Consumerism, requiring its products to be both endlessly desirable and endlessly disposable, cannot make sense of art, which is neither — not desirable, because an encounter already is, and not disposable, because an encounter exists relationally, in space and time.

At its best, literature is pure encounter: it resists consumption because it cannot be used up and it cannot expire. The bonds that are formed between readers and writers, between readers and characters, and between readers and ideas, are meaningful in a way that the bonds formed between consumers and products can never be. Literature demands curiosity, empathy, wonder, imagination, trust, the suspension of cynicism, and the eradication of prejudice; in return, it affords the reader curiosity, empathy, wonder, imagination, trust, the suspension of cynicism, and the eradication of prejudice.

In 2013 I got rid of 1,008 things

I’m not one to keep a close tally on my possessions - I tried counting all my things a few years back but found it didn’t help me reach my goals. Instead, what I find more valuable is to keep track of what comes into and out of my home. Out of curiosity in 2013, I kept a running tally of the number of things I discarded each time I made a donation run, sold anything on craigslist, or digitized and discarded print documents. I just tallied it up, and I managed to get rid of over a thousand things in my home that weren’t of value or meaning to my life.

I also kept track of my non-consumable purchases last year, and acquired 51 new items, including clothing, shoes, and houseplants. When I first started tracking both, my loose goal was simply to acquire less than I discarded—I’m really happy that I managed to eliminate a net of 957 things.

A few things I learned:

A wait list is really really helpful when contemplating new purchases. Every time I thought I needed something, I would jot it down rather than immediately purchase it. Many times I ended up removing items from my list completely; other times I gave myself the patience to wait for something to go on sale. I’d say on average things tended to stay on the list for two to three months before I bit the bullet and purchased them.

I’m not attached to books anymore. At the start of the year, I had trouble letting go of books. Several times, I would set some aside to donate only to pull them out of the pile before handing them over to goodwill. But over the course of the year, I lost my attachment. Next year my goals is to pair my collection further, down to only books I use often (cookbooks and reference books), plus a stack of books I intend to read before donating.

It is really helpful to designate an outbox. I use an area under a bookshelf in my office to place things I want to discard, and just drop things off there anytime I realize I don’t need them. Then, when the pile gets big enough, I fill a bag or box and take it to goodwill, list it on craigslist, or find a suitable donation outlet. This method made it easy for me to get in the habit of discarding things and also let me have the chance to change my mind if I put something in the pile but later decided I wasn’t ready to part with it.

Finding appropriate outlets for my things motivates me to part with them. I’m much happier when I find a specific organization or person who can really use what I’m discarding, rather than simply sending it to goodwill. I was satisfied to find an arts school to donate craft supplies, a volunteer book distributor to send my books to, and a shelter that took gently used hygiene products. I also took the extra time to list items on craigslist or eBay that I knew would find a good home, like old magazines, camping equipment, and kitchen equipment.

I don’t miss anything I discarded. In fact, I likely wouldn’t remember getting rid of many of the things if I hadn’t jotted them down.

I’m looking forward to continuing to pair down in 2014. Most of the things I got rid of were cluttering up bookshelves and counters or clogging up storage space like closets and kitchen cupboards. Getting rid of them has made it easier for me to find what I need, lessened decision making, and shortened the time I spend cleaning. I look forward to pairing down even more in the year ahead!