A Home With Your Favorite Things

Photo by Krikit ♥

How can you have a home free of clutter, with just the things that make you smile?

Obviously there are a few things that are good to own even if they don’t make you happy to look at them (the toilet plunger, for instance). This exercise is more for things that are optional – the keepsakes, personal belongings, and decorative objects.

As you go through your stuff, ask yourself this question:

What is the very first thing you feel when you look at it?

  • Does it make you happy to see it?
  • Do you feel indifferent?
  • Or does it make you think of something you don’t want to be reminded of?

Yes, it’s too simple.

The way to have a home with the stuff that you really like is to only keep the stuff that you really like.


Be sure to pay attention to your first gut reaction, which tells you how you truly feel about something. Next come the reminders and rationalizations of how much it cost, where it came from, and what you “should” feel about it.

Just because you used to like something does not mean you have to still like it. Seasons change. Kids outgrow clothes. It’s ok for grownups to change too.

Focus on your own stuff. Don’t clean out your spouse’s stuff without his permission. If the two of you have different perspectives on what is lovely, make a corner of your home that can just be yours.

I did this as we were getting ready to move, and everything I gave away felt like a relief. (It also made it possible for us to have everything unpacked in our new apartment in just two days.)

What is something that you love to keep? What is something that you wouldn’t care if you gave away? (I treasure my trip journals and drawings, and I just gave away a pair of boots.) Put your treasured item in a place where you can see it often, and drop your unwanted item in a donation bag.
About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. great read. i agree with your ideas.

  2. I think this is key. The trouble we have is that my husband is a “what if we need it someday” kind of guy. I love him to bits, but it sure makes decluttering a bit more of a challenge :). So I try to keep my stuff to a minimum to keep a balance in our home. Then I put all of the “man stuff” into our office closet and tool shed :).

    Shannon´s last blog post..Homesteading, Part One: The Who, What, Where and Why

  3. I grew up in a home packed with nic-nacks, it’s been such a relief in my own home to go through the simple thought process you have here and to free myself from the need for useless “things” that don’t really make me happy.

    Blessed´s last blog post..Getting Outside!

  4. I have a beautiful Hope Chest that was a gift from my parents after my first son passed away. It was a place where I could hold memories of him, and of what was yet to come. The chest has traveled with me for the past 11 years.
    It still holds a memento box with things that were my late son’s, and it also holds memory boxes for my toddler son, and infant daughter.

  5. There are really only a few things in my house I could not get rid of because they belonged to each of my grandmothers before they died. Like Denise, I also have a Hope Chest that I keep these things in.

    I’ve found that when it’s time to declutter, I have to go through things quickly and not give myself too much time to think. If I look at an item and analyze it too much, I’ll end up keeping it for some reason. I’ve learned I never miss any of this “stuff” I get rid anyway.

    Amanda @ Mommy’s Idea Book´s last blog post..Simple Solutions: Freezing Casseroles

  6. I have learned to become very “strict” with myself. If the item no longer brings me pleasure to see, I get rid of it. I feel bad when it comes to things that have been given to us, though. For example, my parents have travelled all over the world, and we’ve been given little trinkets from everywhere. I have managed to get rid of some of them, but not all.

    Another tactic I use is pretending that we’re going to move (which, by the way, is going to happen eventually.) I ask myself if the item is really worth the hassle of packing up and moving to a new location?

    kirwin´s last blog post..A place of my own

  7. We move every few years and it is a blessing as far as keeping the knick knacks out. I have learned to only keep what I want to move later. Because we move a lot, I don’t have end tables or shelves on the walls. That used to bug me. Now, I realize not all furniture will fit in all houses. Without tables and shelves, I don’t have spaces to put a lot of clutter. Works for me!

    I do have a few items that I won’t part with. Like the beautiful picture that hung above my grandparents bed their whole married life (a wedding present from their church)and a stained glass lamp that my late cousin made for us as a wedding present.

    Marci´s last blog post..Tired of the negative?

  8. I never buy knick knacks and only buy things that are truly necessary–other than books. But even they are kept to a minimum. We have a 6 month rule (other than seasonal items) if we won’t use it within 6 months we dont really need it.

    The only things I ‘have’ that make me truly happy are my family.

  9. My husband makes me keep all the public television/ public radio coffee mugs we’ve received from years of pledging. I hate them. They are ugly and I don’t like to drink from them because the rims are too thick (I have problems)Yet, knowing they are on that back shelf in basement gives him great peace. Go figure.

    I am a rabid declutterer but the things my grandmother made for me ( a baby blankie, a knit throw, a wall hanging) will be with me always.

    Looks like the mugs will, too.

    Juliet´s last blog post..Enough

  10. Adrienne says:

    Hi Rachel, I just discovered your blog a month or so ago, and I’m really enjoying it. So many thing you say have been in my head for so long, and you so wonderfully lay these ideas out. I completely agree with this post. However, my parents love to buy me little knick-knacks, trinkets, and gadgets for my kitchen (plus toys for my kids) that I simply don’t want or need. I know they enjoy doing it, but we live in a small apartment and already lack the space. Plus these are often things that I don’t enjoy looking at or will even use. Sometimes I give away these things (with great guilt!) but most often they get put in a closet or cabinet and just take up space. Do you have any suggestions for these sensitive situations? Oh and a disclaimer here: I am not talking about keepsakes or other sentimental things that my parents have given me over the years.

  11. We have really scaled back on stuff in our home as well. We re-painted our living room and instead of just putting the things back on the wall that had been there for years, both hubby and I took a good hard look at the things. We remember what we loved about them but, also felt we wanted to make a new chapter in our lives.
    We try to stick to the whole “When we see something we may want, we have to decide if it is worth replacing something else we already own.” When something new comes in, something old needs to go out.

    Diann´s last blog post..Honoring Earth Day

  12. I love this post. As I feel like I’m just starting to come into my own niche of creativity and style, I’ve been ruthless lately in getting rid of things I don’t need or want but also making sure I hold onto the things I treasure most. Gone? Three pairs of jeans that will NEVER fit me again. Let’s be honest. Kept? My comfiest sweater and necklace with a picture of my grandmother screened onto it. Adopted? An old oil lamp from my dad’s house that now sits on our antique entryway table. These things bring me comfort and joy.

    Melissa´s last blog post..Q&A.

  13. Ok I am inspired now! I am off to get rid of a pair of boots and some other odds and ends.

    Sarah´s last blog post..Tot School- Farm Week

  14. These are great tips. I am not a decorator and while my family enjoys our home and loves being here, I want to make it even more happy and cozy. I do find that there are lots of things that I just don’t enjoy in our house. I am on a quest to finding those things that make me happy and makes our home happy too.

  15. Katherine says:

    Like many others I use the 12-month rule. If it hasn’t been used in 12 months, it’s time to let it go. Sometimes this is difficult, even for an item that I don’t particularly like and even if it’s just sitting in a closet. There are reasons to keep things like this–a dear friend or family member *gave* it to me. In these cases, I keep a gratitude journal that lists (usually in 1-word entries) all the items, people, places, and things that I am grateful for. I simply list the item in my gratitude journal (preserving it’s memory) and then sell, donate, or otherwise give away the unwanted but sentimental item.

  16. Wow, I love the idea of a gratitude journal. That is such a simple way to remember gifts and knick knacks that are no longer part of your life but that you don’t want to forget.
    I have a collection of scraps cut from favourite clothes – just the button and an inch square of fabric. Takes up less than an envelope in my bedside drawer but reminds me of what I was wearing the night I met my husband, my fave top as a teenager etc. That was a bit of a compromise between binning the lot or keeping a bag of too small, outdated clothing in the attic.

    Not sure if I should be introducing myself as I am a new-ish reader of this blog but have never commented before. I love the principles and idea behind your posts so thanks for the inspiration and motivation.
    Karen (Scotland)

    • Karen, that is a great idea. I have been trying to figure out what to do with some of the baby clothes that I want to hang on to. I was trying to decide if I should make something from them, but really all I want is a little square.