“If organizing your stuff worked, wouldn’t you be done by now?” —Courtney Carver
Organizing our things is important. It is helpful to know where things are stored and how to easily access them. But let’s be honest with ourselves, organizing is always only a temporary solution. We organize our things and find new storage solutions today… but are left again tomorrow, doing the exact same thing.
Finding better ways to organize our stuff holds some benefit, but that benefit is fleeting at best.
However, when we take the step of fully getting rid of stuff we do not need, we find permanent, longer-lasting benefits.
Minimizing possessions is an act of permanence because they are removed from our care entirely. It lays the groundwork for overcoming consumerism altogether. This step of intentionally living with less forces questions of values and purpose. And it provides the opportunity to live life pursuing our greatest passions.
Minimizing is always better than organizing. (tweet that)
How then do we accomplish this in our unique living space in a way that aligns with our lifestyle? We accomplish this room-by-room physically handling each and every item in our possession. And we learn to ask better questions.
In fact, almost all of decluttering comes down to asking ourselves only two questions:
1. Do I need this?
Discerning the difference between needs and wants has become almost a full-time job in our society. Advertisers routinely market items of comfort and luxury as items of need. I never knew I needed so much until somebody told me I did.
Almost all decluttering has to start somewhere. And every professional organizer will ask you to answer this question over and over again: Is this something I need to keep?
This is an important place to start because it provides a beginning framework within which to make better decisions. If we can identify the things we no longer need, we can begin to recognize the things that can be removed.
Of course, our human needs are actually quite slim: water, food, shelter, and clothing. It’s important to note we’re talking about more than mere survival here—nobody wants to just survive life, we want to make the most of it! What we’re talking about is realizing our fullest potential.
The deeper question then that we should be asking is, What items do I need to keep to realize my life’s full potential and purpose?
This question will get us further and provide an even more robust framework to make decisions about what to keep and what to remove. But even this falls a bit short.
Just because your answer is, “No, I don’t need this,” doesn’t mean you are going to remove it—or at least, not easily remove it. We all have things in our home that we know we don’t need. And yet, we choose to keep.
This, then, is where the second question becomes so helpful. And why it is even more important.
2. Why do I have this?
This question moves our thought process beyond functionality and into intentionality.
Ask yourself that question with everything you touch: Why do I own this? When you do, you will be surprised at the answers.
Case in point: Your closet. One of the first areas of my home that I chose to minimize was my wardrobe closet. When I did, I noticed all sorts of different styles and colors and fits—many of which I no longer wore.
And I am not alone in this—many of our closets are filled with items we no longer wear. Clearly, our over-filled closets have nothing to do with functionality. Instead, they have everything to do with intentionality.
Why do we own all these different articles of clothing and so much more than we need? Is it because we love them all or need that many shirts or shoes? No. We buy them because we are trying to keep up with changing fashions—the same changing styles that the fashion industry told us we needed to remain in style.
Additionally, when we look in our living rooms, we notice all kinds of decorations and knick-knacks cluttering our shelves. Why do we have them? Because we love them and they tell the story of our lives? Doubtful. Instead, we bought them because they were on sale, they matched the couch, or those built-in shelves needed something on them.
In each case, we buy things and keep them, not because they benefit our lives, but for some other intention. This realization makes the process of decluttering easier and it holds benefit for almost every item we own: Why do I own these CDs, that piece of furniture, these toys, these old electronics? Once we determine the why, we are better equipped to answer the What now?
Those two questions: “Do I need it?” and “Why do I have it?” form the basis for your best decluttering efforts going forward. They will prove to be enlightening and will open up new ideas about what items to keep and what items to remove.
And ultimately, isn’t that goal? To remove things entirely from our homes that we no longer need… so we can begin living the life that we want.
If you need more help on where to start, check out our Declutter Your Home Checklist.
I can see the potential value in decluttering and minimalism. However, I was brought up in a family that is very sentimental/nostalgic and passionate about collecting. This article mentions that decluttering helps people to pursue their passions and purpose. What happens when you don’t know what your purpose is because you’ve been sidelined by a life you didn’t plan to have? I don’t have children and I am a 40 year old former preschool teacher stuck at home every day on disability from multiple unpredictable chronic medical conditions. My family and friends are mostly in other states, so I do not feel connected to a community. My passions, goals, dreams and sense of self purpose have gone out the window to be replaced by a feeling of limbo.
joshua becker says
Strip away the excess and begin discovering your true self.
I mean this from a place of caring, find a good therapist and get working! Being on disability doesn’t mean you can’t have a happy fulfilled life, but first you have to process the fact that it won’t look like the life you thought you would have! Once you are able to do that, you can start discovering new possibilities! I wish you the best of luck!
Mrs Right says
No one CHOOSES to be on disability. Telling a Disabled person to get back to work isn’t realistic. DISABLED PEOPLE WOULD LOVE TO WORK! Before offering advice you should consider that possibly their health or medical condition prevents them from being ABLE to work. Plus, your career does not make you who you are. Therapy may help with coping and grieving the life we wish we had, but only a cure can save some of us.
I think they meant “get working” on the therapy.
Cynthia Reed says
Find a place you can serve others…I would suggest plugging in to a Bible believing church. There are countless ways to serve. The more you help others, the better you will feel about yourself. And if you can’t get out, you can help online. You can even teach and tutor online.
I’m just finishing up de-hoarding a relatives house. Oh my word!! Do your family a favor and deal with your stuff while you are able. It took 4 dump truck loads and multiple trips to the thrift store to empty everything. And this was AFTER family, friends and neighbors took what they wanted. The amazing thing to me is that under all the mountains the really important treasures were hiding.
Susan Evans says
We have recently moved to a smaller house. We are retired. Got rid of a lot before moved but still had too much in the new home. I am still taking stuff to to charity shops if I feel it is good enough for someone else to make use of. Our children will not want much of what we have so we feel cutting back on “stuff” saves them a job in the future. Also easier on the eye and the cleaning. Only have enough bedding and towels that I really need. I heard the phrase “how many towels do I really need “ I find this mantra works for me.
I startet so with a 30 day declutter Challenge:
Every day I discarted items.
On the first day 1 item,
on the second day 2 items,
on the third day 3 items,
on the fourth day 4 items…
And so on Till the 30 day. It was the last day of the Challenge!
It really helped!
And I second hand Shop more often.
It is worth it!
I really like this idea of taking one day at a time . My friends just move out from their huge house they lived in for a decade. Her wife just got exhausted and mixed up by the removal . That’s definitely a way to go by , just clear it out before you plan to sell. She had so much of things that dated and had never used or touched . Now put myself into decluttering more and more and keep this place safer and healthier. You can’t believe what is in store when you start decluttering AND organizing your living space. I do really thing decluttering one room at a time would work best for me.
Joy Stockman says
Just in the process of doing this also. 50+ yrs. of accumulation. So many trash bags, recycling, shredding. Having an estate sale soon.
It’s amazing what people save & never discard. I do not want to do this to my kids. Material things do not bring happiness. Simplify your life now.
there is so much to touch up and reaarange everywhere. This well picked up list is therefore very useful if you want to go through all of it and get more work done. This does not guarantee that your job will be less tirying, however. A very good list, which unfortunately only stresses you out even more. wouldn’t it be better to do just a single task rather than having multiple goals or tasks
why would I want to throw out stuff that I can and will (I did, I love repurposing) use later? that I already gave money for? I hate shopping. if I own less, my stuff will get used much faster. I tried, believe me, I missed all of the stuff I’ve thrown out. and there is no ‘out’, it’s an illusion! people are responsible for stuff they buy, throwing it out or donating is easier, I know. just dump them, somebody else would have to deal with it, right? I started buying only what’s vital, and even that I buy pre-owned. I love my stuff, I don’t have much and I cherish what I have. do you declutter fussy friends too?
If you ‘don’t have much’ and you ‘cherish what you have’ then it sounds like you’re already in a minimalism mindset and possibly this page isn’t going to be useful to you… I don’t understand why you’re having a go at the author.
Z Ingrid says
To be quite fair I would say this blog has a lot to learn from if you have the mindset – and not everyone has it. There is always more to it as opposed to what it seems 0 ) . :
Rush to declutter says
Declutter fussy friends? Why not? They give you more headaches than stuff lying around your house.
Little Jem says
A while ago I came to the conclusion that I had far too many knick-knacks and ornaments, and displaying them all made the living room cluttered and hard to dust. I bought 3 large plastic tubs with lids; I put down 4 towels on the living room floor, and then sorted all the items I wanted to keep into one of 4 categories: glassware and crystal; wooden things; china and pottery; other stuff, and put them each onto one of the towels (to make sure I had roughly even piles). I plucked up courage to get rid of anything tatty or ugly or broken. I put labels on the tubs – Spring, Summer, Autumn, and the 4th pile was the one currently displayed. At the turn of each season, I could bring out the next box, clean or dust the items going to be put away, and that was it for the next 3 months …
Only a quarter of items on show at once, and everything else stacked neatly away under the eaves.
Susan Evans says
I used to do this with my son’s toys when he was young. Every now and then would swap his toys. Instead of having loads of toys all over the place he would have “new” ones to play with. I found it such a good system. Good idea for ornaments too if you have ones of sentimental value but too many on show.
Melody Jeffrey says
I like this idea! We have treasures from traveling and living in Japan. They carry meaning but we have too much to display all at once. This would work well
I had kept my mother’s velour dressing gown in a wardrobe for more than 20 years after she passed on. During a decluttering I finally realised it wasn’t honouring her memory so I had it made into 7 teddy bears. This meant that myself, my 2 daughters, 2 sisters-in-law and 2 nieces all received one. Gave everyone pleasure.
Roberta DiPasquale says
What a wonderful idea!
Be kind! says
I think it is very unfair and burdensome for people to collect (hoard?) things for their entire adult lives, then expect their adult kids to go through their things and make decisions on what to keep, donate, throw away, etc. Downsizing/ decluttering is very important, not just for the owner, but those who have to deal with all the stuff after death. Be kind, downsize!
I sometimes look at things and wonder what will happen to them when I die or if I had to move into a small house suddenly. Makes the job of sorting out much easier.
Patricia R Thompson says
THIS is my motivation for downsizing!!!
Barb J says
My current declutter mantra is, ” Whose memories are you saving?” If I am saving an item because someone gave it to me (so they did not need to deal with it), I have an easier time getting rid of it. If I also share that memory, I need a little think first.
Karen Kirk says
My mother is a young 84 and her home is so messy that my 2 sisters and I can no longer visit her. I have offered to hire someone to help her declutter on a regular basis but she refuses. I feel like she cares more about the clutter than she does her family. It is really sad to watch her live this way.
This is how it is with my mother. It’s sad because we, (her kids and grandkids) realize we will never have family get-togethers at her house again. It’s too messy and too cluttered. She lives in a four bedroom, two bath house with garage and every room is full. It’s really heartbreaking for us.
My daughter comes over periodically and she’s a drill sergeant! She tells me what I need to get rid of because it’s not being used and she will not want in future. She’s tough but it definitely helps me part with “stuff” and it helps knowing I’m not parting with something she’s interested in. Often, getting someone’s advice and accepting it is the hard part.
When I moved into a smaller house as I took items out of the boxes I asked myself “if I didn’t have this is there something else I could use instead”. Especially with serving platters, etc the answer was “yes”. I now have less cluttered cabinets and the things I have get used more often. Win/Win!!
Karen Gallaty says
Decluttering never worked for me because I grappled with these questions – my mind said I needed most things particularly sentimental. But decluttering in reverse worked because it took away the decision process! Pack up your entire house in boxes – then take items out as you need them. Once you go a few days without taking stuff out, you have all that you need. Then donate the boxes!!! End of story!!! (I did keep photos but plan to make a couple of albums and throw out the rest).
This reverse decluttering has worked for me too. I thought I had to move last year and was about 2/3 packed when I found out I could stay. I took my time unpacking to see how my place felt with less stuff and how long it took me to look for/need an item. Very eye-opening!
Jennifer Connolly says
We have gotten rid of so much stuff in February but I still fell like I am drowning. I am going to start again room by room and ask myself if I need it and why do I have it. Thanks for the pep talk.
Great post. What everyone should bear in mind, is that this isn’t just about getting rid of stuff. Once you declutter, you will also WANT less stuff.
Which means less time spent shopping and more time LIVING. .
I also like the question: “Does this add value to my life?”
It allows you to evaluate it’s purpose in your life, either use-value or aesthetic-value. If it isn’t adding value, get rid!
These questions are similar to what I asked myself when I started to purge. Everything I picked up had to fit in one of these categories. I use it, wear it or love it. I also changed my thinking from getting rid of stuff to letting it go. Getting rid of sounded like it was a mistake or just junk and certainly some of my stuff fit that description. However, I also was holding onto some things that were my mother’s or my grandmother’s so I had to learn to let them go. I kept a few things that fit into the love it category but the rest I gave away or donated. It was a hard painful lesson to learn after my mother passed away that you just can’t keep everything because of the memories the item stirred up. There were tears and heartache but I also realized I don’t need her things to remember my mother. I’m downsizing to a house half the size I’m in now and I’m about to start another big purge. It’s overwhelming but by changing my thinking, I feel like I have the right tools to work with.
Your terminology change from “getting rid of” to “letting go” really resonates with me. Thank you!
I love your second question! I will add that to my toolbox of minimalism
Ramesh Venkatraman says
What you have done Joshua is to change people’s lives, decluttered minds, and touched people across the globe. Thank you for being the person you are.
Marjorie Cooper says
These two questions are brilliant!!
I am going to write them on an index card in the morning and begin tomorrow to go through some of my problem areas!!
I recently moved and I thought that before I moved I was a minimalist. But it seems that I was instead fooling myself. I had a bigger space with loads of closets!
I am now living with my partner and one of my children. Because my partner and I moved from two separate places into one small place I am finding that my stuff is again overwhelming me.
I tried to give extras away and blessing others felt great but there is still to much!!
I feel swamped and like my space is not working. But I love our space and being with those I love is more important than any thing that I own!!
Tomorrow I start again, with your questions! I can do this!!
Great questions…. tough choices. Can’t wait to do some deep-de-cluttering
Philip Henderson says
I have OCD and for many years have not been organised in all aspects of living. Like many with OCD I have issues with object permanence ie If I can no longer see something, is it still there?
Decluttering and minimalism has allowed me to be in a position where I can easily find things and I dont get overwhelmed any more.
One thing I dislike is having certain things which I cant easily fix like my car maybe in time that will have to go..
Shirl Hrycko says
Good ideas Sister. Thanks for sharing!
I found this very helpful and enjoyed everyone’s comments. Another question I find works is – “Would I buy this article now, if I didn’t already have it?” If the answer is no, out it goes!
Anne Peterson says
Great question, would I buy this article now…and I think it’s a good question for things that have been given to us too. Getting rid of things we don’t like is not getting rid of those who gave it to us. And I bet some of them are not holding onto things out of guilt.
Helen connolly says
I had decided to go through all my clothes and get rid of what I wasn’t wearing, but not until trying every article on and checking it in front of a full length mirror. It so surprised me how I liked most of what I hadn’t been wearing. This helped me almost completely stop shopping for clothes, this was over two years ago and made a huge difference in what I spend and what I choose to buy, and it has taken away a need or desire to shop for recreation Also, getting ready for work or any other occasion is much easier with a closet full of clothes I like.
I did have some discards, but not many.
I love reading your post..
Jean Zastrow says
I need to tackle my clothes again. I donated 5 large bags last November when we moved. I need to lose weight so I have totes with quality smaller thing which I also purged but kept hard to find items. Am I crazy to hang on to them?
This is about so much more than just owning less. Every thing you own takes some of your energy and attention. A cluttered home fights with you every day. When you move things out of your life that are not useful or joyful you make room for more of what really matters. Your clutter is stealing your life.
I can fully resonate with Meg, everything you own takes some of your energy and attention. I also like ‘your clutter is stealing your life’
All that remains for me to do now is to start and that is the hardest thing to do.
I would also like to add that we are guests on this planet, just passing through. We need to think about what the ordeal the people we leave behind would have to undergo.. getting rid of our clutter.
Anne Peterson says
I totally agree. I get tired of the fight. I love it when I have a day that I fill a box and just get rid of stuff. And I know as I keep doing it, I will get to those things I swore I’d never part with. I need that energy and attention for more important things.
Samir Kadam says
You Have made my day by your post .
THANKS A LOT !!
10 Minutes a day is what I do. Place the items in a box/ Tupperware and donate to local salvation army or goodwill.
Michael Stringfellow says
Funny thing ? Men do not like to get rid of things, well I for one don’t
I kid you not. Every time I give something away, or throw it away. Two days later I need it ? ( Too Late )
Susan E Zimmer says
This may come off elementary for some, however, for years I pretend in my head that at the end of every month I have to move. This helps me to recycle, donate or put into my future garage sale tote. I am very good at re gifting as well. The day before each recycle and garbage day pick up I get crazy for purging. Living free of material is one of the best life style changes I could have ever done twenty years ago.
My husband wants to keep everything. Hr would keep junk mail if I didn’t throw it out. He would never get rid of anything. His response is, “it is in good condition and I might need it someday.” That also is his answer to the “why do I have this?” question.
So he would say he “needs” everything that he has. How do I deal with this? Also, he gets very upset if I ask him to decide what to do with something that we no longer use or need.
Any advice? I need a better question.
My husband is similar to yours. We rent a very inexpensive storage unit and the things he can’t bear to get rid of, he will but in a tub and take a photo of the contents and take it to the storage unit. That way, if he ever wants to just go “be with his stuff”, it’s right up the street, JUST NOT IN OUR HOME. I love it. I’ve told our children that when we die, just quit paying on the unit…it will all disappear and they won’t have to mess with it. He even bought his own casket to store there.
Philip Henderson says
Will they get used? All of them? Could you let go of some of them? would you? when?….. :-)
Donna Woods says
The hardest thing for me is: I am a crafter/scrapbooker. I have 60 plus finished albums. I have so much oodles of crafting/scrapbooking supplies…
Linda Hicken says
I love crafts and painting but don’t have a lot of space, so I get my “fix” making gifts for others. I bet someone would love you to make a scrapbook for them, for a special anniversary or birthday perhaps, especially if they don’t have time or the talent for it. Another thought, donate to a youth centre or kindergarten!
Struggling too, but there’s a lot of my adult children’s belongings I’m storing until they have homes of their own. Is it realistic to think they’ll want old year books, American Girl Dolls, artwork they’ve made, etc., in the years to come? They say yes but I’m doubtful.
Anne Peterson says
I still have artwork my kids made. It is important to me. If I have room to store a few things for my kids, I would. It depends on if it is infringing on your space, taking your peace of mind.
Maybe they could come up with another alternative as far as a storage space for what they think they will want in the future.
If you make it their problem they will probably get rid of most of it. e.g. tell them they need take everything home with them or go together and rent a storage space for the things they want to keep. My son is still at home but he has to put his stuff in his room. That limits what he can keep. Of course this doesn’t work for kids away at college but that only lasts for a very few years.
Great post! Thank you
My issue is the items that are for occasions. I love serveware and decorative pieces for holidays and parties. They don’t get used as often but I enjoy them when they come out. But this could even be for clothing items that are out of season. We don’t have a lot of closet space and I am always trying to figure out how to store things that will get used just not right now. What is a good solution for storing these items and balancing the everyday needs with those “I will use this again just not for a while”?
You could look into vacuum storage for the clothing. It reduces the volume significantly!
The problem with that is, most of us have too many things for our needs. Managing it to take up less space isn’t the answer–we just don’t need it all. If my current lifestyle requires me to have 6 pairs of pants, then having 10 is wasteful. I do too much filling up of space and not enough questioning why I have the item that’s taking up the space.
Philip Henderson says
Will they get used? All of them? Could you let go of some of them? would you? when?….. :-)
I use underbed plastic storage boxes for “off season” clothes as my closet is really small. the definitely do the job.
Awesome, most of the times I ask myself if I need it the answer is most of the times a big No.
My husband and I were motivated to minimize our stuff after a recent vacation when we lived on a few outfits in a small studio for 10 days. We did quite well and had very little to keep clean, put away or straighten up which left more time for whatever we wanted to do. We committed to removing one item a day for 30 days and so far we’ve met and exceeded that goal. We’ve been asking do I use it or does it add beauty. I love the question of why do I own this.
I’ve made great progress and am already loving having less stuff to care for. One challenging area particularly with clothes is when something is perfectly good but I no longer need it. Even though it’s going to be donated, it feels wasteful. So I ask myself “is keeping this item more important that my peace of mind and the time it tales me to care for this?” That usually works and the item gores in the donate pile.
Thank you for your articles which serve as regular reminders to simplify.
And regarding the teddy bear comment, I’ve chosen to keep a tattered koala bear my father, who has passed, gave me. I know exactly why I keep it!
When I have something in my closet that I have worn only a few times I think that maybe God had me buy it to bless someone else…so I pray on it and donate for the person God wanted to have it but couldn’t afford the price I paid.
I always think like that about passing on my children’s out grown toys or clothes. I love thinking someone will get the joy out of it that we did and it makes it so much easier to let go. It is a great lesson for my children when I explain it that way. Now they see it as sharing the happiness and making room for new happiness for themselves as well. (Not implying things make them happy -those sometimes they do- just referring to the fun when playing with the toy or the happy memory of it)
Thank you Jacque. I know I have been blessed by others generosity in donating unwanted clothes to charity, (my fav. Christmas pressie this year was a $10 second hand dress!) and that eases my reluctance to part with my own ‘mistake’ purchases.
This is brilliant!! So many times I have needed a specific clothing item and asked God to show me where to find it in the Goodwill. He has never let me down! Thank you to those that donate. This mum and kids have been blessed through (your) giving!
Nancy Hale says
I am 65 and still have an elephant my Dad gave me when I was 18 months old. and the first stuffed animal my mom made for me when I was young..these are cherished items I will never get rid of!!! but I am good about going thru all the rest. In the last 5 yrs I have downsized a good 80% of my stuff.
And then there is the problem of living with a semi-hoarder who refuses to get did of excess stuff. He almost had a heart attack when I tossed 2 pickup loads of books. I assured him they were my books not his. Still, he has to go through them and pull a bag full. And don’t even ask him to thin out his closet.
Anne Peterson says
It must be hard to be ready to do this when your spouse is not, nor may never be. I’m fortunate my husband wants me to get rid of stuff. The struggle is inside of me. I think that I think getting rid of the stuff my loved ones gave me is getting rid of them. And yet, as I read my own words I see that doesn’t make sense. My feelings often clutter my thinking. Time to get rid of false thoughts.
Anne, I know what you mean–it’s almost as if discarding an item from someone is being disloyal, as if you are minimizing their importance to you. And that is whether or not that person is still alive. I can discard or regift an item from someone who is not central in my life, but not one of the key people.
I came across a few things that have helped me in my process. I’m sorry I can’t give credit to the author, but it’s helped me immensely with those feelings you struggle with regarding sentimental items.
-It was theirs to use while they were here, they are not here anymore.
-I am not your museum.
-They did not give you this to punish you.
-The memory is in my heart, NOT in this inanimate object.
And to add my own, which is similar…
-Your loved one would not want you to be burdened by this gift.
-If you no longer need this, your loved one would be happy for you to find someone else to be blessed by this item. Gift it in their memory. (That doesn’t have to be done formally though).
Eileen Grimaldi says
BOOKS! When I was growinuy school we were taught that books were precious. We covered them in oil cloth or paper. (I still know how….)
I have so many books. Many of them are theologhy books…not the most current, yet to throw them away feels wrong. I’ve asked friends, the library, the seminary…nobody wants them. Help me toss my books!
I’m right there with you. I have the same issue. Lots of books from my Masters (2000-2002) and Doctorate program (2003-2007). Plus books and DVDs from a hobby I no longer really enjoy.
I had literally thousands of books. Love to read. Unfortunately books are heavy and we moved several times. Finally realized I didn’t NEED all of them and sold 641 on Amazon. Very easy to set up account and even if you sell for less than value, someone else can enjoy, they are out of your house and you make a little cash. Theology books often enjoy a string resale value. I gave 100’s of books to library and donated many to charity down to only six bookcases b
Used book stores, prisons, hospitals and mission groups may take donated books. Audio books could be useful in nursing facilities. When reafing may not be possible.
If you have a Big Brother Big Sister in your area, they will come pick up books (and other things) free of charge. At least once a quarter I fill a bag or box with clothing that no longer fits or we don’t need, household items that I don’t use (kitchen clutter) but especially books. We are unabashed book lovers and do buy (and keep) a lot, but there are always some we can purge.
Our library has an ongoing book sale & they take any & all donations. Perhaps there is one near you that does something similar? Also there’s a site called paperbackswap.com where you can list books you want to get rid of & make a wish list of ones you’d like to have. The website matches people up automatically.
Philip Henderson says
You might check with a local recycling center to see if the books can be recycled with other paper. I love books too so it’s hard for me to part with them as well but if they’re no longer relevant it might be time fir them to be recycled rather than just throwing them in the trash
Read “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo. It will really change your whole perspective on decluttering/organizing.
Carol Plummer says
You miss love. Stuff is there when people are not, so we love our stuff. Less stuff we can manage, but the walking wounded think minimalism is crap. When there are no humans and you still have your teddy bear, you can cry into his fur.
I’m not normally profane. I’ll just say “you have no clue!”
And I’m angry you think people like me, whom you don’t understand can survive the process you describe
This is incredibly deep insight. I think you helped me understand a LOT of people in my life! But at the same time my heart hurts for yours, that your true needs are not being met. Things can never do that.
Carmi Ennis says
It isn’t right for everyone. It is nice to have the teddy bear to cry on. I hope you are not sad. Best wishes!
Nowhere does this blog (or minimalism itself) say “toss the teddy bear”. In fact this post is one of the few that say “ask why I have this item”, to empower you to answer the “what now” question. If “why” is something like it adds real value to me – whatever form that value takes – then “what now” should be keep it. Minimalism is about not having the precious items -like the teddy bear – overwhelmed and diminished in importance and value by being stuck in amongst too many other items that distract us from them. It’s not about tossing for the sake of tossing.
Anne Peterson says
I’m a walking wounded too. No one said you need to get rid of everything. Getting rid of stuff is helping me see what does matter. My cousin had a houseful of Christmas decorations that she piled in her small apartment. She died and now some of it is in my basement. Pattie loved Christmas because it represented family. And you are right, she kept it because at least it wouldn’t leave her like her mom who took her life. But the thing is, her stuff started overtaking her life. So she couldn’t even enjoy any of it.
Gina Thomason says
It’s not for everyone, sheesh! Keep your stuff.
Philip Henderson says
your family is going to have fun clearing your house ;-) . I once had the honor of rescuing 4 purloined ancient electric typewriters from the loft in a relative’s house, along with twenty boxes of old bakelite 78’s.
I lost all of my family within a very short time. I got each of their belongings because I am the only one left. Now I still have a few things but I once had tons and slowly over several years I was able to release it on my terms. It was my very slow goodbye to all of them. Somethings I will keep forever but it is sooo much less that it was. I am walking wounded but I want to heal more than I want to be wounded. It hurt for a while to even open a box and peer inside, but one day I eventually could and then one day I could let Some things go. It’s not a race it’s on my own time. There is comfort and sadness in the keeping and there is beauty and pain in letting go. This is price we pay for getting to love someone
J Bern says
Beautifully-stated. Your loss was great but you didn’t use it as an excuse to stop living and loving.
My real issue with decluttering is all the darn knickknacks that have been given to me by people that are dear to me. I don’t want to hurt feelings… especially those of my husband and daughter. What to do…?
BJ Shelby says
if it’s something flat, like a drawing, take a picture of it, put it in a digital photo album, and be sure you have several backups of your digital photos (one on the cloud, one to an external hard drive, and one to a high capacity flash drive (all three are very inexpensive). Then toss the item..
Otherwise, if the person has passed on and you have no need for the item, do the same picture process as above, and then give the item to charity for someone else to enjoy.
If it’s something sentimental, give it a visible, organized place so that you can enjoy it. The best way is to buy a display case, short or tall, small or large, with glass doors so that the items are protected. This makes for a lot less clutter than having a bunch of knick knacks on a flat surface. It also makes it much easier to clean the flat surface, and it’s much more pleasing to the eye.
During the process, always ask yourself if keeping an item is really important and will it help you feel happier and in more control of your life. If the answers are “no”, then take a pic and give it to charity.
ONLY keep items other than the above if you’ve actually used them in the last year or two, and get rid of duplicates.
My decluttering mantra is, “The thing is not the person.” This is especially important for those sentimental items. Sometimes a picture, say, of a bunch of vials of sand from your travels, is far more meaningful than keeping all of them and finding a place to display them.
You’ll feel SOOOO much better when you have clean, uncluttered surfaces, rooms with only a few pieces of furniture, and framed photos displayed in a tight pattern (or, better yet, in a digital photo frame that constantly shows the photos in a slideshow format). Plus, you’ll know where everything is!
Hope this helps.
I don’t like the word “tossing”. Decluttering your home should not mean adding to already stressed landfills. Take joy in knowing that donating to charities will bring joy to others.
Now that’s excellent advice!
I was just thinking about all the pictures we have in storage, probably dozens of totes, and albums. I was thinking about how to get rid of them thanks ! Jim
Philip Henderson says
Chuck out all that are poorly taken, or are embarrassing esp those of children dressed in ridiculous clothes, as it only makes you the embarrassing adult ;-). Decide on a number to keep of each occasion ie a few of people, a few of places. a few of things. Digitize them, with backups. I use Dropbox plus an external Hard Drive. Chuck the originals, they will degenerate over time anyway… if you have wedding album, maybe keep that but digitize as well.
Audrey Yetter says
Well said. I do the same thing. Take pictures of things and then donate them. After all it’s just stuff. I’ve asked my friends and family to only gift me consumables, like chocolate. ❤ I own no paper copies of photos. They’ve all been scanned and are stored digitally. I’ve given my daughter and siblings a copy of everything too on small external hard drives.
If you think about when YOU give someone a gift, usually the intention is to make them happy, if it doesnt serve that purpose then the receiver shouldnt keep it. Another thing to keep in mind is that once you give something to someone as a gift, its no longer yours, its 100% theirs and its their decision what to do with it.
Personally, Id rather see someone I love get rid of a gift I gave them than have them stress over it.
Read the art of decluttering by Marie kondo. The book may seem odd but some of the principles are golden. Helped me a lot with sentimental stuff.
I agree. I find her a bit odd too, but I found her section about gifts excellent. It has really helped me. Even if you just read that part of the book. I’ve provided a short summary here – https://moretimethanmoney.co.nz/2015/09/05/the-stuff-of-magic-a-review-of-the-the-life-changing-magic-of-tidying-up/
Take a picture and then find someone else to gift it to. Taking a picture of items has helped me alot. Because I don” want to forget what others have given me but I can’t just keep every little thing.
ask people you love and who love you not to get you something that has “space”. Rather, encourage “consumables” – things that you can enjoy and then they will be “over”; like a lunch at your favorite restaurant, tickets to an event (they can go with you) a bottle of your favorite wine or a pound of tea or coffee that you enjoy, a homemade treat….I routinely make one of my specialty baked goods for my adult children (is that an oxymoron)? that they have loved for years but don’t have time/ambition to make themselves. They enjoy it, share with their families and the love remains while there is nothing tangible left to deal with, dust, find a place for, move, store, etc.
krista O'Reilly-Davi-Digui says
Yes- my friends and I go out for birthday coffees (or lunch sometimes) rather than giving stuff. My kids are still youngish (11, 17, 20) and for gifts I mostly contribute to larger items they are saving for, experiences, or art supplies/books they want. My oldest just wanted cash this year as a broke college student. We are all happy with this:)
Morgan Stock says
Digitally photograph them. They’ll always be available to put a smile on your face. :)
Anne Peterson says
I even have trouble with things people gave me who are no longer here. But I’m determined to ask myself these two questions. A gift is something given to you where you have freedom to do what you want with it. Look carefully, there shouldn’t be any strings attached. I used to think if someone liked my gift then they would display it…wow, that sure looks like a string I attached to it.
I have a friend who said she felt like she would dishonor a friendship if she gave away a gift from that friend. I told her that she honored our friendship by opening up her home to me when I had to leave my house due to the smell of varnish on my new windows – not by keeping everything I have ever given her!
Commit to a knick-knack display case? Haha…
Tricia Blazy says
I wish it wasn’t so overwhelming.
It is so hard ! I have gotten rid of so much but clothes are the hardest for me to get rid of. Great article
pack them up, and dust the shelf. replace with a few, you like, or just put books on the shelf.
Judi Grace StoryCorps.
Have a blessed 2017
The first step is, not to buy anymore. And if you do, toss, give or whatever at least 2.
I find it very overwhelming as well. One thing that works for me is the one a day plan . I have a good size container that I put at least one thing in every day . When the bin is full I donate the best stuff to animal rescue auctions and the rest goes to a charity .It can be anything and doesn’t seem very effective at first but it is much less overwhelming for me . In one year you will have eliminated 365 items from your house
That’s an xlnt idea
I didn’t know they had animal rescue auctions. Thanks!
Donna Woods says
That is a great idea!!
Catherine G. says
Love that idea!
Jacqueline Strozier-Roberts says
I LOVE Beth’s idea!!! It makes it easier and stops it from being overwhelming…I recently had all attic items brought down…at least 1/3rd is gone, 1/2 of what was left, or more is in the empty bedroom and I’m slowly going thrrigh thosd things, and this spring I will finish the garage. It took me 6 months to go thru the shed! Now it only has yard tools!! I have started!! The hardest thing (that I’ve not touched!) are ALL the pictures (family and others) and the 2 hutches!!!!
Evelyn Ponton says
Family pictures: I had my sisters come over and they went through all my family pictures they picked out what they wanted and took them and left me with the rest. Then I picked out what I wanted. Later my daughter came and picked out what she wanted, and slowly that’s how I’m doing the family pictures. Just an idea.
That is if you don’t mind sharing.
Excellent ideas! We can die in an instant, so just enjoy each day, family will get rid of what you have, so just enjoy it for now.
Do not sweat the small stuff, for it is all small stuff.
judi grace storycorps.
Have a blessed 2017
Yes…when my daughters or grands are over and they really like something of mine. I ask if they want and I give it to them right then. They are shocked but my grandmother did that with me and I love thinking of her when I see those things–remembering that moment (I’m 65)
That’s great! I like this idea!
This is a great idea, much easier to let go of things.
And the more we have the more difficult it is and the more overwhelmed it all becomes, no wonder so many people are suffering from depression! It’s the way we have all been socially engineered in society ????
Good luck with it all, many of us trying to do the same thing! ????
How do you eat an elephant?
One bite at a time. :)
Anne Peterson says
Is there any part of it that feels good to you? Even a small step?
Nancy Perry says
Definitely! It is so rewarding to go from a ‘stuffed’ closet to one where the clothes hang straight and are not crammed in :) And the feeling of blessing someone else with things that I don’t wear/don’t fit feels pretty good too.
box it all up, like you are moving, and only pack a suitcase, like you are going on a two week vacation. out of sight..out of mind..
Judi Grace StoryCorps.
Have a blessed 2017
Throw/give away/sell one small thing today!
Agreed. I have the same trouble. I feel like I’m going to have to screw up the courage to ask a loved one to do it for me without me being within five miles.
The most difficult part for me is going through all the papers and trying to decide what things I can get rid of verses what I need to keep for tax purposes or other required need…..