New thread: A Theory of “stuff”


I have found myself, to my considerable surprise, doing some deep thinking about stuff. As in: Crap. Things. Knick knack. Papers. All that.

The occasion was a move–the before, during and after. My wife and I have been having to confront the cumulative load of stuff in our house and lives, stuff that has to be stored, then moved in order to be stored again. (Irony, anyone?)

If you are a regular reader and remember my feelings about, say, Diogenes or simplicity, or my utter loathing of clutter and complexity, you can pretty much figure out how I feel about stuff.

My wife does not disagree–and fortunately loves me for my eccentricities–but she is nonetheless

  1. female and
  2. not me.

This places her in a sufficiently different vantage point to produce some fascinating and highly entertaining discussions between us and ideas that I want to share with you in subsequent posts.

So I’m starting a new thread (ie tag) called stuff. Talking about things per se would be boring, so we are talking about things only in order to find out more about life and clutter, Feng Shui and simplicity, fear and serenity, and these sorts of things.

As regular readers know, this does not mean that any other ongoing threads–such as the ones on storytelling, the great thinkers, America, Socrates or, of course, Hannibal–will be interrupted, only that yet another one will be woven into them.

Prepare to get stuffed.

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13 thoughts on “New thread: A Theory of “stuff”

    • Sorry for putting the whole YouTube thing up there. I thought I was just pasting the link, but when I hit the button, the whole film clip came on.

    • This bit is the first thing I thought of when I saw this new post, Cheri. It has to be part of the discussion.

      Another excellent reference from popular culture is the movie, The Jerk. “I don’t care about the money, I just want the stuuuuff.”

  1. Hmm interesting that you felt the need to say that your wife is a woman (prop 8 etc). Very much looking forward to her insights.

    Re clutter, physical congestion and stuff-iness – psychologists believe we have built in cognitive biases that make hoarding our default behavior – e.g. the endowment effect and loss aversion.
    For (perhaps too many) details:

    Bottom line – you have to work hard and invest concious energy to overcome these tendencies.

    • Clearly, I got ahead of myself: I wasn’t thinking about Prop 8 at all, but about the totally different relationship that women and men have to their stuff. Women are much stuffier stuffers than men, on average, and I intend to write a post about that.

    • Simple, yes, so it came up in our conversations. Then it turned out not to be so simple.

      BTW, If you’re cleaning out your stuff in October and you get to the ski/winter things, which you haven’t used in six months, you’d have to throw those out, by that rule.

  2. How about stuff we use to define ourselves?

    I keep books I love on the shelf, I keep my CD collection even though I have it all in MP3.

    I have even gone so far as to buy books I read as a kid with no real intention of re-reading them, just cause they were on sale and I wanted to have them.

    Am I a freak?

    Yes, but not for the above reasons….

    • Not a freak at all. Indeed, the majority. Ownership as self-definition: to surround yourself with souvenirs of your past; and with signals to your visitors about you. We all do that to varying degrees. But there’s more to say about all that….

  3. Some people find it easier to throw things away rather than making order among them, piling accurately in the corners. Like myself ))) Apart traditional tidying-up (an unpleasant process :/ I make a regular checkout around the apartment with a litter bag in my hands, purging it (not the bag, the apartment ))) ruthlessly from what isn’t in use any longer. I’m easy going on that, but I know people who just can’t throw things – they associate themselves too strongly with a 10-year old, worn out T-shirt or some broken vase ))) Sentimentality, isn’t it? ))))

    • I follow the litter bag method myself, Ostrix, although I resort to it less often than you. No sentimentality here. My wife is a different story, and she’s in the same house…

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