Don’t Just Declutter, De-own.


“Owning less is far more beneficial than organizing more.” – Twitter / Facebook

We are a culture drowning in our possessions. We take in more and more (holiday, birthdays, sales, needs), but rarely find opportunity to discard of it. As a result, our homes fill up with more and more stuff. And because we believe the best solution is to find organizational tools to manage all of it, we seek out bigger containers or more efficient organizational tips and tricks. But simply organizing our stuff (without removing it) is always only a temporary solution. By definition, organizing possessions is an action that must be repeated over and over and over again.

At its heart, organizing is simply rearranging. And though we may find storage solutions today, we are quickly forced to find new ones as early as tomorrow. Additionally, organizing our stuff (without removing it) has some other major shortcomings that are rarely considered:

  • It doesn’t benefit anyone else. The possessions we rarely use sit on shelves in our basements, attics, and garages… even while some of our closest friends desperately need them.
  • It doesn’t solve our debt problems. It never addresses the underlying issue that we just buy too much stuff. In fact, many times, the act of rearranging our stuff even costs us more as we purchase containers, storage units, or larger homes to house it.
  • It doesn’t turn back our desire for more. The simple act of organizing our things into boxes, plastic bins, or extra closets doesn’t turn back our desire to purchase more things.  The culture-driven inclination to find happiness in our possessions is rarely thwarted in any way through the process.
  • It doesn’t force us to evaluate our lives. While rearranging our stuff may cause us to look at each of our possessions, it does not force us to evaluate them—especially if we are just putting them in boxes and closing the lids. On the other hand, removing possessions from our home forces questions of passion, values, and what’s truly most important to us.
  • It accomplishes little in paving the way for other changes. Organizing may provide a temporary lift to our attitude. It clears a room and subsequently clears our mind, but rarely paves the way for healthy, major lifestyle changes. Our house is too small, our income is too little, and we still can’t find enough time in the day. We may have rearranged our stuff… but not our lives.

On the other hand, the act of removing possessions from our home accomplishes many of those purposes. It is not a temporary solution that must be repeated. It is an action of permanence—once an item has been removed, it is removed completely. Whether we re-sell our possessions, donate them to charity, or give them to a friend, they are immediately put to use by those who need them.

Removing possessions begins to turn back our desire for more as we find freedom, happiness, and abundance in owning less. And removing ourselves from the all-consuming desire to own more creates opportunity for significant life change to take place.

As you seek to get your home (and life) organized, challenge yourself to remove the unneeded things in your home. Rid yourself of the extra weight in a permanent manner. Carry a trash bag from room-to-room. See how big of a donation pile you can make. Or help eliminate debt by selling them. It doesn’t matter so much how you remove them, as long as you do. For it is far better to de-own than declutter.

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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  1. Joanne Harmon says

    My house is huge and full of tons of junk I don’t need I give away every day I am moving towards minimalism at a rapid pace and preparing to sell this house and move into a smaller one with myself and three children by March when I can pay for re-carpeting and paint so it will sell quickly I am so tired of clutter in my life. I want it all gone I don;t need it which is how I found this site thanks for the courage to seek out minimalism I will make it my goal in life Needs Only from this day forward.

    • herbert says

      i agree. i am keeping only necessary items and those items must be able to be reused at least 3 or 4 times for different purposes. for example my boxer shorts can also be used as a swath for my cat, or a rag to mop up stuff if i spill it, or a little flag i can use for flag football, too. this is the way to be

      • Sian says

        Great article. I’m moving house, and using it to get rid of everything but the essentials and the few (and I mean few) things that actually have meaning. Wish me luck.

          • says

            I’m preparing for the same kind of move – Boom and Thenix are going on a year long sojourn around South America – we are driving down in a 1998 Honda Civic all the way to the tip of Argentina. This means, paring down hard. We can only bring anything that we can carry on our backs, as we are afraid of leaving stuff in the car, as it would attract unwanted attention. In preparation for this trip, we had to stop buying new stuff six months in advance, and start donating as much as we could. The good thing – we don’t own that much stuff compared to others. The bad thing – we still own a lot of stuff!

        • Linda ferrett says

          But what if?
          I love my crafts, drawing, crochet, books, jewelry , knick knacks just like my mom. I dont want to give it all away like my husband would want me too. Its hard . I enjoy these things… What to do? We are having to move also….but he wants me to get rid of EVERY THING! Linda

          • says

            Many of my clients start out feeling the same way about their “stuff”. I have found over the years that once they have separated from it, they do NOT miss it like they thought they would! Let’s face it, most ‘crafts’ are really just complete wastes of time and money (and since the finished result is rarely anything necessary they just add to the “overstuffed” problem), and knickknacks sit around and collect dust. When you live among them they seem important, but when you are not looking at them all the time they lose that importance.

          • Viv says

            I enjoy my crafts too and my miniatures and books, I can totally relate to your situation Linda. I disagree that crafts are a waste of time and money. I get great pleasure out of my scrapbooking and card making and I save money by giving my crafts as gifts and sending out my homemade cards. If I were in your situation Linda, I would try to reach an agreement with husband that I’d downsize and recycle maybe a third of my crafts, knick knack collection and other stuff. It will cause a rift between you if you get rid of things that you are not ready to let go because he wants you to. Once you start going through things I am sure you won’t have too much difficulty sending items off to charity. Check to see if a local school would like a donation of craft supplies for their classrooms and then think of the kids having fun with your unused supplies as you’re sorting through it. Good luck and remember taking baby steps is moving forward too :)

          • Dena says

            Don’t get rid of those things that you love, especially if it reminds you of your mom. There will be a time to rid your home of things that don’t matter to you. Like, when your church is having a rummage sale, you can donate at that time, when you are ready, and it goes to a great cause. You can’t get that stuff back. To please the husband, find stuff you really don’t want now, that may buy you some time.

          • Ellen Scott Grable says

            Possessions, especially beautiful or sentimental ones can keep us focused on the past when we should be living fully in the present. It takes courage to let go but it makes space for wonderful experiences to fill your life!

  2. says

    Wow…I love this article..reminds me of my B School days when my professor used to speak about a Japanese concept called Mooda…The Japanese used a process of eliminating all waste ie. waste of time or resources from their processes. As a result, they created world class products that include cars and electronics.He would always end his lecture saying that we must not only eliminate Mooda from our processes but also from our lives…only then can we focus on what really matters and move ahead…thanks for reminding me!

    • says

      So true! I try to eliminate muda every day, in work and my personal live. I’m removing my possesions in fast and big steps, but improving the rest in small continuous steps (kaizen).

  3. T. says

    Organizing is just getting more stuff in a smaller amount of space – by way of more expensive and time consuming contraptions. This reminds me of the fact I had to have an electric foot bath. It was expensive and difficult to lug to refill and clean. I was so relieved the day it died. It would no longer be taking up critical space in my front closet and we wouldn’t have to fill/empty and clean it again. I have removed (donated, sold, etc) many things that have given us no added pleasure for the trade off of the work they involve. I won’t go back to over consumption and strive for a more minimalistic life every single day.

    • says

      T, I must say I disagree with your idea of organizing. I am a new professional organizer. I feel that organizing is about prioritizing and only including things in you space that make you feel calm happy and move you forward with purpose. Everything else (like your foot bath) should be sold or donated.

  4. Tiffanyle says

    I am in the final stages of a two year process of eliminating purchases and decluttering and removing items from my home. I come from a family of “collectors” and I am forever being given things and used to try to keep only the pretty or valualbe things even if i didn’t love them. I finally found something I wanted to collect and have been able to do it in moderation and slowly filter out the items I don’t love.

    I hold each item in my hand and say to myself “Do I love this?” if not, it goes. I use paperbackswap dot com and freecycle to get rid of most things and also the library and local thrift stores too. I also have a one in/one out rule. I also weekly take a moment to look at my clothes briefly and pick one thing I don’t like/wear/fit in etc. I do the same with my books too. I used to have 7 book shelves, now I have 3 that I a constantly cull. I homeschool my children so I have had to really prioritize what to keep and not keep.

    I love the library and yet still have a hard time getting rid of books I know the library has ready copies of, because usually I have the first edition or an antique book I can only find on projectgutenburg dot org.

    I really appreciate this site and come often, every few weeks or months to re read the priorities and get new ideas of why I am having trouble letting go of this spoon or that book.

    Thanks for all the help over the last few months and my 2 year project finally feels to be at a close. The end of having to battle each day and the end of the hard life styles changes. It feels great.

  5. Lynne says

    A year ago I started this process. but I will admit I was not vwey good with it. Then a month ago something clicked in my head. For years my late husband told me I always
    ” want stuff”, but once I got it it was not important. I deined it, but deep down I knew it was true. Once he died in 2011, my income went from middle class to poverty.BUT I still tried to live like his income was in the household. Now with no savings and a lot of stuff I am not happy. So I looked around my home and saw the stuff. I turned off the cable, started clipping coupons, and cleaned out the nightstand in my room. Then I went in my sons room that I use as storage now he is away from school and cleaned it out. OMG I had VHS tapes, av cords, a least 30 cable cords, old receivers, telephone cords and a whole lot of other crap. I threw them away. Then I got three lanundry baskets and started cleaning out my closet. Throw away, donate and keep. Then I hit the garage, threw away I was always ashmed of it beause it was always a mess. Not anymore, everything has it place because I got rid of stuff I will never use, like the lawn mower, I pay a kid to cut my grass. I sold it. Next I will sort out the tools, I have a propone tank and fryer, I am going to sell it. A bin of girl scout stuff, I am no loner a troop leader, I do not need it. After I write this post I will sort out the bedding that I have in vaccaum seal bags and throw them away. If I liked them I would have used them in the 3 years I have lived in this house. Sorry for the long post this is not a declutter issue, but a cleaning my life issue. I plan on donating my time to a kill dog shelter. and get the word out about not buying dogs but to adopt one. I could not do this because I spent so much time either shopping or eating out.

    • cathy says

      Lynne, Your post is very inspirational ! A suggestion about the bedding…believe it or not, sheets, towels etc. are very useful to orgs that house animals. I know that our local animal shelter does use towels, etc. for a myriad of things.
      Also, it’s great to know there are othes on the quest to declutter and keep our lives simple.
      It’s true that ” stuff” doesn’t bring us happiness….My now deceased Mom in law was a quilter….and she collected and hoarded so much fabric that it literally took two 18 wheelers to get rid of the excess fabric and other items that she had collected. Her husband donated these nice fabrics to orgs that made quilts for the needy. He drove from Virginia to I think Pennsylvania to do this donation of fabric.
      When we streamline the excess stuff, it does give us a sense of accomplishment and great satisfaction.
      I’m currently in the process of decluttering a junk room..your post and others have inspired me to keep to the I’ve been working on this for at least 6 weeks.
      I am proud of you eventhough we have never met. Cathy in Louisiana

  6. kc! Bradshaw says

    Thank you for the wise suggestions. We just moved to a smaller home and have been going through the “painful” purging necessary to fit. Although it hasn’t actually been painful at all. It feel liberating to post everything up on, FreeCycle and Craiglist and let my neighbors get use out of things I haven’t touched in decades.

  7. says

    Hey. Great thoughts. However, I believe one missing piece in this text is the fact that in order to truly deown things people need to first change lifestyles. Not only that, but some lifestyles absolutely do not support (on bigger scale) deowning of things.

    I consider myself a minimalist. Yet this is the situation I am in. I live in continental Europe and we really do have 4 weather seasons. For this I need lots of different type of clothes, ranging from winter warm big jackets, to summer shorts and flippers. Of course, this means several types of shoes, two pairs of each type (two winter boots, two sneakers, two running shoes, … you get the idea). Then, I am into mountain biking and biking in general. This requires me to have two bikes, and for mountain bike a set of clothes (double, of course, while I wash one I ride in another). Shoes for bike. Tools for servicing, spare parts. Then, I am a designer and somewhat of a computer junkie. I love movies. I love some videogames. And one day soon I will want children, and I want to show to them, when they grow up a little, some of the things which formed my life. I was thinking on giving away my collection of DVD movies, since I watch all digitally or stream it. But I would _REALLY_ like to show those DVDs to my kids one day. Then, I like to draw. I have many Moleskine notebooks, pens, pencils, …. etc. Ah, also I am very much into camping and outdoorsy lifestlye. Therefore I own tent, few hunting knives, tools, cooking equipment… I own a car. I have tons of stuff to support that too. Etc.

    So you see, the thing with trully minimalistic life is that you need to have lifestyle to support it. You must have a job which can be done using only laptop, you must have a hobby which requires only Kindle or iPad or something like that, you must do sport which requries you basically own next to nothing and go to gym, you must not think about future and having kids, you must have no additional hobbies (hello cooking for pleasure and things that come with that).

    When all is said and done, true minimalism (Shaolin Monk style) means that you do not fully live your life. That you do not take real advantage of technologies and possibilities THINGS have to offer to us. And that fully lived lifes, which have multiple hobbies, have adventurous weekends and vacations, and a fully packed To-Do list REQUIRE things to be lived successfully.

    • Vicky says

      I disagree. You sound like a man who likes to have fun, but you don’t sound like a minimalist. That’s fine. It is your business. But many people with far fewer possessions than you are living quite fully because their focus in on family and friends. I think you are having trouble letting things go by placing so much in the “need” category. No one needs to imitate monks to practice minimalism. We should all do this our way and not make rules for others.

    • Lena says

      To me, being a minimalist is having “just enough” and eliminating the excessive and unnecessary. If you need and use everything that you have for your work and your hobbies and don’t have anything around that doesn’t fit your current lifestyle, then you are a minimalist. If you have things from your past that you had good intentions for but don’t use today, then you are not. You don’t have to be an extreme case. You don’t have to go without a family or pets, or get rid of your car or TV.

      • Erin says

        A minimalist does not typically have 2 of everything…. I live in Minnesota, so we definitely have 4 seasons. One pair of winter boots, one pair of sneakers/running shoes, one winter coat, one fall coat…. I could go on. I’m not looking to live a stark monk-like lifestyle, but I really don’t see the need for more than one of each thing….

      • Viv says

        Well said Lena. I think that making comparisons and judgements of other peoples lifestyles and defining minimalism by whether you have less stuff than another person is the wrong path to travel down.

    • Julie Albright says

      I somewhat agree with Goran, above. I just donated a garbage bag full of clothes to charity, but I have so many, many more. It may be time for all the vintage clothes to be sold.

      But, if you engage in outdoor sports, there is a certain amount of gear and clothing that goes along with it. Skiing, hiking, biking, climbing, kayaking; all have their own piles of gear. Not to mention tents, sleeping bags, stoves, etc.

      If you live somewhere like I do, with 4 distinct seasons, it is hard not to have 4 wardrobes! Not to mention all the clothes I love I am hanging on to in case I lose weight. Add in the sports clothes, and you have a recipe for closet disaster, as I do. Good luck to everyone on their minimalism….I think I may be a sweater away from an episode of Hoarders.

      • Andrea says

        I live in Minnesota, and you do not need “4” wardrobes. Fall and spring are almost identical in temps. All you “need” for 4 seasons are pants, shorts, t-shirts, and sweatshirts, and something nice for going out. The hobby stuff can be considered a whole other category. Minimalist means not having more than you actually need.

        • cheryl says

          Minimalism is having and using all that you NEED and ridding yourself of that which contributes nothing to your life but rather, diminishes and wastes your time, effort and energy for something that gives you absolutely no JOY or HAPPINESS. How this manifests itself in our lives, will be as different and unique as each individual. The hardest part is getting on the path TO SIMPLICITY after being on the CONSUMERISM KOOL-AID our whole lives.

          “Have nothing in your lives that you do not know to be useful or find to be beautiful” ~ William Morris

  8. Sunfell says

    I made a deliberate choice to purchase what by todays standards is a ‘small’ home, and I do not regret doing that. Yes, the closets are small, too- no walk-ins, but the upside is that stuff doesn’t accumulate. When I moved from my slightly smaller apartment to my new home, I got rid of at least 1/4 of my stuff, and am still culling through it periodically. In my old place, one bedroom was filled with stuff, and looked like an episode of “Hoarders”. In the current place, I still have a ‘glorified closet’ room, but I periodically sweep through it and purge stuff. Goodwill gets a lot of it, and I get decent refunds on my taxes.

    There is nothing more refreshing than creating space. I now replace things that I wear out when I need to, and rotate things like shoes and handbags to prevent both ‘fatigue’ and the urge to go buy something newer. While my home will never look like some zen-like Home and Garden magazine spread, it still feels like home to me. I like the things I have. And I know that I will never return to the days where all my stuff fit into the trunk of my car.

  9. Giang says

    i totally agree that less is more. removing things that are not in use any more make me feel better. after the “just-in-case syndrome”, it is wonderful to live a more spacious house with my favorites items only

  10. says

    Wonderful article! I wish everyone would take this advice and realize life is more enjoyable and freeing with less “stuff”! I try to teach my clients this all the time. People will come around when they’re ready :)

  11. says

    Leading a more simplified life is so rewarding. We go through a purge on a regular basis. It always feels so wonderful knowing that the things we no longer need can help someone else. I encourage my clients to do the same. My tagline is: “Simplify your life. Discover more hours in your day.” It is so true. When you are not bogged down with stuff, life is so much better. I have a simplify your life blog that you can reach via the link below.

    I look forward to sharing your wonderful article via my website.

  12. Karen says

    Tiffanyle, I too lost my husband. He was constantly telling me that we had too much stuff, I needed money when he passed away and went through my house to find so much junk I didn’t need. I had a sentimental reason to have these things. I tried to go back to work but being a hospice nurse, it was impossible. I decided to accept widow benefits from my husbands social security. Then I attacked my bills. I tried to glean them down as much as I could. But I talked myself into keeping my tv satellite and my internet. I love this as I don’t go out much except to my kids houses, so I decided I deserved tv. I am trying to work from home and have been scammed several times. I am learning slowly but surely that “less is more”. I am starting today to clean up and over what I would normally do… I am sitting within 10 ft of useless things that I don’t need and I will be getting rid of in the next month…or as soon as it is warmer. Good Luck with your new life…. We will make it…

    • Vicky says

      Hi Karen,
      I am sorry to hear you lost your husband. I admire all that you are doing to simplify. I came by simplifying and moving toward minimalism a very different way a few years ago and have been astonished at the things I can get rid of now that I was reluctant to six months to a year ago. This includes TV channels. I was intimidated at first by not having cable channels, but I finally made the break, and I don’t miss getting that bill every month. But I do watch some online things. Anyway, I mean to say that it’s a process that can yield really pleasant surprises over time. No hurry, but stay open. I read a lot of books now. Good luck.

  13. says

    Love the tips. I just wrote a small and not so indepth blog on ways to help the clutter down. I am new to Simple Living and I am blogging my journey as I go. Thank you for the tips, I will definitely be reading more from you!

  14. enna says

    I grew up in a horrible situation or hoarded CRAP. I thus developed a hatred of STUFF… much like my disgust in seeing obese people. it’s a mental illness. I aways embraced minimalism. I didn’t even know it was such a hot topic til lately cos it’s been my way of life. can’t wait to move to my new smaller apartment this summer! I have the joy of the smallest apartment being luxuriously accommodating to me and my ”STUFF!”

    • Sidney says

      Enna, I was really feeling for you and your previous “horrible situation,” until I read “much like my disgust in seeing obese people.” Wow, that is really unfortunate that you judge others you don’t even know by their weight or size. People get into that condition for a lot of reasons — some of which are their *own* terrible pasts — and to be so full of condemnation is baggage of another kind. I hope you get past it, since you’re obviously working on your life in other ways.

  15. Teresa Forrester says

    Yet again another inspiring article. My declutter and de-own process is still underway. I am beginning to really notice the difference. I have boxed items to go to the thrift store to sell, but they only accept so much at a time. I am looking for more ways to sell my usable stuff. As I clean out items, I find that I will go back and get rid of more than the first purge. It is really freeing to see less clutter in my home. God Bless!

  16. Frank Wm Carr says

    Hello, I am 25 years old, from the US, and have looked at this site a little bit. This made me consider some things, and I may consider myself a budding minimalist. Yes, no doubt about it, my apartment is a mess. But I am throwing away or otherwise ridding some things that don’t have real value anymore. This is a principle I want to adopt.

    For example, I have been very interested in collecting a advanced layman level science series from beginning to end. Yes, I’ll still try to obtain and read all the books (as I love science). However, now, whenever I understand the book overall, it’s not so necessary to keep it because, after all, the purpose of reading a non-fiction book is to learn and understand the content, not to memorize it. In other words, it’s about the key concepts, not the minutiae. (Should you ever have to review something from the book, no worries, you’ve got the web on your side.) Another benefit of selling it is that someone else gets to have it, and hopefully learn from it. Honestly, though, I still prefer the hard copy. Ditto for fiction, by the way.

    I take advantage of free downloads, especially a Bible study tool (yes, I’m a Christian) that will save me shelves of Bible tools and Bibles, and of course, money. And I used to love to bounce the basketball without playing the sport itself (may sound eccentric, but, hey, so am I sometimes!). Well, those days are over and I’ll just give it to another guy willing to tackle the hoops. Finally, I was really into old technology (8-tracks, Betamax, C64, you name it), but I figured this is the 21st century, so it’s time to move past that. A lot of newer technology isn’t really necessary either, by the way.

    So whether I discard, sell, or give away my items, it’s out of my life and (at least in the latter two cases) into another’s. Remember, there’s still a long way ahead of me, and my minimalism journey has just begun.

    • Grant says

      Yes you are exactly right. I grew up in a large old stuffed house with fat moody people. I myself followed my parents example for a while until I decided to follow Christ. It’s been a lot of change over the years since 2007 (Age26). However I’ve discovered that stuff, things, food,sex and hobbies do not fulfill a man’s heart. The things you own end up owning you and one makes decisions in relation to their commitments and perceived fullfill to stuff. Therefore since I can’t take this junk with me to heaven and it weighs down a man soul. I’ve been pruning my life, my fat, my finances, my heart and now my stuff. I’m more free now and set apart from the world than ever before. Thanks you Jesus! Get rid of the stuff that slows you down, its a snare. If your buying stuff for fulfillment and meaning. Then you have a problem, cause nothing in this world will fill you up. Choose life Frank cause every decision you make either brings forth life or brings death. Excessive stuff is a symptom much like clogged arteries and rolls of body fat. The best part of living light is that you are free to follow Christ without choosing between two masters.

  17. says

    I loved this article and I love de-own as opposed to declutter. Is this your word? I will surely give you credit when I use it. And I will use it, I love it.

  18. Patti says

    One of the best things that ever happened to me was in 1994 when I lost all of my belongings (home, cars, everything…minus the clothes I was wearing) in a flood. It drew the dividing line between wants and needs, and I was amazed at what I could live without.

    Twenty-one years later, I occasionally create another “flood”, purging anything in my home and workplace that isn’t essential to life or making a living.

  19. L says

    I started thinning the herd ( so to speak at age 32) as a child of older parents in a family that doesn’t reproduce much I was slammed with inherited items 10 years later. I am slowly with a lot of consideration and care dispersing as much of these possessions as I can into the family. I am keeping some.
    I believe in the middle road. I do not like clutter. I do not like things packed into boxes and closets that never see the light of day.
    I do enjoy having some old family things. I do like original art on the walls of my home.
    I don’t like to not be able to put my hands on what I need right away.
    I am a practical, sentimental minimalist if I can really be called minimalist at all.
    I love things of beauty. There are so many things in stores, boutiques and antique stores that are a pleasure to see. I do not need to take them home. I enjoy them there and go home to my home which has enough but not too much.
    If it is not of use, has no emotional value, gets shoved in a box in the attic or closet it just needs to go. I also , even though I loved my family’s traditional Christmas as a child , will not have a Xmas tree ever again ( if I had children I would). I limit myself to two boxes of Christmas decorations.
    I do wish people would stop giving me gifts. I go to christmas parties and I always pick the smallest looking thing in gift exchanges. I get a lot of pity. Little do people know I am very pleased to not bring something fancy home!
    The concept of experiences not things is increasingly appealing. Theater tickets, ski lift tickets, going to a fair or concert, lunch with friends,hiking in the great outdoors are all worth more than any high quality knickknack.
    I don’t want a minimalist house. In a purist minimalist home it feels like it has no soul or has the personality of an enormous overly tiled white bathroom.
    I want a home with character but which isn’t a shrine to consumerism. I want a homey home without the newest or greatest. I like my greatgrandmother’s bread knife, my Mother’s self portrait, my grandmother’s fruit bowl, my Dad’s desk and my Aunt’s book shelves. In the bottom left hand drawer of my father’s desk I keep his wallet with everything he had in it. I like to hold it in my hand.
    In their extremes both attachment and detachment can be negative. I keep less things than most of my friends but I also believe the right path is somewhere in the middle

    • H says

      Here, here… I have tried for three years to get my family to only buy one gift for my two kids. And that for the adults we go snowmobiling, skiing, attend a sporting event, something that means time spent together. And each year i am told I am ruining Christmas. So I sell or regift and feel empty because my Christmas wish of spending time together is ignored.
      My job was eliminated last week. I am choosing to see it as an opportunity to gift myself with time. It’s my chance to start anew, inside my home and myself.
      How encouraging to read from others who “get it”.

  20. Jennifer T. says

    I am not looking to be a minimalist. Ever. Just to reconfigure my things so that it better fits my life, allowing to enjoy them without them getting in the way.One thing I’ve noticed in all the years I’ve spent rebuilding what I’ve lost, is that no matter how much you have or how little, its all about how much you actually manage, and how well you take care of those things. I’ve had the same things for many years, and the things I’ve put a side just in case, always end up needing use, each year as my budget tightens. Instead of selling or giving them away, they have found use and have not gone to a dump somewhere right away. And if I have the item I suddenly need, I don’t have to spend money on it, I can just use it. However, now that I have a child, they now have things as well. And though most of it is on lend until they get bigger, it still takes up space as well. And I have also moved into a small room. So now I’m trying to re-evaluate what I can keep around and what I can can get rid of. I cut out everything I didn’t have use for anymore or extras so we’d have space. Now I have just enough, but its still too much and is becoming a clutter problem. The only extra things I’ve bought are what he absolutely needs. But somehow the other stuff just doesn’t fit. No site I’ve been to address exactly this problem. At all. What do you get rid of or keep exactly? Thank you. :)

  21. Marlene says

    How to declutter if you partner brings home more stuff every day? He’s a collector and bargain hunter and just loves it. I want to downsize and get rid of stuff. So far, we haven’t found a solution to our problem.

    • Susan says


      Some collections are worth money , it is your retirement fund. I would get info how much it is worth before decluttering it. There is nothing wrong with having a love of something like collections. But keep the old stuff in the collections and don’t go over $100,000 for the collections. In ten years, it would be worth about double. I did art myself. I would investigate if it is a collection or junk. It is like antique furniture, it went down in price. You remember saying something new, something old. Is this the new money or old money? I would collect too if I were you,
      it is better than silver or gold. Silver is a good investment. Actually I am talking about investments, myself.

  22. Bettu says

    Amen to that. Its even more important for us now that we are planning a retirement to South America. But living with someone who holds onto everything because “someday” he may need it, is pretty daunting. It’s an uphill battle.

  23. Nathan Spinney says

    Well, all I can say is that I’m not planning to keep what obviously is broken, but I’m going to make sure that I’m not going to recieve things from people that turns out that by my surprise, they break and explode.

    If it’s broke, then it’s not worth keeping!

  24. David C says

    I’ve been a minimalist for about 30 years. These are some guidelines taht I live by:

    1. The Equation: Before eliminating something, consider; How likely is it that I will ever need this [thing, possession, object] ever again? How difficult/expensive will it be to replace it?

    2. When in doubt, keep it. You can always get rid of it later.

    3. Don’t be afraid to possess something that you actually need.

    4. Get rid of it when you no longer need it.

    5. Inanimate objects do not hold emotional value.

    6. Be able to move everything I own in one carload.

    7. Christmas is for children.

    8. You can decorate my cubicle with anything you want, as long as you don’t mind it being thrown away 10 seconds after you leave.

    9. There is always one more thing to get rid of.

  25. elizabeth says

    We should have the freedom to choose…..when my stuff is rummaged thtough and taken…this is an invasion of privacy

  26. Sheryl says

    Love the list, David C. So many insightful and candid commentaries here by others as well. I got into the concept and practice of the basics of Feng Shui about 2 years ago. So much of the commentary here echoes the tenets of Feng Shui de-cluttering and the philosophy/psychology behind it. I downsized 2 years ago from a large apartment to an adorable bungalow guest house the size of a small studio apt. Before I left my old place I was in a favorite neighborhood bookstore – the kind with old sofas, an old cat lying atop a stack of hardcovers, and piles of used books for cheap. Sifting thru my fave section – the cheapies – a book called “Feng Shui in 10 Easy Sessions” revealed itself. Was as if this book knew I needed it. That was the beginning of my de-cluttering odyssey. I was energized and started going through every room, every box, closet, etc., like the Energizer Bunny. Had piles of stuff to donate – even furniture. I think my cats were worried they might be next (never!). It felt so freeing; I felt like I’d lost 15 pounds. Amazing what you discover you don’t need or even like. This is a fantastic, friendly little book that can gently ease anyone into being able to successfully de-clutter and simplify your home, office, and life. The book is very easy to understand and takes a step-by-step approach to the process. Also talks about the energy (chi) that redundant or useless objects, things we keep thru obligation, or things with negative origins drain us of. I could go and on about this book, but I won’t :-). I’ll just recommend it. Sorry, I don’t recall the publisher or author (I gave the book away during a de-cluttering frenzy).

  27. says

    This is a good article. In America we one of the richest countries in the world yet we are poor in our thinking. I started in July selling things and donating. I have a long way to go. It is my number one drive in my life to purge of over-spending and over-accumulating of stuff I don’t even need. I’m looking forward to a roomier house. My husband and son are always on me to get rid of stuff. I got the message. It bothers me too. I want to have it where I can receive a guest at my house and not have to worry about how it looks. It’s embarrassing. The selling is inspiring. I am surprised to find that certain things really do sell — things I thought never would. Other things don’t. We make almost weekly trips to the local charity and it feels good to see things go. I have completely changed my spending habits. I am home more not at the stores. Feels weird. Hard to get used to not shopping. So I encourage everyone out there to go on a spending freeze. For 30 days, don’t spend a penny that you don’t absolutely have to. Only necessities — for living. It changes you. I see neighbors garages almost full. It’s a revelation that we all overspend as a whole. If we believe our needs are met and we can wear that sweater another year and those boots from years past and not have to have this years style of leather boots, we are taking a step in the right direction. If we live today (frugal) like nobody else, tomorrow we can live like nobody else.

  28. Stansy says

    Some years ago I read a very interesting article on decluttering and have since followed one of the ideas: I regularly take pictures of things I like, be it in my house, in magazines or shop windows. I turn those digital pics into small photo books (you can DIY, they are fun to make and don’t cost much), so now I don’t need to own things that I like (I can get rid of stuff in my place once I took a pic) but can look at them whenever I like.

  29. says

    I have been minimalist-leaning since two trips to India in 2008 and 2009, where I witnessed whole families living in houses the size of my bedroom. I saw that as a single mother in a house with a huge yard, a basement and large garage, that I was headed in the wrong direction. I have moved several times since then, always downsizing. When I moved into my new husband’s house in 2010, I immediately began helping him remove 10 years of clutter in a four story house with garage! It has been a lot of work, but well worth it. We have sold both our homes and now rent an apartment with no garage or basement. We have no yard work and we have more time than ever to do what we love, travel, hang out with our family and friends, attend theater and films and run our two businesses. I get rid of more items every week. Our current challenge is how to tactfully convince our families not to buy and give unwanted things as Christmas gifts.

    • Tracy says

      ask for vouchers instead, if they really have to give u smthg. they don’t take up much space and u can regift them if u think u may not get to use them :)

  30. says

    Many people I encounter feel guilty about getting rid of an object that a family member or close friend gave them. I repeatedly tell them that it is OK to get rid of these items. I suggest, if they feel guilty about getting rid of an object, especially a memorability one, they could take a picture of all the items they want to get rid of from that person and create a collage picture and then frame and hang it to honor that person. Great post, thanks for sharing.

  31. Knitter says

    I found a new home or threw away most of my craft supplies and suddenly I had more energy to enjoy stitching again! I stopped being bogged down with works in progress that I came to dread or trying to organize the million skeins of dmc I had or finding the best deals on freezer bags for yarn. Good luck everyone! :)

  32. Barbara says

    Thanks to everyone for your input – has given me a lot of food for thought and has inspired me to start the de-cluttering/de-owning process which I have been wanting to do for some time now. I personally have come to the realization that the excess “stuff” (above and beyond the essentials ) doesn’t bring me joy but rather stress (when I come home from work to a messy, cluttered house in which I cannot relax in because I look at all the clutter and think I need to clean it all up) and frustration because I get overwhelmed by all of our excess “stuff” and am
    not sure what to do with it all and where to begin in the elimination process. For me, more possessions = more work in keeping everything in it’s place – nice and tidy. I’d rather have less and am now motivated and encouraged by all of your comments to start the purging process! Also – would LOVE to downsize to a smaller home – just have to work on convincing my dear hubby – wish me luck! Cheers and God bless!

  33. Jazzy says

    Unlike the other problem of desiring more, I always desired less, but I thought I was just weird. Certainly in our N. American culture it was “crazy” to pine for only just enough amid of lifestyle of WAY more than enough. I couldn’t figure out whether it was some desire to be pious (I’m not religious in any way) or a guilt trip I felt compelled to have because I was so much “wealthier” than so many others. Then one day I stumbled across “minimalism” and it was like the clouds parted. FINALLY I could put a label to my desires and after 8 months of purging this house and my closets I’m still not quite there yet, if ever I will be.
    I scour the ‘net daily for more inspirations and I always come back to this one. I love this site and some of the others I’ve found and I am so thankful for what they have given me: FREEDOM! ♥ ♥

  34. says

    Nice read. The truly rich are those who desire less for they have more time, which is the ultimatel resource that results in any other resource worth having.

  35. Tracy says

    Hi Joshua, great post (and blog). Made me rethink my purging efforts and I believe I may have more to go. I am into organising and I agree that purging is the 1st and most important step. Some people have mentioned that their lifestyle made it impossible to be minimalist, but I believe being minimalist starts in the head – a change in our mindset about our lives. If we keep in mind some principles of minimalist living and keep applying them, there’ll definitely be changes in our lifestyle. We will not always be the same people and I believe there will come a time when we just have enough and WANT to change. Do what is good for you now, but have the courage to change when you find yourself needing and wanting to. Cheers.

    • Tina says

      I just found this post and read all the comments. I give away 1-2 bags every week to Goodwill, Sal Army or the public library (books and magazines). Working on minimalism is an ongoing job.
      The posts about the 4 seasons really hit me as I live in the suburbs of Chicago. I have gloves, hats and scarves and a winter coat. And one pair of boots. I keep the hats, gloves and scarves put away ’til winter, 2 pairs for each of us. A jacket for each of us for spring and fall. An umbrella for each of us. When it’s really cold I wear a T-shirt, a sweatshirt, then my winter coat. My husband used to be a school crossing guard so he had thermal underwear. The point is if you use the things you have, fine. But just keeping things you don’t need or use is bad for the earth and the people on it. Everyone’s minimalism will look a little different because we each have different lives. But not “stocking up” whether on quilting fabric, yarn or canned goods is always a step in the right direction.

  36. says

    Oh does this ever ring true! We recently decluttered in an effort to stage our home for the market ( and I have found since then, that it is SUCH a more enjoyable way to live! Less things means less to clean up, keep up and polish and dust! Hopefully we can keep this same way of lifestyle when we end up in the next home!

  37. Robert says

    I’ve been selling everything that is not needed. Take the money and pay off some debt or have a nice lunch. It feels good to get rid of excess things that just lay around.

  38. Peony says

    Eight years ago I began preparing for retirement, and began reading articles about it and managing my retirement money. Now two years into retirement, I’ve got the hang of that part. I no longer shop and purchase only necessities. I now have the chore of de-cluttering and de-owning. So in order for me to get through this, I’ll do the same and read three articles a day on minimalism, de-cluttering, and de-owning until it sticks in my brain. I’ve lived like a hoarder for years (runs in the family) and no longer want that for my life. Like one person said, I want to keep only those things that give me pleasure now, and fixing my chi. Thank all of you for contributing because each of you bring bright and wonderful ideas with each post. Wishing all of you a clutter free life full of happiness!!

  39. Max Schneider says

    Is it morally OK to gift your unwanted/unneeded stuff to a friend who thinks he needs it (and is grateful for getting it) even though we know that our friend is a pack rat and just collects pretty much everything “because one day it might be useful”?

    (And we do know that he won’t really need “it” because he will never be able to find it in all his clutter anyway?)

  40. says

    I agree very much with this post, particularly your fourth bullet point. When you eliminate the irrelevant, it takes deliberation and sometimes even courage. I’ll take every dose of that I can manage. Thanks for this.

  41. sherryanne says

    Declutttering is a major issue in my family. Especially where it comes to the point that at the end of the day you are just the step-mum. I tried having my step-kids get rid of stuff and I’m known as the bad guy. They have a bunch of stuff that just lies around the place and no one seems to be using them and I’m like “hey guys, would you like to donate this to an orphanage, kids there would really appreciate it” and the reply is “No!My mom gave me that, I can’t give it away” yea my bad. So we came to an agreement to have these stuff boxed and place in a storage. Thanks to A-1 Moving & Storage, the job was done and I can finally call my house a home. Check out their website at

  42. Katie C says

    I’m doing this today! So far I have 4 large bags for the garbage and 3 for charity dropoff. Feels great.

  43. Chirpy says

    Thank you! This is what I needed.
    I don’t need 4 teapots and 7 flower vases in my tiny apartment.
    I now have given myself permission to use Great Grandmother’s fancy teapot and the silver spoons on a daily basis – basically because I no longer own any other teapots. The kids think it great to drink from their special china mugs their Grandparents got for them – because I gave away most of the plastic cups.
    How may beach towels does a family of 4 really need anyway? Now we are down to 4. So far so good. Speaking of towels …Do I really need 14 baby towels!!! As for sports equipment: we are a big skiing family and I found a Ski Outfitters who will fit our kids (now 3 and 6) in skis,poles and boots for two seasons (sizing upgrades free of charge) for about the same cost of purchasing all of the equipment ourselves. They do this for kids until 16 years old! The great thing about this is that I don’t end up with racks of skis, boots and poles that don’t quite fit anyone because everything is returned at the end of the second season. I love it! Check your local sports outfitters, they might have a similar deal for kids.
    Thank you again for the inspiration,
    Former Pack Rat (aspiring Minimalist)

  44. Billy says

    I started pairing down my stuff years ago and it’s been the best, most awesome thing I ever did ever. I don’t know if I’m a minimalist but I live clutter free, I’m organised now and no longer mindlessly consume. It’s a way better way to live. This goes as far as freeing your mind up too. For example, books, I donated all of them, gone except 2 reference books I still refer too, kept em because I use them. Oh and I had a copy of the bible and Koran, they went straight in the trash(recycle bin). No point in cluttering up other peoples minds with fantasy. Another form of minimalism, freeing your mind of all those stories other people want you to believe. This includes other stories like ” commercials”!! Be free people.

  45. deb says

    After reading most of these comments, I’m going to work on decluttering a room.
    And I have taken pictures of things so I could get rid of them..

    thanks for the comments everyone

  46. Tina says

    We are trying to live with one car instead of two. More walking and public transportation. Scheduling better. Hopefully, we will save money and use less gas and make less pollution.

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