Don’t Just Declutter, De-own.

dont-just-declutter-deown

“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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Comments

    • Shawn says

      First off,great article written by this author-Bravo!

      For me,I’m at the other end of this spectrum.Since I am now unemployed,and newly married (bad combo)I am constantly on the search for anyone who is looking to discard any or all of their items they no longer need or want.In the past,when I was employed I used to do this as a ” side hustle” to make some extra money,I’d go to garage sales or I’d simple come across stuff that people were throwing out to the curb,clean them up and resell them.For people who do this for a living,there is big money in this business.

      I didn’t exactly come here to ” advertise” myself,but why not ” throw” myself out there. I’m in NY on the Queens border to be precise,if any of you here reading this are looking to rid yourselves of any items I would certainly take them off your hands.I don’t own a brick and mortar store or anything like that,its just me,one guy who will personally come and take whatever you would like to get rid of.

      If you would rather make some money off the items you have,I suggest;a yardsale,listing your items on free sites like craigslist or like the author noted,donate them to charity.

      Anyway,my name is Shawn and if interested and in the Ny area and want to simply just downsize and get rid of items asap you can email me @ shawnp7777@gmail.com

      Oh also,another idea is that you could put your items in certain stores that offer ‘consignment’ meaning they take on your items,and if they sell any of them,they get a piece of the profit.In most consignment situations it’s a 60/40 split,with you getting 60% and they getting 40%.

      Thanks
      Shawn

      • Ann says

        Oh Shawn. How I wish you were in the South of the UK.
        I have piles and piles of stuff, bin liners galore, and a loft and garage fit to bursting.
        We are moving house and after almost 40 years in our house it’s high time it all went.
        I’ve donated every single thing so far to local charity shops and I’ve no desire to make any money out of my tat!
        Good luck and I’m sure that you will come across people, like me, who will donate their unwanted items.

      • Helen says

        Shawn, Why are you asking for things? I find it offensive that a stranger is asking for free things to make a profit out of them.

        • Kerstin says

          Helen,
          why you are upset with Shawns post?
          If one have to much and being happy to get rid of some stuff he not longer need or want, why not give it to somebody, who can make his living, or even a few dollars out of it? I can’t see, why this should be offensive.

        • Debbie says

          Helen, why? I think it’s great and I only wish he was in Australia as I have lots to give. I’ve never sold any item, I’d rather give them away. If Shawn can use them for his house or to reinvent and sell good luck to him. Hope it goes well Shawn.

          • Jim says

            I think it is great when someone else can profit in any way from things I no longer have use for. I usually just give things to a local charity that has a second hand store, but sometimes when go to recycling/waste management I will bring a box of stuff to leave on the tables for others to take if they want. I am always surprised to see that within seconds of my putting a box down there are one or two people going through it. I just think of a friend of mine who as a young bride had two sets of dishes and thought ‘why?’ so she boxed up one set and left it outside her apartment door knowing “someone will take it” and sure enough – the next morning it was gone. That was 30 years ago, long before I ever heard of minimalism. There’s a lesson there – I think.
            By the way, I’m nowhere near being decluttered – I’m working on it. Slowly but surely.

    • kgough says

      Well I cant get rid of other peoples stuff so I have decided to box it up tag it and forget it. If they remember it and want it fine but I am refusing after this time of touch and organizing everyones stuff to stop. Not to sound witchy but I am tired I want to be a minalmalist. Here’s to making me happy which in turngives me more time to be happy with other people and not unhappy with their stuff.

    • Philip says

      Minimalist – n- min-uh-mul-list,

      One who has no desire to succeed or advance and will do as little as possible with few or no goals in life.

      SYNONYMS – homeless, lazy, unmotivated

      • Jazz Gonzales says

        Actually sir, a lot of minimalists are richer than you are. Steve Jobs, Robert Pattinson just to name a few. And you my friend, are sitting in front of your computer calling minimalists lazy, homeless and unmotivated. I suggest you do some evaluation on what YOU have accomplished because I assume they are not that great. Since you have the audacity to question such a wonderful lifestyle that is God-given. Anyways, hope you are having a fine day drowning in your useless possessions :)

    • Kay says

      Well-said and spot-on. Our society focuses too much on ‘things’. I would rather fill my life with experiences and memories. I’m making this my goal!

      • says

        Debt for experiences and memories is a lot less onerous. Utterly without conscious intent I spent my 20 and 30 taking on a “mortgage” for a lifestyle that included travel, parties, getting to know so many people and getting a stellar education. I worked in human services and made no where near enough to live on in the Bay area so I did shared housing until I was 40. I would advise any young person to do the same. I work in industry now and make an excellent living, which I have used to pay off the mortgage for my real life learning and I couldn’t be more pleased with my approach. Soon I will be unjobbing altogether and reducing my needs to focus my life on writing and special education. I was never fooled by the corporate shenanigans at my later-life workplace. I would have been if I had taken the “recommended” route.

    • says

      This was an amazing post. I am always rearranging and organizing. I thought about buying less and it would limit my mental stress of a cluttered household and it did for a while. But somehow it’s not enough. I just read your post and it made more sense to me then the hundreds of articles I’ve read on decluttering and organizing. Sure I some threw away some stuff and such but after reading your post, I am truly enlightened and sense the feeling of freedom from my possessions and them owning me. You know what they say, “the things we own, end up owning us”. Thank you for putting your thoughts out into the world. I know by taking your advice and putting it into action will reduce all cleaning and organizing and I will gain much more time for my family and fulfilling my passions passions!

  1. Kelly says

    Kgough, who are these people using your home ad a storage facility? Don’t just stop more things from coming in, reverse the process. I say give these disrespectful individuals a deadline to remove their possessions or they will be donated or discarded -THEN FOLLOW THROUGH! This is tough love, Sweetie. Take control of your home and your life. Some people may not like it, but they have to deal with it. The good news is that you have the power here. Grab it and live the minimalist life life you desire. I’m rooting for you!

  2. Jen Endsley says

    Great article! I tend to be a minimalist in some things but certainly need to look at all areas in my life. I enjoy the picture in my minds-eye where I am looking at all of my possessions on the lawn and, as people walk by, I hand them things that they could use. Instead of them being in my closet or cupboards, they are being used by others. Used by others, not kept where they are unused.

  3. cheryl says

    people that hoard or are as they prefer to be consumers, dont have any desire to own less. they will buy more with what ever it takes. they are deep rooted from prvious lives, ancestors. I have a hard time living with one. if there is a help for this type of behavor, please email me. why dont the people that need the help read these articles

  4. sue says

    what is especially a burden are other people fixing to offload their junk. i don’t want it, or them to ever darken our door, ever again. Peopls are inconsiderate, they think if you’ve a shed it’s a free storage facility. Where’s my shotgun!

  5. Nick says

    Just dumping things doesn’t benefit anyone.
    Organising your stuff is the first step of decluttering. You’ll find all those things you have in duplicate. You’ll find those things you didn’t know you have, and didn’t use for ages. You find old dreams of making things, or fixing things; dreams of going somewhere, memories of happiness.

    I spent the whole day yesterday to organize my papers – bills and bank records. The recycling ton got a fill. And the bag for the shredder in the office. (safer than just tearing bills up)
    And the bag for the scanner. (some day there will be someone who claims you owe them money, then it’s nice to have a record of that receipt from years back) Insurance companies are notorious for that.
    After the scanner the shredder will be fed.

    (a former boss was keen on dumping old documents that were messing up his nice cabinet. And then he had to explain to the customer where the documents were he was sent earlier…)

    • Elephile says

      If you are going to scan and then shred the hard copy (excuse the capitals):

      BACK IT UP FIRST!!!

      Also, if there is an original signature on something, KEEP THE HARD COPY.

      I can’t emphasize this enough! I just started regular back-ups when my hard drive died. And I am SO GLAD I did.

  6. almostminimalist says

    I have been having so much fun getting rid of more and more. I thought I was minimalist already and then I started reading these articles.
    My home has no storage except bedroom closets that we use for clothes and linens. To combat this problem we put our bed up on risers to house a trunk and 5 or six other boxes.
    I want the underneath of my bed to be 100% empty with no bed skirt so that you can see under and it looks like beautifully open space. So I am going in and re-evaluating each piece, more than half of it is my husbands and he has agreed to go in and condense.
    My favorite kitchen realization so far has been….
    I previously owned
    10 mugs
    6 wine glasses
    6 water glasses
    REALIZATION: I only need 6 mugs! You can drink any liquid from a mug!! ( I have 3 people in my home and am accounting for 3 guests)
    I gave my excess to a friend in need.

    *My closet…40 hangers! So Awesome, I love it. It is so easy to find something to wear. I have not worn the same thing twice in a month and still have a few things I haven’t worn yet, which makes me think I could get by with even less. (When i wear something I cycle it to the back of this closet, this way, I can find out if there is something I kept that I am not wearing.) I no longer own those “just for fun” pieces. (bashfully admits:except for 1 or 2 I hid in the back of the closet). I hang my few summer Items instead of storing them b/c I don’t have storage space and those things don’t count in the 40. They will trade places with sweaters when it gets warmer. Most of my clothes cross seasons by adding a light sweater and a warm jacket on top and leggings or tights with boots with my skirts in colder months.

    • Megan says

      Yes I’m just realizing that I don’t necessarily need a different wardrobe for each season but can wear my summer skirts and tops in winter by simply layering and wearing tights underneath. I also don’t like stuff stored under the bed and since our bed is a low futon it isn’t possible anyway. Oh how i wish I could only use our cups instead of glasses for all drinks but then some people in the family think that’s weird! It is amazing that even though we may think we are quite minimal we can actually get by quite well with ALOT less!

  7. Colleen says

    Freecycle.org may be an answer to some of your de-cluttering needs. Check the website to see if it is active in your area. If not start it. People post needs, wants, haves to this site. They are given freely and to those who can use them. If you have a need for an item (s) then send a posting. Someone out there is bound to have it just sitting around waiting to be given away. Very successful here in lower Michigan. Its a blessings both ways.

  8. Lei Lani Lucero says

    Reading this article brought back so many good memories! I remember how freeing and fulfilling it was to have ‘the great book purge of 2012′. I was looking for a book for a friend, knew that I had a copy, and discovered (oh, the horror!) that I had TRIPLE stacked some of my shelves. (books, behind books, behind more books!) No wonder I couldn’t find it!
    I pulled every single book of the shelves (all 6 bookcases, floor to ceiling, 3-foot wide) and started thinking about every single book.
    The process I used was “would someone else benefit from having this information/story?” I cleaned every shelf, started stacking (keep, donate, maybe) and then started carting books outside to put on a table with a ‘free books’ sign. I ended up putting over 500 books outside for passers-by to peruse and pick up, and still managed to mostly fill my shelves with what I wanted to keep.
    The word got out “Lei Lani is giving away some of her books”, and by the end of the first day, the stack outside was down to maybe 10 books.
    It still makes me smile to think that all of those treasured books have found new homes, with people who will read them, and hopefully pass them on when their stacks get too high.

    • Agatha says

      Thanks for your inspiring comment. I have decided to de-own a few thousand books. Not because I don’t want the books. But because I feel they rob me of my freedom. I can’t move. I forever clean and organize. They have taken over my house and my guest house. There is not much room for anything else. It will break my heart to let them go. But I think the freedom that will come with it will be worth it. It’s been a mental process so far. I think I’m about ready to clean house and guest house.

      • Dawn says

        I donated books to the library. That way I can borrow them back if I want to read them and The community benefits from them too. Good luck :)

  9. Marie says

    Thank you for this. de-owning not just decluttering is speaking to me as I simpliy my life. It is my new mantra, thank you! My home is not cluttered, my clutter is tucked away usually. But I have so much stuff. I am inspired and feel the need to de-own not just declutter.

  10. Ren says

    I only have one room in house. I try to organize and de-clutter my room, like inside my drawers, I have little tupperware containers to organize everything and save space.

    But I have so many small “things” that don’t fit into any category and I have no idea where to put them. I just get frustrated and throw them all into a bag and hide it. I can’t bring myself to toss things that might be useful later (bottle openers, crochet needles, mailing supplies).

    How do I make myself get rid of these things!!

  11. Liz says

    Great post. Our family is planning a move overseas and as we have to sell our house we need to clear out our “stuff”.

    How liberating it has been. 500+ books = gone. A wardrobe of clothes = gone. Half the kids toys = straight to the op shop.

    So so freeing.

    My husband notices how much less stress there is as it’s easier to clean when you don’t have to pick up 50 items prior to doing it!

    I wish I had this mindset prior to buying all the crap. Oh for wisdom in my early twenties.

  12. marguerite storm says

    I live in ‘small town’ Montana. Someone in our community has created 2 very useful Facebook pages: ‘small town’ classified, and ‘small town’ buy nothing (for info, go to http://www.buynothingproject.com). With these 2 pages, we can either sell or give away whatever we want. It is working extremely well and has brought people together. I think you could imagine the same thing in a big city neighborhood for example.

  13. DianneM says

    I have been de-owning for over a year now via eBay. I have had 330+ auctions as made an average of $10 per auction. It is not a huge sum, however is is satisfying our grocery bill (teenagers! :)

    The benefit is for the first time in our 22 years of marriage I can visualize where things are in the house. Awareness of stuff is key. Time will continue to help me consolidate our possessions into cash!

    Thanks for the inspiring de-owning article. I can tell you how many shoebox containers I have purchased over the years!

  14. Jeannie says

    Thanks again Joshua!! I have been following you site for about six months and can now see such a difference in not just de-cluttering but de-owing!! Wow what a difference. I can see how much time I wasted organizing and re-organizing ‘stuff’ but now when I tackle a room or a cupboard so much of it just leaves and is donated… and what a good feeling!! If I find a storage container in a closet or the garage I empty it and only keep what I really want… so I now have an empty storage container. Then I use that and I go to another room and fill that storage container up again (and only keep what I really need) and then empty that one again and put the unwanted things into bags or boxes to be donated. So I always an empty storage contained on the go to put things in that are leaving so then I am not overwhelmed on what to do with an item as it goes right into the container… out of sight out of mind… so far it is working for me!! Thanks for the encouragment always!! :)

  15. Robin says

    Hmmm…nice article…except to me, I’ve always associated decluttering with de-owing…one in the same meaning…

  16. Maria says

    I have been trying to de clutter also– what has scared me is that in our city there have been several fires where persons have been hurt because firefighters were not able to help them fast enough because of clutter.

  17. says

    Completely agree! I have been following your blog for a long time and you posts have helped me a lot on pursuing my goal. :)

    Thanks Joshua!

  18. says

    I completely agree with this! It’s funny that I ran across this article at this time in my life because I have started to purge things………..not just de-clutter. I’ve been de-cluttering for years, but this time I’m cleaning and if I haven’t used it in awhile and don’t plan to, it’s getting trashed, donated or sold. I’m finished with stuff. And I feel reborn!!!

  19. says

    I’ve been going through your material after listening to the slow your home podcast and just have to say it’s fantastic.

    The organizing vs de-owning is a great idea and it seems similar to people who want to exercise more but don’t watch their calories! Start at the source to have the most impact.

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