• Sarah Tottle

Stuffocation: The Art of Letting Go



We live in a society of overconsumption. Overconsumption of everything. But is this making us happy?


I first realised the need for letting go when I was a backpacker in Australia. The sheer volume of clothes and products meant that travelling was anything but light. But, rather than feeling freedom, there was a sense of burden. I began to give my clothes away as I travelled down that glorious east coast and into Sydney, relishing in the freedom that it gave me.


Fast forward almost a decade later and I swear by the minimalist approach. It’s not surprising really. I’ve moved around a lot. I have spent the majority of my 20s in London, moving around different parts of this vast city. It made sense to keep things light and stay that way. In fact, it’s such a relief to have let go. I see material goods as serving a practical purpose that I want to get as much value out of as possible. If something doesn’t have a value or purpose, then it can be used by someone else. It’s such a freeing place to be at.


James Wallman, author and futurist, coined the term ‘’stuffocation’’, which essentially means an anxiety attached to being burdened by our belongings. I think we can all relate to this. Anxiety from stuffocation comes in all shapes and forms. It can be from the fleeting worry that something will get lost or stolen, perhaps ruined, to the almost pathological state of hoarding. When we worry about our belongings to such a degree, they hold us captive.


So if you’re feeling stuffocated and want to let go, follow these useful tips:


  1. Seek out experiences over material goods. Research has shown that experiences boost our overall happiness and wellbeing than material purchases.

  2. Look to the French. The French are known for their understated style and elegance. They are also masters of the minimalism. The French wardrobe bears essential wear without compromising style. You can read more about the French wardrobe here.

  3. Do a cost benefit analysis before purchase. How much will you wear this item of clothing? Does it go with anything else? Will you use that new tech gadget. It’s good to check in.

  4. Check in with yourself. Are you buying because you’re sad or happy? Check your emotions. If you use shopping as a distraction from sad emotions, then channel that energy elsewhere.  Go for a walk or call a friend.

  5. Wait. If after a week or so you still want to buy then go for it.

  6. See the purpose and value in your belongings. If they don’t have a purpose, get rid of it.

  7. If it’s not in use, give it away. Make room for better things to come in.

  8. Help someone. It might not be of value to you, but you can do some good by giving your belongings to those in need.

  9. Get resourceful. Want to do your share to save the environment? Then get practical with your stuff. Use old shirts as cleaning cloths for the floor or make collages from old magazines.

There has been a steady societal shift towards minimalism. Making donations of unwanted or unused belongings can have psychological benefits to not only the giver, but to those that receive them too. I challenge you to partake in clothes swapping events, have a ‘one in, one out’ policy for belongings and to focus on creating memories, not buying stuff.

©2019 by Sarah Tottle.