Possessions … and Freedom from Greed

Ownership of Things increases pride,
greed, and arrogance – which those
who are wise, will discern accordingly.

It is an excellent observation that:

“Many men go to hell
getting an estate:
their children go to hell
spending that estate.”

There is a perverse mentality
– clearly held by multitudes in this world –
in which people are admired
because of what they own.

It revolted me as a child;
a sentiment that has only increased
over the past 50 years.

Even the social Introductions
that are made in the 21st century
… reek of Greed:

In North America, 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 ?”

WHY Think About What I Own ?

Your casually spoken and written words
reveal your moral character.

So, too, do the items that you own.

Not only do your personal possessions,
reveal the quality of your mind and personality,
they can even alter your character
… for the worse.

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:

the perverse onslaught of advertising,
and its utterly bizarre, absolute 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’ –
the 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.


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 the “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, books, 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 we 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 potential purchase.

By limiting the things that you own
to the narrow and meaningful standard
of definite practical need (clothing),
and 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
that changes your perception of life:
and reveals the emptiness of the superficial toys
at which multitudes grasp, crave, and strive to own.

It is, quite literally, Freedom from Greed:
something which, I hope, these words might
serve in some way, to help you discover.

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

An 8”x8″ air-tight plastic box
contains passport and personal papers;
A second, contains Kodachrome transparencies
from early work as a photojournalist.

Printed pages of my academic dissertation
reference notes from books read over the years;
and the typed content of this Internet site.
are all contained in one 9x12x2” black stationery box.

A tea pot, tea bowls, 6 teacups; and Neko the cat
accompany Tyndale’s 1536 New Testament in Middle English
along with a pair of secateurs and set of small shears
– which have sentimental value as my first professional
Japanese gardening tools.

Daily-use clothing hangs in the wardrobe,
while pressed-and-folded replacements are kept
in the plastic box just visible beneath the Samue jacket.

Everything can be carried
in the empty duffel bag that you see here.

Absolutely everything I own
is in this picture for you to see.

A few personal, daily use items accompany me
when I go anywhere …

The bracelet is personal: one bead for
every year of my life; with a brass bead
inserted in the appropriate place to remember
the death of an animal who shared
home and friendship with me.

A phial of pine and lemon essential oil
removes headaches; a small phial of rose oil
is simply calming at any time.

Also carried are a business card case, reading glasses,
and (a personal idiosyncrasy) teacup,
as I refuse to spend the exorbitant amount
charged for an occasional mocha coffee,
only to slurp it through a slit in the plastic lid
of a paper cup.

Lastly, if stopping to eat whilst not at home,
a leather pouch contains はし – collapsible chopsticks.

My secateurs are my tool-of-trade, and have
– more than once – brought me work, or the opportunity
to help folk who were having difficulty in their garden.

Everything is conducive to peace, self sufficiency,
and considered thought.


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 duffel bag –
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, cross-referenced,
and placed in two notebooks
(which have 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
some new item that takes your passing fancy.

That desire to own little and be content
with what you have … must be genuine.

If so, you WILL be embarrassed to recall
things that you once wasted money upon.

You WILL … once advertising has No impact
upon you whatsoever … find yourself (quietly)
listening to acquaintances talk, and watching
friends 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 disbelief
at the things that were once regarded as
“important” or “indispensable”.

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

P Livingstone