Stuff I own

Omnia mea mecum porto. – Cicero

Update 1 (2018): I am profiled in Rowan Hooper’s book, Superhuman.

Update 2 (2022): Both my bliefs and my circumstances have changed significantly since writing this post, and I no longer endorse some of the things I say below. The list of possessions at the end is now hopelessly out of date. Also, minimalism is more common now than it was back in 2014, so I don’t expect this to be as interesting as it may have been when it was first published.

All the stuff I own fits in a carry on backpack.

It wasn’t always like this.  I used to spend countless hours per week at second-hand bookstores. My personal library had over 3,000 books. During the year I spent as a graduate student at the University of Toronto, I bought so many books that, when the time came for me to leave the country, I had to have them shipped to Oxford in a cargo container. The whole operation cost me more than a thousand dollars, and much stress and anxiety. In retrospect, it seems clear that owning all this stuff was a major liability, but at the time I was like the character in Bertrand Russell’s Autobiography who, when asked whether he would destroy the world if he had the power to do so, replied: “What? Destroy my library? — Never!

My attitude to stuff began to change when I read Paul Graham’s essay on stuff. Since then, I have become increasingly aware of the virtues of minimalism.  And now that I’m a digital nomad, I have developed an aversion to the very idea of standing in a relation of ownership to parts of the physical world.

There are people out there who advocate minimalism for ideological or philosophical reasons, such as anti-capitalism or asceticism.  For me, however, living with less stuff is all about having more fun.

When my friends learn I own so little, they become curious. They want to know which things I have eschewed, and which I can’t do without. The list below is an exhaustive inventory of all my worldly possessions.


  1. T-shirt
  2. T-shirt
  3. Shirt
  4. Shirt
  5. Boxer briefs
  6. Boxer briefs
  7. Pair of socks
  8. Pair of socks
  9. Jeans
  10. Belt
  11. Blazer
  12. Coat
  13. Boots
  14. Tango pants
  15. Tango shoes
  16. Towel
  17. Cap


  1. Ring
  2. Necklace


  1. Laptop
  2. Laptop charger
  3. Smartphone
  4. Micro SD card
  5. USB to micro-USB cable
  6. Headphones
  7. Fitbit
  8. Fitbit cable
  9. Electric shaver
  10. Universal adapter


  1. Credit card
  2. Credit card
  3. Credit card
  4. Credit card
  5. Debit card
  6. Student card
  7. Driver’s license
  8. Frequent flyer card
  9. Frequent flyer card
  10. Metro card
  11. Metro card


  1. Passport 1
  2. Passport 2
  3. Birth certificate


  1. Backpack
  2. Small backpack
  3. Ziplock bags
  4. Water bottle
  5. Supplement organizer
  6. Dental guard container
  7. Card holder
  8. Travel wallet
  9. Headphone case

Sleep aids

  1. Eye mask
  2. Ear plugs
  3. Dental guard


  1. Bowl
  2. Fork/spoon
  3. 1 tsp measuring spoon
  4. 1 tbsp measuring spoon


  1. Shampoo
  2. Conditioner
  3. Deodorant
  4. Cologne
  5. Toothbrush
  6. Toothpaste
  7. Dental floss
  8. Nail clipper
  9. Razor
  10. Sunscreen

Pills, creams & potions

  1. Vitamin D3
  2. Vitamin B12
  3. Phosphatidylcholine
  4. Iodine
  5. Lithium
  6. Menatetrenone
  7. Taurine
  8. Acetyl-L-carnitine
  9. Beta-alanine
  10. Amineptine
  11. Tetrinoin
  12. Tazarotene
  13. Ferulic acid
  14. Melatonin
  15. Nicotine gums
  16. Caffeine pills
  17. Secret pill
  18. Another secret pill


  1. Green tea bags
  2. 100% dark chocolate
  3. Nut mix
  4. Flax seed
  5. Olive oil


  1. Pen
  2. Marker


  1. Xaphoon
  2. Cash
  3. AAA battery
  4. Mom’s flat keys
  5. Dad’s flat keys
  6. Dave’s flat keys

With thanks to James Evans and others for useful discussion.