Possessions, De-Cluttering … and Freedom from Greed

There is clearly a perverse mentality in the world
in which Owning Things,
is somehow seen as reflecting favourably
on a person’s … character.

EVEN the Social Introductions
that are made in the 21st century

… reek of Greed:

When introduced to someone, WHAT
are the Very FIRST words that are
invariably spoken to you ?

“Hello … What do you do ?”

When I was growing up,
the question was ALWAYS …

“Hello … HOW do you do ?”

Living WITHOUT television, stereo, and newspapers
while being of immense benefit
to our mental and moral well-being,
also separates us from that
mass-controlling feature of the modern world:

its perverse onslaught of advertising;
and its utterly bizarre, total control
of the modern multitudes.

It is one of the most liberating feelings
in the world to observe people, in general,
speaking, agitating, and rushing frenetically about
in their mad rush to buy the latest Technological Toy,
Sale Item, or popular Fashion Accessory –

and to be, oneself, not the slightest bit interested
in what so evidently

controls the thoughts and desires;
commands the attention, and
dictates the actions of the modern multitudes.

Truly, this is Freedom.

Greed – the mindless acquisition of
Amusements and Vanity Toys –
is behind the appalling superficiality
of 21st century humanity;

and – for anyone who might seek a life
with more meaning than
the constant pursuit of entertainment and ego,

I can PROMISE that you WILL view the world
(and people) much differently
once commercial advertising
becomes meaningless to your life.

We moved into our house in November, 2017;
this was the content of the garage
when the previous owners lived here …

This is the content of the garage
now that we live here …

“But surely”, I hear a voice ask:
“this is not Practical: everyone of necessity,
MUST have ‘junk’ –
suitcases, paint tins, tools …”

Yes, very true.

BUT that does Not Mean
that these things must be kept
in a chaotic mess.

Here is what constitutes our ‘junk’ –
items that are not particularly wanted,
but which nevertheless, must not be thrown out …

Every item has a clear box;
and every item is in its own box.

Four ‘Winter’ tyres are placed on my wife’s car
for the rainy season in winter.


In considering the question of HOW one begins
to ‘downsize’ one’s belongings,
I suppose the best practical answer would be:

“If you have not used it in the past 18 months,
you probably will never use it again.”

(Now … it will go without saying that this excludes
Emergency Items such as a torch, batteries,
a Primus Stove, and such like:
these can be stored in a container that is
specifically marked for such things as ‘power outages’,
‘plumbing’, ‘electrical’ &c. )

With that “18 month” guide, I refer to personal
and household items; accumulated acquisitions,
and clothing.

Set aside those items that you have not used
in the past year and a half or so:

pick up each one, and ask yourself – out loud:

“Why did I buy this, exactly?”

Then answer the question – out loud:

Talk to Yourself …
And LISTEN to your own answer !

“I bought it to impress (so-and-so)”,
“I bought it because it was on TV –
because ‘everyone else’ had one”,
“I bought it to feed my Vanity” –
and so on.

Then ask, “What does this do with my time?”
“What does having this do to my mind?”
“Could my time be better used than by
wasting it on this?”

When physically hearing the response –
you may well embarrass, if not shame, yourself.

Once all superfluous junk has been set aside
using that criteria as a starting point,

exercise personal integrity in examining
your own conscience to determine
which possessions most gratify Conceit –

that is,

identifying what things have been bought
in order to “impress”
those who are shallow enough
to actually be impressed by … ‘things’.


IF you are determined to ‘downsize’
your own belongings, arrange somewhere
that you can leave the ‘discarded’ items
for a month or so.

If, in that time, your resolve is fixed, and you
truly do not need things to secure happiness,
then you may donate the items to charity,
if you so wish.

Items that are destructive to mind or morals
– such as a television, CD’s, DVD’s –
are not given to corrupt someone else, but instead,
taken to the town dump.

If, on the other hand, the whole exercise was, for you,
a passing fancy … then no ‘harm’ has been done,
and you may freely return to the satisfaction
of your material objects.


Everything that I own has either practical
or sentimental value: there is nothing in our home
that is a ‘fashion statement’ or ‘popular’ product.

I have always believed in quality, dependability,
– craftsmanship: one good item,
rather than three cheap ones.

Taking that little while longer to save one’s pennies
allows one to focus upon whether that item
is really an important and worthwhile purchase.

It removes that desire to ‘collect’ … IF
a Self-Disciplined mind-set
is behind every future purchase.

By limiting the things that you own
to the narrow and meaningful standard of
1. definite practical need (clothing), and
2. sentimental or edifying items (things) only,

you will have effectively removed
the superficial dross of impulse and greed
from your life.

WHAT I Own, and WHY I Keep It …

We have two small Toyota motor cars
– both bought Used; one for my wife’s
medical profession in which mileage
is refunded her;
the other, is our ‘shopping’ car.

Our furniture is antique Scottish or Irish oak,
bought for both its practical use, inherent beauty,
and our deep appreciation of hand-crafted oak.

No attic. No basement. No junk.

It is, very much … A State of Mind –
one that CHANGES your perception of life:

(you Will feel sorry for people whose conversation
revolves around possessions, or entertainment);

it reveals the emptiness of those superficial toys
at which multitudes grasp, crave, and strive to own.

It is, quite literally, Freedom from Greed:
something which (I hop) these words might
help you to discover.

With the exception of two ‘ornamental tobacco pipes
(which I simply forgot to lift off my desk and include below),

EVERY personal possession that I own
is pictured in this photograph …

A small, watertight, ‘Rubbermaid’ box
contains passport and personal papers;
the other, Kodachrome transparencies from
early work as a photojournalist.

A tea pot and cup; share the space with my
briar pipes, pipe tobacco. an old tin matchbox,
Tyndale’s 1536 New Testament in Middle English;
and four ring binders containing my academic dissertation
and the typed copies of work appearing
in this Internet site, all in plastic sheet protectors.

Not photographed, a five- by three foot Edwardian
oak wardrobe contains my clothes and shoes.

This old leather despatch bag accompanies me
wherever I go; and carries what you see –
including my watch, if the weather is too warm
for wearing a waistcoat …


Every personal item I own (save the clothes
in the oak wardrobe) is included in
these photographs.

All (including clothes) can fit in one large suitcase
and be carried with me anywhere,
at a few minutes’ notice.

If looking at something in a shop display,
the philosophy, for me, is a simple one:

Any individual item that cannot be wrapped
and placed in that bag within five minutes,
is something I do not need to own.

A Word about BOOKS …

Reading is my entertainment.

Although having given away my library,
I must mention that, over the years,
the contents of my old books
have been committed (by sheer repetition:
re-reading treasured volumes a dozen times and more)

to my appalling memory … and,
in key quotations, carefully typed
and cross-referenced, and placed in a binder
(which has served when called upon
to deliver a lecture at short notice).

A very well-stocked antiquarian bookshop
provides an admirable and constant source
of quality reading material:

once a book of interest has been read
and re-read, it is returned to the shop,
which, effectively, buys it back
at a small loss to me; credits my ‘account’,
and I can browse for another title of interest.


It is impossible to describe the liberty
from constantly ‘wanting’ things
– the Freedom from Greed – that comes

with a genuine desire and concerted effort
to be rid of extraneous possessions – MOST
Of Which, have no redeeming merit whatsoever,
and serve only to gratify vanity and waste time.

It is NOT the OBJECT sitting in the attic
of which you are seeking to be rid —

BUT The DESIRE to “Own things” and buy
every new item that takes your passing fancy.

You WILL … (once advertising has No impact
upon you whatsoever) … find yourself (quietly)
listening to people talk, and watching
them waste their money on Vanity Toys …
and you WILL feel sorry for them.

I can also assure you that – with the passage
of a very BRIEF amount of time, one begins
to look back  – With Embarrassment !!! –
at the things that were once regarded as
“important” or “indispensable”.

If you are considering “thinning out”
your own personal possessions,
I sincerely trust that the suggestions
presented here may be of some help to you.

P Livingstone

Author: Mr Livingstone

A gentle man who simply wishes to live quietly and die peacefully ... despite being surrounded by a world that has neither manners nor morals.

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