Simplify the Stuff


I remember a moment during the late fall last year, when I lost it.   The weather was growing cold, and we were spending most of out time indoors. Every corner was filled with books no one read.  The counters were stacked with papers no one looked at.  Piles of clothes no one wore, yet some how ended up in the mountain of dirty laundry each week.  Don't even get me started on the dishes and toys.  I felt like the walls were closing in on me and I was either spending all my time trying to rearrange the piles into some sense of order or ignoring them, which only made it worse.  It left me feeling angry and inadequate all the time.  That's when I decided it was time to simplify and get rid of the stuff.  

It felt good, really good.  I went through the house, room by room, and got rid of anything that was broken, we didn't want or use.  A few boxes went to Goodwill, and it was invigorating to get rid of so many things!  I was dumbfounded at how much that small change had made on the dynamic of our family.  I was more relaxed and creative, and so was everyone else.

As fall changed to winter, the walls began creeping in again.  However, this time, in a different way.  Mike and I were making homesteading plans and all I could think of was how are we going to live in a tiny house with all of this stuff.  That's when my focus shifted.  It was more than the surface clutter, it was the boxes of hand me downs stored in closets, unfinished projects in the basement, and treasures in the garage.  It was time to get serious about getting rid of stuff.

We made a rule.  If it hadn't been used in one year, it would go.  That week, I took three full car loads to Goodwill, and it felt really great.  The process still didn't seem finished, though, so we made another new rule.  If it hadn't been used in 6 months...

That's when it got epic.  In the spring, we rented a dumpster.  I wish that I'd taken photos, because it was a sight to see.  We worked for 10 days adding to the giant metal box, only for strangers to take things out again.  We'd fill it up more, and again people would come and ask to take things home.  It was fantastic.  Spaces of our home were actually cleared out.  The garage was empty, except for our bikes and tools, and I could see the basement floor!

I hope it doesn't come across like it was no big deal to just get rid of everything.  It wasn't.  It was down right uncomfortable.  So many things we hold onto are associated with loved ones or memories of the past.  It became a process of healing, as well.  Many times we cried, but that's where the list came in handy.  It helped us focus on what we really wanted to have in our life.  Some things we held onto and some we were able to let go.

The boys did great, too.  We included them in every step of the process, and I think that's what worked. They eliminated about half their toys on the first go around.  Also, we never threw anything away without their permission, so it wasn't threatening to them.  We went through    every   single   toy    together and sorted items into 3 boxes,  Keep - Maybe - Toss.   It was interesting to see what they kept and found sentimental, and again, wasn't what I would have thought they'd pick at all.  For the maybe box, we played the game again with only Keep - Toss.

The level of stuff feels about right for now.  We've removed more than half of what we had a year ago!  Now, we're trying to make sure everything has a place, to keep things from creeping back in.  I'll be the first to admit that I'm lacking in the organizational department, but I've found that it's not difficult to keep the house in order when you don't have very much stuff.  I'd like to talk more specifically about what we decided to keep and how we're organizing everything, but that's for another time.

How do you simplify your stuff?


  1. I have done this too.
    I changed when I recognized I was operating from a place of fear....fear that I might want or need this in the future. I shifted to a place when I (mostly) operate from a place of abundance and faith, that it would work out just fine....


  2. After living in the same house for 17 years, I found myself divorced and moving. I had been a collector or stuff, antiques, and vintage. After moving 5 different times into VERY small apartments, I kept winnowing down.
    My goal is to only own what can fit into my car. Last summer my daughter and I went through all the sentimental "stuff" and let go of it.
    It is a process.

  3. Such a hard process, but so worth it when you can breathe and feel that open space in your home. We live in a small home and I declutter regularly. Something new comes in, something old goes out. Makes me really think about buying something if I know something else needs to go when it comes through the front door. And to be honest, not much new comes in the door anymore, we have what we need, and if we don't we tend to make do. Enjoy the process.

  4. Clothes are my hardest item to stay simple with. I donated any clothes that didn't fit just right, or had other drawbacks, like weird fabric or didn't wash well. What a difference! Then I made a list of exactly what clothes I did want, and gave myself permission to get them (a few at at time over the year or two), so that I could get rid of everything else that I didn't just love, now that I had a solid replacement. For example, in place of a half a dozen long sleeved t-shirts that could only be worn once before needing to be washed, I now have two turtlenecks and one 3/4 sleeve shirt from LL Bean, that only need to be washed every other wearing. 1/2 the stuff, and I always look good and feel comfortable!
    ~Rebekah Valorn

  5. It is so true that stuff really doesn't make you joy filled or at a place with inner peace. Although we have 8 people living in our smaller than average home, it is not crowded as we keep things very simple. Having too much simply crowds your mind. I do like to have some beautiful accents (usually hand made) but not too many.

  6. I have to admit that I am a neat freak to start with, so we don't have "clutter" in our house; I just can't function with it. I even made the rule that we don't have a junk drawer in the kitchen, as most homes do. Everything in my house has a place and if it is not there, then we don't have it. The exceptions to this are the garage, which is my husband's domain and one bowl where he empties his contents after work. About once a month when the bowl is overflowing I make him go through it and clear it out. I am also a junk purging fanatic and about once a quarter go through the house and start a Goodwill bag for things that we haven't been using. It kind of boils down to lifestyle, even house decor. If you are into a modern simplified look (or you hide it well in large closets), you are going to have less stuff than someone who wants the cozy, crafty, cottage look in your home. We are trying to live a life where we only buy quality products that we really need, made my artists, crafters, or producers in the US instead of mass produced stuff from China. These items are typically more expensive, so that means we are more limited in what we can actually afford to buy and fill our home with.