by David Isle


I’ve lived in a lot of places. Just in the last four years, I’ve lived in South Korea, D.C., New York, New Orleans, North Carolina, and Rhode Island. Every time I move – whether it’s to settle in with most of my worldly possessions or for just a few months with a couple of suitcases – I think: I have got to stop buying stuff. And yet by the next move, I have always accumulated more stuff.

Marie Kondo became famous for suggesting that people keep only those possessions that “spark joy”. Apparently this is supposed to result in keeping only a few possessions. But I have to admit, even if at times in my peregrinations I feel over-burdened, I remain delighted by nearly every one of my possessions. I get rid of clothes I will never fit into again, but even then, it is with some regret. If I went full minimalist, I think I would end up like this guy:

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When I first came to this realization, I thought of myself as suffering from a psychosis somewhere on the hoarding spectrum. But I have come to think of it instead as a talent: I am very good at buying things that I enjoy and continue to enjoy. (Maybe there’s more virtue in the talent of the makers who produce the things that I enjoy, but we all have our roles to play and this article is about me.) I can convert money into utility with an efficiency that would be the envy of any alchemist. Call me Marie Kop-do.

Unfortunately it’s not a very marketable talent. Nobody is going to hire me to buy clothes for myself. Even if somebody wanted me to buy clothes for them, I wouldn’t enjoy it and I probably wouldn’t be nearly as good at it. 

And it’s true that I don’t have time to wear everything as much as I like. But I still enjoy my stuff. And it’s not even just the one-time pleasure of the acts of purchase and possession. It’s an ongoing and durable joy of having. The joy is not merely a spark; it is a glow. Enjoying the having of something 365 days a year and wearing of it only ten is not quite so hardy and palpable a benefit as wearing it, say, 100 days in a year, but there are worse things to do with money. Some people give money to Harvard after all.

My next move is coming up at the end of the month. At the moment, I’m traveling light, although not so light as when I arrived. But if I were ever to settle on one home for life, it better have big closets. I will not let my talent go to waste.