the stuff you own

”The stuff you own ends up owning you.” – Tyler Durden, Fight Club

I realise that receiving the most improved player award in your Year 5 cricket or netball team’s end of year barbeque presentations twenty years ago may have been a highlight for you but that little trophy takes up space. Worse still, it represents you hanging on to some meaningless token of long past their use-by-date glory days. You need to assess its recycling value before your life turns into one of the less commercially popular Bruce Springsteen songs.

There was a survey done of a group of random university students. (Yes, I know most students look pretty random but I mean random in a statistical sense.) Each subject identified who their close friends were. Those close friends were then asked a series of questions about the subject. Separately, a group of complete strangers wandered through the subject’s home. The strangers were then asked the same questions about the subject. To cut a long story short, it turns out that complete strangers can tell more about us more accurately from wandering through our house than the people we think know us best. Maybe this means that rich people who install elaborate security systems aren’t really concerned about burglars? Maybe they’re more concerned about people discovering them as they really are?

“Life – travel light!”

Our stuff says a lot about us. The beauty of that is we have almost absolute control over our stuff. If you want to achieve success and happiness in your personal life and career, then maybe you should scrutinize your stuff? You want to be happy and successful so it should look as if you are. It’s counter-productive if your stuff says you’re an emotionally immature and backward-looking depressive with barely repressed rage issues. So, lose the teddy-bear collection.

Credit didn’t exist in this country until recently so it had to be imported from Mother England in large ships along with shoes and oranges, many of which ironically were made from New Zealand wool. As a result, young people starting out back then struggled to accumulate many possessions, so decluttering wasn’t an issue for them – quite the reverse. You’ve probably noticed your grandparents’ generation are into hoarding in a big way. They keep old newspapers and cats for years after they’re no longer any use. They grew up during the depression and things that broke down needed to get fixed because you couldn’t just rush out onto the interweb and order a new fridge to be emailed to your fax. If your fridge broke down, you needed to get your brother-in-law to fix it using old newspapers and cats. But this paradigm is hopeless in today’s age of throwaway built-in-obsolescence where we all have to regularly upgrade our iPods because they’re “so last week.” Modern houses and apartments are so small that there is no room for old newspapers. That’s why there is a boom in rental storage. People need a place to keep their stuff they don’t want anyone to know they have but they can’t bring themselves to throw away. You can be one of those people if you want to be. Just bear in mind that there is a price to pay and it’s more than the invoice from the storage company. Your stuff is a perpetual reminder to others, and more importantly yourself, of just the sort of person you actually are and aspire to be. This is why that first visit to a potential boyfriend’s or girlfriend’s place can be such a turn-on or turn-off.

Decluttering Techniques

  • Take every hanging item of clothing out of your wardrobe. Put them all back with the hanger facing the wrong way. After you use an item, replace it with the hanger facing the right way. After a year, remove the items that are still facing the wrong way. You haven’t used them in a year. Gift them, donate them, sell them or otherwise dispose of them. If you’ve got some excuse like it’s the dress your grandmother was buried in then you have problems way beyond the scope of this book.
  • Any new item you buy has to result in the disposal of an item you already own. This approach is also recommended when you get a new boyfriend / girlfriend.
  • Literally diarise one day a year to sort your stuff. Be ruthless.
  • You’ll have a drawer or seven that is full of miscellaneous crap. Get some boxes and put the drawer crap into the boxes. If you ever use any item from the boxes, put it back into a drawer when you’re finished with it. After a year, biff the boxes and their dusty contents.

Don’t accumulate things; accumulate experiences. Don’t gift things; gift experiences, preferably ones that you can share with the recipient.


This post is an excerpt from my first book (with Mike Loder) ‘The Guide: How to kiss, get a job & other stuff you need to know’. More info at

“…an essential family resource, like a dictionary or an atlas…” – Radio NZ National.

Provides the young reader with the confidence to take a big stride both into adulthood and towards achieving their dreams. They will be armed with enough knowledge to avoid the top 100 future-wrecking errors that can be made, big and small. Packed full of information on such wide-ranging topics as getting a drivers license, job seeking, avoiding cons, OE travel, alcohol and drugs, flatting, pets, and relationships, the book is an immediately useful, fun toolbox to aid a young person in finding self and demystifying adulthood. It says: ‘Don’t be scared. You are not alone. Here is some well-supported wisdom to help YOU make decisions.’ And the best thing about THE GUIDE is IT’S FUNNY. Not preachy, not boring, it doesn’t sound like your mum; it’s laugh-out-loud funny.

Click here to view kindle version

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About Terry Williams - The Brain-Based Boss

I'm all about engaging people and helping you engage yours to influence behaviour to improve results - at work and at home. Maybe you're a manager, a salesperson, a leader, a parent, a presenter or an event organiser? You need to grab your people's attention, create some rapport, be memorable and influence behaviour change. How can we do that? I'm originally a trainer by trade, turned manager, turned comedian and partway back again. Author of 'THE GUIDE: How to kiss, get a job & other stuff you need to know', I write and speak about how to engage people, be they employees, family or yourself. How can we connect with people’s own internal motivations and help them use their own inner passions to drive towards productivity, success and happiness? And hopefully have a few laughs along the way... As a trainer facilitating learning and development in others, I find myself drawing on my own extensive business experience. I specialise in the delivery of high impact, customised training solutions for organisations that are serious about improving the performance and lives of their people.

Posted on May 1, 2018, in Employee Engagement. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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