do we need so much more when we come back to our “real” lives?  We don’t; we just feel like we do.  That’s why going away–whether on vacation, camping, or to any place of solitude is so important once in a while.  Bottom line is that most of our stuff is hardly necessary for our happiness and overall well-being.

The moving scenario

I have a couple of close friends in the process of moving now.  I get such a kick out of asking them if they are paring down their belongings.  After all, what better time than during a move to declutter to the max?!?

So I looked around my house and checked out the contents.  I asked my myself what I would take if I was about to move.  Even though my family has scaled down our belongings quite a bit, there is still a lot I would leave behind.

Point being: a vacation, a trip away, or a removal of our physical selves from our homes helps put our stuff in perspective.  Our stuff is really not that important, and with that realization, we can weaken its grip on us and be willing to let it go.

A Challenge: Add one, remove two

For the next month, try this exercise:

Every time you buy something (besides food), you must get rid of two things.  Buy a new sweater? Donate two items of clothing.  New book?  Two must go.  Toys?  Same deal.  This is a slow, yet efficient, way to declutter.  It also forces you to think about whether you truly need the new item in your life in the first place.  Try it this month and see how it works.

An aside: Bloggers are a selfless bunch

I did not post a weekly roundup last week, obviously.  I will get back to it for sure, but I find it difficult…I always forget someone, and that upsets me.    There are a few people I want to mention this week, however.  They make the blogosphere an incredible place to do work and cultivate relationships.

Even though she has ribbed me a bit lately, Pauline from Reach Financial Independence has been an angel.  I have had many long conversations with Pauline over email, where she has helped this clueless blogger with everything under the sun.  She has nothing to gain from helping me; she is simply selfless that way.  Thanks, Pauline.

Kim from Eyes on the Dollar hosted my first ever guest post.  Again, who am I?  She posted it anyway.  Thanks, Kim.

Crystal from Budgeting in the Fun Stuff has emailed me back and forth several times, giving me tips freely and willingly.  I have learned so much from her!  She also wrote a reader profile on me after I had blogged for a couple of weeks.

Mr. CBB at Canadian Budget Binder paid it forward as well.  He commented on my site when I had (literally) 15 visitors a day and pushed me to write content that was meaningful and helpful to people.  Truly special guy.

Gareth, Tammy and CJ probably write the most thoughtful and heartfelt comments I have ever read.  They also have very unique blogs.

Again, I missed people.  That doesn’t mean I am not thankful!  Bloggers are truly incredible, selfless folk.  I am thrilled to be in the mix.

And finally, some Carnivals I was included in last week:

Carnival of Retirement at My Personal Finance Journ
Carnival of Financial Planning at Life Insurancey By Jeff
Carn. of Financial Camaraderie at The Savvy Scot
Yakezie Carnival at Abstract Aucklander
Carnival of MoneyPros at Money Reasons


  1. Every time I read a post that resonates, I realize a little more about myself. In your post today, Tony, I realize that I love the visuals. I imagine myself going to get my small suitcase or gym bag from the closet to see what I would “have” to stuff in it to survive.

    Our home is going through a super purge and has been for the last several weeks. Our ratio might be a little more like 1:20 at this point, but I know that our energies will not keep us at this pace for too long. I’m riding this wave of donation, boxing up, and giving away until it crashes into the shore. Then I suppose I’ll rest, paddle out, and ride the next one in. I can’t wait to go to my book club this weekend and give away some of my former prize possessions. I don’t want to clutter up anyone else’s home, but I do think they might like the glass bowls and vases I paid too much for or the Russian nesting dolls I was going to collect once upon a time. 😉

    You always make me think, and I so appreciate the nudges! Thank you also for the kind props. We are blushing!

  2. Loving this post for it’s its message and its simple take-aways. They can be applied immediately. It’s happening, right here in the Hoombah Household! As Tammy says, it’s a furious pace now and lots of fun, but we know that intensity will fizzle as we get down to stuff we really like. Then there will be meetings and mocking and gnashing of teeth, but I think in the end we will make reasonable choices and more will go than less.

    And yes, thanks so much for your kind words about The Hoombah.
    cj recently posted…Idle AchievementsMy Profile

  3. Your idea of buying one item then getting rid of two is frightening! Although I can see the value in practicing that such as making you question whether or not you really NEED to buy something, it makes me wonder what I would do when confronted by that problem.

    I like to think that I’m rather detached to most of my material possessions but that isn’t always the case. There are times when I feel super attached in which I just cling to the things I own, but after a while I end up in that zen mode where nothing matters. Although truthfully, I hate the idea of ever losing my phone or laptop just because there’s so many things I’d rather not have to start over on.
    Vincent Nguyen recently posted…How Another Friend’s Pain Gave Me New OpportunitiesMy Profile

  4. I think I’m a closet minimalist Tony.

    I have two ‘fantasies’ – if you can call them such. Either to live in a log cabin in the solitude of a woods like Thoreau, or to roam the open road in a campervan like Shaggy and Scooby Doo.

    In the last few years in particular, I have felt that even owning a home has become something of a (privileged) millstone around my neck. To travel light, and to be free to go wherever whim dictates seems so alluring now. It is funny how we often aspire to achieve so much in our youth; and then once achieved, we the freedom we had back then is sorely missed.

    If I ever take a proactive move to start trimming the hoarded fat Tony, I will start with your non to painful two for one idea.

    Superb, succinct and insightful post as always Tony. And thank you for the mention – as always it’s noted and much appreciated.
    Gareth recently posted…Not Your Typical Advice for Overcoming ProcrastinationMy Profile

    • I like the campervan idea. Too late for me…for now. Once kids are grown, who knows!! And you deserve the mention. Your posts are indeed very thoughtful…

  5. Great post, Tony. We just moved into a house half the size of our old house, and pared down big time before the move (and we weren’t even big buyers. How did we get so much stuff???). Now we are realizing that we’ve got LOTS more paring down to go, and will be doing so this summer. I can’t wait for that lighter feeling of having less stuff, and more time for fun!
    Laurie @thefrugalfarmer recently posted…Oops, I Did it Again (Almost)!My Profile

  6. Thank you Tony! most bloggers are really kind and helpful, glad you found a few of them in your journey.
    As far as stuff is concerned, the moving trick really does it, I have had to move with one suitcase to Guatemala after quite a bit of practice, but my suitcase wasn’t really full anyway! You don’t need much and anything more adds maintenance, worry, clutter, dusting… I am glad the repeated moves imposed that reduction.
    Pauline recently posted…About money, time, and doing the right thingMy Profile

  7. Good post Tony! Glad you have found some bloggers along the way that have been helpful. The PF blogosphere is quite the helpful bunch which is great resource for all of us.

    I love the add one, remove two things idea. We are in some SERIOUS need of doing that. That is our major project for the Spring, to majorly de-crapify our house.
    John S @ Frugal Rules recently posted…5 Investing Mistakes That Are Easy to MakeMy Profile

  8. I have also stopped doing roundups and mentions because I read so many freaking blogs I forget to mention people and I hate offending them. I suffer as a consequence by not getting mentioned back, but I feel better about it! :)

    Good post on de-cluttering… Last time we moved house (from rental to our first home purchase) I vowed to spend a day a year decluttering. That day is due…. :)
    Savvy Scot recently posted…Ownership vs Subscription for BusinessesMy Profile

    • Thanks Savvy. I am sure the lack of mentions will “bite me” back, and some weeks I will certainly do them, but I will always forget people. I am constantly trying to declutter; it’s a lifelong project!

  9. When we moved to our new condo we got rid of a lot of stuff. It felt so good to declutter and get rid of the things we don’t need/want/use. I’d like to do more, but the bf can be somewhat attached to the weirdest things.

  10. I was that way when I was young, just living the high life with very few items but never took much notice until I bought my first home around age 21. The best time for the wife and I is getting away from it all and most times that is to the relatives. When you talk about how much we have here is a classic example or reasons why we don’t need everything we think we do. Every time we go she literally packs enough for 2 weeks, shoes, boots, jacket,s make-up, jeans,, dress pants, bla bla bla.. and you know what? She hardly even uses any of it. We tend to think we need more than we actually do or… or… or.. or what? Our world will not collapse without the right outfit, right shoes… etc. We have been de-cluttering around her but it’s mainly in our basement items that the Mrs. has kept over the years. I sold practically everything I owned when I moved to Canada. As for helping you… I’m always trying to pay it forward as I’m sure you always will. Cheers my friend. Mr.CBB
    Canadianbudgetbinder recently posted…The Grocery Game Challenge #9 Feb 25-Mar 3,2013-No-Shop Week, No Means No!My Profile

  11. Nice post Tony! I just recently downsized into a smaller home and am still trying to “detach” myself from all the stuff in the garage!
    Paul @ The Frugal Toad recently posted…Budgeting Tips: How to Stop Spending Money on Things You Don’t NeedMy Profile


  1. […] thing I had to do when I moved to Canada was detach from my stuff and Tony at You Only Do This Once elaborates more on this subject and how you too can say goodbye […]

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