👋 Hi, I'm James.


I occasionally write about lessons learned on the journey to live a healthier, happier and more intentional life. 


📍 Austin, TX 

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  • James von der Lieth

The Joy of Throwing Things Away

Sometimes when I walk into a cluttered environment, I get what feels like the beginning of a mild migraine. Clutter stresses me out!

Am I psycho?

Ever since I can remember, I get a small burst of joy when throwing stuff away. Growing up I would spend the occasional Sunday cleaning out and organizing the mounds of storage, junk and clutter in our unfinished basement. It would take me most of the day and I only asked my parents for $20 to do it.

The end result of no clutter, more organization and less dust made me happy. After the job was done I could actually walk down in the basement and not feel my brain start imploding from cognitive overload.

That love of simplicity changed for a brief time when I started making disposable income in college.

In college, marketing campaigns started to unconsciously make me believe more stuff = more happiness, attracting girls and gaining more respect. Well, I'm sure marketing always had that affect on me up until college, but now I had the means to act on the materialistic impulses!

I remember using my new found disposable income by going to shopping outlets and acquiring more stuff to buy a feeling (AKA try to fill a void). When college ended, I couldn’t even fit all my possessions into my car like I once could. I wasn’t a hoarder, but I definitely wasn’t a minimalist anymore.

Marketing campaigns were turning me into the average American, another cog in the machine, working hard in a never-ending cycle of production and consumption of more crap I didn’t need.

Back then, if you asked me what essentials I would put in a backpack, I wouldn’t have known where to begin.

A year after graduating college, I read Walter Isaacson’s biography on Steve Jobs.

I read about how Jobs would just throw away the luxurious birthday gifts he received from friends because he had extremely high standards for anything he owned.

This resonated with me as I thought back on how it felt before having disposable income. By that time, I had most of the stuff I wanted, including a ridiculous Black Tahoe I bought new on a whim. I still wasn’t fulfilled.

Shortly, after reading that book, I discovered the Minimalists on Twitter.

One day in 2014 I decided to throw away anything I hadn’t used in the last 3 months.

I sold my Chevy Tahoe and started taking Uber and my bike everywhere. I felt about 5 years younger.

Once I purged my stuff I remember feeling so much lighter on my feet.

The Bob Dylan lyric “Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now” finally made perfect sense to me.

Clearing clutter and changing your attitude towards material possessions creates focus and simplicity.

I still find that with less clutter and possessions I have more time to focus on the important things.

Most Americans associate joy with acquiring more. I associate joy with purging.

Less is more.

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