FOCUS: Stuff

DISCIPLINES: Mental Models, Personal Mastery, Systems Thinking

It is preoccupation with possessions more than anything
else that prevents us from living freely and nobly.
—Henry David Thoreau


“Respond now and get a free pen worth $7.95.” I received this offer from Day-Timer. Later I was horrified at myself for biting. I have been working to purge stuff from my life. I don’t either want or need a new pen. I am hoping this tanking economy will help me be more conscious, say “no” to the internalized message telling me some new possession is a good idea or will make me happy. It’s a reflex. I know intellectually that “things” seldom make me happy for long. In surveys of national happiness, the US scores well below many less materialistic nations.


Perhaps we need not only a shift in consciousness but some new systems for acquiring and recycling possessions. I remember nostalgically the backroom of the Pt. Reyes Bookstore in 1960’s California, when my children were young. Everyone dropped off what they no longer wanted or needed and picked up what they now wanted or needed. We loved going there to get such things as a record player, clothes and toys, which we later recycled.

Today I discovered a modern version of the bookstore backroom at, where you can offer and receive things you want and need – for free! Freecycle’s™ mission is

“to build a worldwide gifting movement that reduces waste, saves precious resources & eases the burden on our landfills while enabling our members to benefit from the strength of a larger community.”

Check it out. It’s very active in Pittsburgh…perhaps it’s active where you are.

A lesson I am learning slowly is that the relief I get from purging stuff far outweighs the benefits of holding onto something “in case I need it later.” Care and feeding of my stuff takes more time and energy than I like to admit.


Some websites are inspiring me to give less stuff this year. They have great non-stuff gift ideas. Check them out:

Gross National Happiness

Maybe the current economic crisis is our opportunity to refocus where we invest ourselves and how we measure success. The term Gross National Happiness (GNH) was coined in Bhutan in response to criticism that the economy was growing poorly. The concept of GNH is based on the premise that true development of human society takes place when material and spiritual development occur side by side to complement and reinforce each other. The four pillars of GNH are the

  • promotion of equitable and sustainable socio-economic development
  • preservation and promotion of cultural values
  • conservation of the natural environment
  • establishment of good governance.

If we made these pillars our collective mind and heart-set, imagine how free, noble and happy we might become.

Coaching Tips and Questions For Those With Too Much Stuff

  • If you have stuff that needs purging, ask, “Is it still alive for me?” and “Do I really love it?” If both answers are “no,” get rid of it.
  • If the answer is “yes,” could you enjoy giving it to someone?
  • How can you give meaningful gifts that don’t quickly become someone else’s stuff?
  • What will you do with your extra time and energy when you have less stuff to care for and feed?
  • How might you personally shift your mind, heart and habits to lift the Gross National Happiness index?


  • Please join me for a 45-minute telegathering to explore how we relate to our stuff. Call Tuesday, Dec. 16, at noon Eastern (11:00 a.m. Central, 10:00 a.m. MT, 9:00 a.m. Pacific) 1-623-218-1094 PIN 968#. No need to register…just call at that time!

Read an excerpt from Liberating Greatness, the Whole Brain Guide to an Extraordinary Life, the book Hal and I wrote, at

Sharon Eakes | 720 Maple Lane | Sewickley, PA 15143

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