January 17, 2017

Stuff: Potential Obstacle In Any Home

Henry David Thoreau's cabin had few obstacles to living "deliberately" while confronting
"only the essential facts of life".

A home is a very personal thing. Each of us sets up our homes differently to reflect where we are in life at the time. But the important things are usually fine tweaks to a well established set of things that culture deems to be necessary to attaining the good life. But are those possessions freeing us, or are they obstacles to addressing more important considerations, the "essential facts of life"?

In consumer cultures the list of home essentials has been growing for decades. Unsurprisingly, houses have been bloating at the same time, just to contain all the stuff. During that period, my own list of what I consider to be essential at home has been shrinking as my desire for simplicity and freedom from the stifling weight of stuff has been growing.

Henry David Thoreau considered the ownership of material possessions beyond the basic necessities of life to be an obstacle. That has certainly been my experience. The best bits of my life so far are the ones where I have been living in stark simplicity.

Things like camping, extended backpacking trips, living out of a van for extended periods, and staying in a spartan monks room as a student all made me wonder about all the other stuff that we are told are necessary for the "good life". If I can survive happily with very little, what is the rest for?

I had to wonder if my possessions were a life enhancer, or obstacles. I decided most of it fell into the "Obstacle" category, and have been busy identifying and removing them from my life ever since. Add in reducing my ecological impact in a time of increasing scarcity, and there was no going back. I couldn't see the down side.

Still, no one can tell anyone else what they need to live the life they want. And Thoreau is not the only one inviting us to "simplify, simplify, simplify". In response to my last post here, readers offered up their take on the simple home, and the simple life.

I couldn't of said it any better myself. Go to the post to read even more good ideas.

"Enough is a roof over our head, love, nourishing food, clean water, simple attire for modesty and something to stimulate, like a conversation, art, craft, book etc...everything else is the custard on our cherry tart."

"I think a simple home is one that feels perfect to you. A place to lay your head safely, be warm and comfortable and have those you love around you, equally in comfort. A place where the things you have in your home are things you own and that don't own you. Items that are either useful or beautiful (or both!)."

“I’ve recently been house sitting for a friend & only took the bare minimum with me. I completely agree, I barely missed anything & actually felt freer and lighter without all my possessions.

When thinking about setting up a new house, it is also helpful to look at all the amazing stuff on Craigslist/gumtree(Australia)/thrift shops/giveaways. There are more than enough things already out there in the world, so even for things you decide you really 'need', it is almost never essential to buy them new - support businesses & practices you don't agree with.”

"I tend to be much more functional and less aesthetic in my home. Simple, easy to clean and maintain. I lean toward higher quality and good maintenance so things around me don't wear out, get sent to the landfill and have to be replaced. I also want stuff that I can move around from one room to another. I like open floor plans."

The take away? Warning! Stuff is a potential (and likely) obstacle in any home. Proceed with caution, and simplicity. Thanks for the excellent feedback everyone. It's not too late to join the conversation. Add your thoughts here.


  1. I am very minimalist, but every day I ask myself, what can I donate or rehome? I think I have an inner zen monk trying to escape. This is a good thing.

  2. I remember when I did my OE (overseas experience) and basically just had a huge backpack with me while I traveled a fair part of the world. I left so much STUFF behind yet as I traveled about, I left yet more as the weight of my backpack became too heavy. When I finally returned home after a couple of years, I couldn't believe how much crap I had and what was I meant to do with it all?? Some I kept, but much was donated or thrown away. I will never let myself have so much useless gear again. With a family now, it's admittedly harder to keep on top of all.the.stuff....but I'm constantly trying to. The less we physically have here, the more we emotionally have. More time, more energy for each other and a significant amount of more imagination! Thank you Gregg for doing what you guys do and for helping so many people around the world find their community at last. The last few posts you've made have really struck a chord with me and I think for many others too. In this uncertain world it's refreshing and hope inspiring. xx

  3. Anonymous1/18/2017

    One of my contemporary simple living heroes is Mike Roberts: https://youtu.be/Xas9RPnCF0w
    Let go of stuff and let your mind go free. I actually have a lot of stuff, it's called the world. Enjoy nature and the simple things.

  4. Every time I see this photo of Thoreau's cabin, I say ah and a relaxed feeling comes over me instantly. It motivates me to lose more stuff. This photo has been my screen saver in the past, I just made it my screen saver again. I think I'll spend some time gather up more things to get rid of. I enjoyed the Mike Roberts link you shared, Alex.

  5. Oh and I'm using the question, "Does this enhance my life or is it an obstacle" when deciding about stuff.

    ~Fellow Confronter

  6. I love the term "stark simplicity". I need to get to that calming place. Now if I could just convince my husband...

  7. I've been thinking about this blogpost for a week. Where do we find cabins like Thoreaus's? I could live in a space similar to this. I'd like to live in a space of 300 to 400 sq. ft. with some amenities. So bigger than Thoreau's. But I like open and simple like this. The trouble is I can't find them to rent. My small city has building codes and Thoreau's cabin would not be legal here. They won't allow tiny houses either. I've been working with them on this along with someone who wants to build a tiny house community. The city council will not budge on their ordinance that requires a single dwelling to be a whopping 850 sq ft. I'm willing to relocate!


Speak Your Mind

We are a supportive, caring and encouraging community of simple living, peace loving human beings.

Discussion and debate is welcome here.

Comments containing abusive language, or baiting? No thanks.

Comments are also moderated to eliminate any advertising. We are proudly a no buying, no selling website.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...