Too much stuff

That may be a fairly universal complaint in this economy of abundance–but I’ve always thought we were exceptions. We’ve moved from a small house to a slightly smaller house to an even slightly smaller house; we sure aren’t about to rent storage space, so we just can’t accumulate much stuff. (What do I mean by “smaller”? Under 1,200 square feet. Our realtor wonders when we’ll ever get out of “starter houses.”)

Beyond that, we’re really not much for shopping (OK, the truth: my wife hates shopping and I’m not a whole lot better), we’d really like to have enough money for retirement, and our only real indulgence — cruises, although it’s been 14 months since our last one — don’t produce stuff except for photos.

We’re also not early adopters. I’d love a high-def wide-screen TV–but our 10-year-old Sony XBR is such a spectacularly good TV that it’s hard to think about changing. Sure, it would make sense to get a DVR and stop using our S-VHS recorder for the small amount of time-shifting I do–but, well, see up top about hating shopping, and the S-VHS recorder works just fine.

So I thought about DVD players: How many of them did we have? We have one TV. Well, except for the other TV I use for exercising. We have one DVD player. Except for the one that’s built in to the little Apex I exercise to. Oh, and except for the player we won in a Safeway drawing a couple of months ago (sitting out in the garage; there were hundreds of winners, and I think it’s a $40 player).

Oops. My PC came with a CD burner and a DVD-ROM player…but after the first CD burner stopped working, and the ultra-cheap CD burner I replaced it with didn’t really work right, I bought a name-brand DVD burner. So that’s two more.

And, of course, my wife’s cheap little notebook has a combo CD burner/DVD player.

Good grief. We have six DVD players. And we’re really not consumers. It gives one pause.

Now, about CD players… I count ten. Our little home stereo. A $15 portable player that works just fine with a $10 set of headphones as an upgrade. And two fairly expensive “CD players,” the two Civics in the driveway.

Plus, of course, the six DVD players.

But hey, we have zero food processors, zero automatic coffeemakers (I make coffee, every morning, with an old Melitta ceramic holder, Trader Joe’s unbleached filter, Trader Joe’s Kauai coffee that I grind fresh–we had two coffee grinders when we got married–and boiling water from the Target Philip Graves-designed teakettle; works great, and takes no longer than an automatic), zero PDAs, zero set-top boxes…

But six DVD players. The stuff is too much with us.

And how are things in your household?

10 Responses to “Too much stuff”

  1. Eric says:

    Walt, I find I have episodes of accumulation followed by I’m-tired-of-too-much-stuff purges. Of late, like you and your wife I’m more inclined to question those purchase impulses, and do a lot of looking, but no buying. I’ve also shifted to more digital (esp. photos) and less analog. One of our research assistants before a several state move managed to sell the bulk of her belongings via Craigslist. Maybe you should follow suit and release any unneeded items to your community through advertising on the net?

  2. walt says:

    This isn’t really a case of “unneeded items”–except perhaps for the freebie DVD player, which we’ll probably keep as a reserve. It’s more a case of astonishment at how many times a particular technology gets replicated without intent: How one DVD player becomes six even though nothing much has changed. We really don’t have episodes of accumulation (our house doesn’t allow for it)–but stuff happens anyway.

    Similarly: How many clocks are in your household (assuming that there aren’t any sitting in the garage because they’re wholly redundant)? The count might be astonishing. And those aren’t even cases of materialism gone wild, simply the proliferation of embedded devices, espec. embedded digital devices. (Note that all but two of the DVD drives in our house are embedded devices.)

  3. Jenica says:

    We just moved two 30-something households into one small apartment, and we have an appalling amount of stuff, even without the arrival of the seemingly mandatory “you’re getting married, you must need this stuff” stuff.

    My plan for the next six months is to become the queen of minimizing and donating.

    (For the record, we have 5 DVD players and eight CD players, and of those, four of each are embedded in other devices. It’s astounding.)

  4. walt says:


    At least with us (one 32-year-old, one 25-year-old), it was from two apartments into one townhouse–and we avoided the “you’re getting married, you must need this stuff” issue by having a minimalist wedding (two witnesses, a preacher, and us). [Hey, it was her second marriage, I’d been given up on as a lost cause, and it worked for us. So far, at least, and it has been 28+ years.]

    Over the course of 28 years and six moves, with only the first move to a larger place, we’ve done a lot of donating and minimizing. [No garage sales–not our thing–and no ebay or equivalent.]

    So far, we haven’t had to rent a dumpster…

  5. Merrilee says:

    We live in a 900 square foot house with no garage. It’s like living on a boat. We are constanstly looking around for things to do without. My current goal is to get rid of the contents of two bookshelves, so I can get rid of the bookshelves. Another example of downsizing — we purchased a Linux workstation that we’ve put our entire500+ cd collection onto — now we can stream MP3s via a transmitter to speakers throughout the house, and transmit to a radio in the yard. We put our CDs in binders and chucked the jewel cases. It reduced the footprint of the music collection and at the same time made the collection much more useable.

    I’ll have to do a CD/DVD tally. We have a 5 disc DVD player, because I like to shuffle CDs (or did, before we had the media server) and didn’t want to have a separate CD/DVD player when one would suffice.

    I am a huge fan of Craigslist and eBay — used is better than new, in almost every case. Reduce, recycle, reuse.

  6. Fiona says:

    Our apartment is 600 square feet. We thought our place was big until we just found out our place is the smallest in the block.

    At any rate, we have a lot of stuff, books, records etc. As for technology, I count 6 DVD players too – four in computers and two standalone machines (one was an expensive early adopter Sony and only plays region 4, the other cost $80 and plays all regions).

    CD Players – 6 DVD players plus maybe 3 more. Two stereo ones and one working CD walkman.

    We’ve just started ebaying some of our excess stuff and it’s working well.

    We are doing the same as Merrillee in terms of reducing the CDs to binders or slim plastic folders. It makes a huge difference.

  7. Ruth Ellen says:

    800 square foot house (on a 5250 square foot lot). Plenty of room to grow tomatoes and roses. Not much room for stuff.

    Last summer I had a lot of work done on the house and had to move EVERYTHING out of it. A year later much of it is still in the garage. Time to get rid of it.

    I usually donate my weedings (of all sorts – clothes, books, stuff) to a thrift shop, but recently found out that anything metal, even if it works, just gets picked up by a recycler. A friend just told be about FreeCycle – . Sounds like a good way to get rid of stuff that still works.

  8. walt says:

    Now that I know we really live in an enormous space by some standards, I’m just watching the comments come in!

  9. Laura says:

    I live in a 3 bedroom, 2 bath trailer, which is way, way, way more space than I need, but space is cheap out here, and it was the only place I could find to rent that would take a cat. (Now if I only had a horse instead of a cat, I would have had many more options.) Oh, and I have a storage shed, too. And a huge yard.

    I own a food processer but no DVD players. At the moment, I don’t even own a VCR. I have a TV that my landlady left for me, but I’ve never gotten any reception on it. 3 CD players: one for the stereo (which actually holds 5 discs, so I could up the count, I suppose), one on a boom box I inherited when someone left it at my apartment, and one in my laptop.

  10. walt says:

    Laura, No, I wouldn’t count a multidisc unit as more than one player. It’s one device. (Our oldest DVD player happens to be a 5-disc player because it was replacing a CD player…but if we ever replace it, we’ll get a single-disc unit instead.)

    Three-bedroom 2-bath trailer? Don’t they call something that big a manufactured home?