After five years of living in New York, I'm packing to move home. I have dragged out a mouldy old hard-shell suitcase that hasn't been used since the day I came to the States. I have coldly assessed the various items on my bookshelf - Steinbeck and Kapuscinski might get a stay of execution, but Mitt Romney's memoir has probably done its dash.

I've sorted out my Kiwi kitsch: Dick Frizzell tea towels, Buzzy Bee bookends and some particularly tasteless salt-and-pepper shakers in the shape of kapa haka performers.

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A sack in the corner of my bedroom swells with clothes bound for a Salvation Army future.

I'm wondering if, rather than the job I've taken in New Zealand, I'd be better suited setting myself up in one of those ridiculous new-age Oprah professions you hear about on afternoon TV.


Jack Tame, Clutter Killer.

Jack Tame, Wardrobe Sorter.

Jack Tame, Life Coach, works.

I would have ridiculed the idea once but living in New York City - this crossroad of consumption - has been a wonderful exercise in the joys of a life without stuff.

A one-bedroom apartment. Few possessions. The bare necessities of bachelor life. Living here has shown me how any professional without commitments or a family should be existing in 2016.

Living here has shown me how any professional without commitments or a family should be existing in 2016. Photo / Supplied
Living here has shown me how any professional without commitments or a family should be existing in 2016. Photo / Supplied

The kitchen is an excellent place to start. Kiwi visitors are often alarmed to discover I don't have a microwave. I don't have a toaster. I don't have an electric mixer, a blender, or anything on the crock-pot front.

I avoid gimmicky appliances - you won't find a popcorn maker, soda machine or pasta press at my place. And it's not that I don't cook. I make dinner several days a week. Sometimes, I even entertain friends for a few drinks.

And honestly, it's not that I'm cheap. There's a simple pleasure in existing without stuff. I'd rather invest in a few good-quality bits than a kitchen chock-full of junk.


I have one pan that cost a bomb but has never scratched or stuck.

I have one knife that cost a bomb but never blunted or dulled.

I have one saucepan. One jug. One corkscrew. One oven tray.

If ever anyone needs to julienne vegetables while I'm peeling my carrot, they're square out of luck.

Oh, hi.

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I like to think I've applied a similar philosophy to the rest of my pad.

Because I haven't had much space, I haven't felt the urge to fill it. I have one expensive-but-amazing vacuum cleaner. One expensive-but-amazing iron.

My furniture is limited to a bed, a desk and a few chairs. I eat dinner on the couch. Cleaning's a breeze.

Whatever money I've saved on stuff and whatever time I've saved on not dusting down skirting boards, I've spent on experiences.

Socialising with mates in bars and restaurants. Travel. I dropped half a kitchen's worth of cash this week on tickets to Kanye West.

But all this has me anxious.


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When I left New Zealand, the generally accepted philosophy for yo-pro life was quarter-acre or bust. A shared villa with however many rooms and a big backyard.

And although the apartment scene in Auckland has undoubtedly improved, I'm steeling myself for the realities of Kiwi life.

I've already accepted that for the first time in five years, I probably need to buy a car.

A microwave? Perhaps. God help me if I have to buy a lawnmower.

I've missed Kiwi life. I'm excited to be home.

But oddly, compared to life in New York City, it looms in my eyes as an existence of unnecessary excess.

• Jack Tame is on NewstalkZB, Saturdays, 9am-noon