My daughter went away to university in September 2011. We drove off with our car packed full of her belongings, sitting uncomfortably squeezed between bags, rucksacks and boxes.

How Much Stuff Do We Actually Need?

We arrived at the campus, crawled out from under, and staggered around in a stiff way until the cramp had worn off. We unloaded it all, and leaving her and her belongings safely ensconced in her new room, we returned home. To find that her room didn’t look any different!

Why Doesn’t It Look Emptier?

I looked around in amazement. We had just driven our daughter, and everything she needed to survive until Christmas, off to university, and yet her room still looked just as crowded with belongings as it had before. There didn’t appear to be any less stuff in her room than before she had packed.

How Much Do We Need?

Clearly none of the multitude of items in her room were needed for her comfort or her survival in the next three months. This led me to wonder exactly how much stuff do we actually need? The answer is ‘Probably not very much’.

Significant But Not Essential

Don’t worry, I’m not going to go into her room while she’s at university and do a clean sweep of all her possessions. It may be cluttered, but many of these items are significant to my daughter. Significant but not essential, or she would have taken them with her.

Too Much Stuff?

When she returns for the Christmas holidays, from her clean, tidy and slightly minimal room at university, to her crowded and rather messy bedroom at home, maybe she will be struck by the difference. Maybe she will realise that she has more possessions than she needs, wants, or even is aware of. Maybe.

Reassess It All

It has certainly sharpened my perceptions about what we need, as opposed to what we have lying about. We juggle around and through a multitude of belongings every minute of every day, without thinking about whether we actually need them.

Take a fresh look at your belongings and assess how many of them you would take with you if you went away for three months. My guess is you will probably be surprised at how little you actually need.