My Old Way of Thinking
Until recently, my strategy for deciding what possessions to keep has been simple: to a first approximation, “keep everything forever”. There is family history in this direction, so I come by this honestly. I have kept many pieces of equipment, cables, books, magazines, tools, office supplies, and much more. There are 200 square feet of shelving in my basement (including my data center), that’s 19 square meters for those of you in the rest of the world. Applied to books, this strategy means that I keep every book forever, in case I ever want to read it. I’ve been building up a library.
I have seen the light, though.
My New Way of Thinking
If it is something unique in the world, or too expensive to replace, or I use at least every couple of years, keep it. Otherwise, give it away, sell it, or discard it. The world is my warehouse. If I need it back I can buy it again; statistically I will buy back only a tiny fraction of what I get rid of, and at low cost. Again, a book example: most older books (including dozens I have gotten rid of recently) are readily available at a fraction of the cover price, if by chance I need them again.
Life (and business) must be about the future. By tossing residues of the past out of the way, more capacity (physical and mental) is available to pursue what matters now.
Update: I thought back to this post when I read Paul Graham’s Stuff essay in July 2007.