Loosen the Grip of “More Stuff”

Where were you when you made your big life plans?

When I was in college I spent many late nights at the Taco Cabana talking with friends. With a stack of hot tortillas wrapped in foil on the table, we talked about our current lives, our classes, our hopes and dreams, and where we would go next.

The possibilities were endless and overwhelming. Where might we live?

Would we get married? Where would our job paths, career plans, families, and adventures take us?

No one of us ever said, “I hope I have a big house full of things that I bought just because they were on sale.”

We never talked about our intentions to own so much stuff that we would spend our free time trying to organize it all.

No one said, “I hope my future kids have so many toys that they can’t pick them up because it’s just so hard.”

Why do we trade in our goals, hopes, and plans for things that will eventually end up in a garage sale or in the landfill? We’re pulling thousand-pound baggage behind us as we go through life thinking about the next thing we can add to it! Stop doing that!

I still love fluffy white towels, knives that are sharp enough to slice, and tote bags. Yes, I love special things, especially tote bags. But I hate the idea that someone would trade in her special hopes and dreams for something that can be bought.

I like my stuff, but I am SO OVER IT.

Give me passion, pursuits, wholeness, healing, compassion, mercy, reconciliation, audacious goals, beauty, love, grace, kindness, tender touch…give me those instead, and let me not be distracted by anything less.

About Rachel

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

Comments

  1. the cottage child says:

    Amen.
    the cottage child´s last post…New tricks7 quick ones!

  2. What is stuff and what are lifestyle essentials? Seriously, I can’t tell right now. We just got another TV to create an “away room” for our home. Is that TV stuff or necessary infrastructure? Is an ipad “stuff?” Are picture frames “stuff?” How about Adirondack chairs for the front yard (since the M streets are a “howdy neighbor” sorta place). What has the move taught you about the threshold?

    • I think that question of extra stuff versus essentials is different for everyone. Owning stuff is fine, it’s great to have a welcoming home, and I’m not a minimalist. I think the question is not about the stuff itself, but more about how consumed we are by it: how much time do we spend on it and how much do we think about it, as if it were more important than it really is.

      • I guess to me it has a lot to do with whether I am owner or owned by the stuff. Does my stuff so consume me that I can’t see beyond it to dreams, personal growth and relationships? I have been often been distracted in my life by stuff and have gradually moved towards simplicity in my life and am grateful for it. Don’t you think that part of the issue has to do where we are in life age wise? There is a time of building of our families and homes when we are young and often that is when we can loose sight of real goals and desires if not careful. It is just good to keep in mind the value and freedom that comes with simplicity at any age. It is so easy to fall into the trap of “keeping up with the Jones” if we are not consciously living.

    • It’s stuff. All of it. TV, iPad, lawnchairs, none of it necessary. All of it consumerist, optional extras, or to put it another way, stuff.

      Nothing wrong with it, but know it for what it is. The day we confuse stuff with essentials is the day we all become Americans.

      • Sarah Jones says:

        Isn’t amazing that you can look in any category and find lists of “essentials”? Baby essentials, clothing essentials, accessories essentials . . .

  3. This is really applicable for us right now and sounds almost exactly like a conversation my husband and I had this weekend. We’ve been planning to move off-grid for six years now, paid off loans last year, and have a place to get started. I came home and he said “Ya know, we could just sell everything (truly everything) and buy only what we need when we get there. It probably wouldn’t cost anymore than it would if we had to buy a uhaul to get all of our junk there.”

    It was an answer to prayer because I’d been asking this same question for months. I think we might just do it and soon.

    • I want to do this! I am so tired of being consumed by my stuff. I’m in the process of getting rid of lots of our excess stuff. I’m tired of being burdened by it all. There is a possible move across country for us. I keep thinking about the cost of moving all our stuff and wondering why we have to take it with us? But then, I see some of our stuff that I don’t want to get rid of. I have an attachment to it. It has sentimental value and adds to my life in a positive way. For now, while life is still in flux, I am just working on getting rid of things that are extra, things that just take up space and things that don’t bring me joy.

      • We just did this. We moved accross country in Feb. 2010 (1,800 miles), then back again this past January, we were a family of 3 soon to be 4. Before we moved we sold everything but the most esential items (or so we thought), So all big furniture, excluding mattresses, and two dressers. Our priority was that if we could sell it with the plan to replace what was needed when we reached our destination for comparable cost it would go. It turned out we sold approx. 1/2 of our belonglings. After the move, we realized that we didn’t even need about 1/2 of what we brought, so we downsized yet again. and we only replaced a couch and dining set. So, when we decided we needed to move back (another 1,800miles) We returned to our origial house with still less stuff. We now plan to downsize twice a year. We love having less. Cleaning is easier without the extra stuff. and we think our home feels clean and inviting. The biggest thing we do still struggle with is the kids stuff. I would count 1/4 of our stuff wrapped up in kids items. Still trying to work the ballance of all that stuff.

        • Rita, you are inspiring me now!! Thanks so much for sharing. You’re story is inspirational for me! Did you find it harder to get rid of the big stuff or the little stuff?

          We have three major areas of ‘little’ stuff that we have to sort through. We love books and have lots of them. I love crafts and have lots of supplies. And I have an over abundantly stocked kitchen. The kitchen isn’t a problem–if we don’t use it monthly, then out it goes. The crafts and books are difficult because we homeschool and find that we use them or desire to keep them for resources for the future. I keep reminding myself that we use the library often enough that we don’t need to keep quite so many books and that the craft stuff is just clutter if it isn’t being used. Still hard though. I’m not finding it so hard with most of our furniture. I could sell it all save for a bookshelf, a kitchen storage shelf and two tables.

        • This is encouraging to hear – we are planning on moving with three small children in a few months, and are leaving behind/selling most of our furniture, except for our beloved mattress set & bedding, my All-clad cookware, Wusthoff knives, our books, basic clothing, and a few tried and true toys for our boys. But everything else is going – I don’t want to pay to move it there, or to put it somewhere when we get there only to never be used again! Already, we have started to pare down the toys, and realized that the boys don’t even miss them, and it is one less thing to clean up!

          But I can identify with April too – I love sewing and crafting, and think I will probably keep the basic things that are tools, while getting rid of some supplies that I haven’t used for years.

          • The main thing we kept in mind when deciding to move, was could we replace it. Books were one of those things we took a lot of. But, once out there we did realize that many of them could go. Resources like paperbackswap.com became our best friend. Not only could we find good homes for our books that we were not using but we were able to build credits to get new books and then trade them off. I of course kept our sewing stuff, but I did let go of a lot of my fabric. That was really hard. But the reality is that it is easy to replace. The furniture was pretty easy, but we kept only the mattresses and one of the boy’s bed frames because it he G’pa built it. My husband kept tools (they would be hard to replace), we downsized our dishes to one set (we don’t entertain much), same with glasses and flatware, linens etc… I downsized to two cookie sheets (only two oven racks) two cake pans, one set of pots and pans, (this does get tricky sometimes, but I’m more creative for it.) Clothing was our biggest downsize. It was brutal, but I am down to just the NECESSITIES.
            Toys are still our challenge still working on that one.

  4. Well said Rachel. I despise stuff.

    When I was younger & flat broke, I would dream up every & anything I could buy “if I only had money”. I’ll admit I went on a bit of a spending binge once or twice. After my husband & I moved from Texas to the East Coast, I began parting with “stuff”.

    I still am to this day. I just donated wine glasses that never get used, I never drink wine, & if I have company over that wants it, they can drink it out of our everyday glasses (hopefully the juice size!). I parted with my hope chest of 14 years, it was not being used, & it became a safety issue with my kids, I thought I’d miss it, nope. I also parted with the upholstered rocking chair that I was told “I needed to have” to rock my kids to sleep. Um, they liked their swing much better.

    Stuff weighs me (us) down. I don’t like being weighed down.

  5. I love reading this! I think finding the balance of enjoying my “stuff” but not being ruled by it is key for me. If there is something I know I want, I enjoy the hunt of finding it on sale or via craigslist. If I get obsessed with finding it, usually that’s a sign that I am being ruled by that thing! My husband is oh-so-gracious to point this out from time to time…
    Katherine@YeOldCollegeTry´s last post…I wish I could take credit for this

  6. Thunderous applause. Standing ovation.
    Especially that last line.

  7. Amen and amen. If living overseas out of 2-4 suitcases for months on end did one thing for us (and it actually did a lot more than that), it taught us that we didn’t NEED all the junk we thought we did. Each time we came back to our house in the States I purged like a mad woman. And I hope that’s something I never get over. I saw people who had so much less than me (even with my “limited” stuff that I brought along) and yet they always had a smile on their face. Thought provoking.
    Carrie´s last post…Project House

    • Carrie, I hear you! I’m a little late on this thread but we just came home after three months abroad, before another five months abroad at the same place. What I’m doing is purging, throwing out, more purging. We moved with just a few boxes and while we sometimes miss certain things (more forks for guests!) it’s amazing how little we really need. It’s an eye-opener!

  8. This is great– I am trying to be discerning about how much of my energy my stuff consumes– and then ask the question– is what the stuff helps make happen for us worth the investment?

    But this line of yours blew me away: “No one of us ever said, ”I hope I have a big house full of things that I bought just because they were on sale.”” I’ll be sitting with that for awhile.
    Missy K´s last post…Lunchbox Haiku and Little Bits of Love

    • That line got me too! It’s going right into my quotes list and I know I’ll be using it as a touchstone over the next few months as I try and figure out how to downsize for an overseas move.

  9. Thanks so much for reminding me. I love your website. Have a wonderful day in Italy.

  10. Amen to that!

  11. Fabulous, great, wonderful post… Oh I love this post… you took the words right out of my mouth!!! It isn’t about what is essential and what is extra-stuff… but more about what things weigh us down and what things bring us comfort… I am so unburdening from all the extra weight right now!!! With more people in our house than ever we have just less and less stuff… empty shelves, empty closets… wonderful!!! Space to play and somewhere to put the library books!!! Yea I finally think my family is on board… and I am not the only one singing: “Do you love it or not?” Meanwhile keep your beautiful photos coming!!!

    • I think what you said about your family finally being on board has a lot to do with it. I’ve always thought “less is more” but then I have a mother who thinks she’s being helpful by sharing cute “sale” finds with me and a husband who thinks we can’t let go of things with sentimental value or because “so-and-so gave it to us.” Unless your family is on the same page, it can feel like you are getting no where on the quest to downsize. However, I admit that I could spend all my time just downsizing my own stuff!

      Speaking of which, this post is timely because I’ve decided that my clothing is excessive. From now on, I want to invest in a few quality pieces that are simple and that the look can be easily changed with accessories. Any ideas on what the basics of a wardrobe should be?
      Megan @ Faith Like Mustard´s last post…Bible in 90 Days Week 7 Recap

      • Hi Megan , Well done on your Bible in 90 days!!! We did it last year as a family and it was great to achieve it!!! I have to say: my immediate family is on the same page but grannies are a whole different story!!! Luckily they know if it is more than our quota I donate it!!!

        One granny believes all children should be treated equally and so always gets eight of the same gift and she loves niknaks, my youngest is one and the oldest is thirteen there is no way on earth she can get eight of the same thing and hit the spot gift wise… The other granny is a bulk shopper and loves a sale… she believes in the more the merrier and will happily buy twenty pairs of track pants for my two year old, all a size too small and too girly for the following child, because they were on special!!! I think I may have clothed an entire city on the clothes she has given us.

        Don’t ask me about clothes, we are seriously minimalist!!! When I realized my comment was getting longer than the longest blogpost I knew it was time to write a post about it!!!

      • Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s site has a list in the Buidling a Basic Wardrobe at:

        http://gailvazoxlade.com/blog/archives/2528

      • I don’t know if my basic wardrobe list will be any help to you, but here is what I came up with for me at the beginning of the year…still working toward weeding out the current wardrobe as I acquire the new one!!

        http://http://essentialsimplicity.blogspot.com/2011/01/minimalist-sahm-wardrobewhat-im-wishing.html
        Julie@EssentialSimplicity´s last post…Our Decorated Nursery

  12. I’ve been going through the exact same thing realizing how much time and effort our stuff takes up–thank you for this fresh perspective!

  13. what a great, and timely, reminder. let us not be held hostage by the pursuit of the american dream!
    Danielle´s last post…workin girl

  14. Amen to that. I’m involved in that long process of paring down all the stuff I own. It’s really been in the last year that I feel like I’ve turned that final corner on the paridigm shift from “It’s on sale- I must buy it” to getting rid of all the stuff I’ve acumulated and never or hardly ever use and only buying things when I’ve purposefuly thought about it before hand.

    One area I still find myself accumulating things is souvenirs when I travel. Have you been tempted to buy things while you’re in Italy? How are you resisting or deciding what to buy? Perhaps it helps that you are there for longer so you have more of an opportunity to think through what you really want to take home. I find it hard when I’m traveling to resist the things that I like that are unique to that place because unlike at home- I can’t think about it and come back later.

    • I don’t really tend to buy souvenirs when I go on trips. I’m more likely to remember a trip if I journal or take pictures.

    • When I am tempted by souvenirs, I stop and think “how will this look on the garage sale table and what will it go for?”
      Usually this takes care of that yearning. If I am really sorry when I get home, you can get most everything on eBay.

      If I still Really Need Something, I save the gelato cup and teensy spoon, a water bottle with an usual label, or something like that.

      • When we feel a real need for a souvenir, we get a christmas ornament, preferably something somewhat ridiculous. One. We have a lovely glass crab from Cape Cod, a cheap little cable car from San Francisco, a monkey on a space shuttle from Cape Canaveral, Dorothy’s house from a roadtrip through Kansas… It’s fun to spend the trip hunting for something memorable, and later a delight to pull them out every year and remember our adventures. They serve a great purpose, then we put them away for the year.

  15. We moved last year to a house with not one single linen, coat or utility closet in the house. We just had the 4 closets that existed in each bedroom. For months it drove me crazy to try to fit all my “stuff” from our old house into this new house and I spent hours organizing, reconfiguring storage arrangements,etc. Until after the holidays a couple of months back I decided, why am I holding onto all this stuff? Why do I need 20 towels and 10 bath mats? WHY? So I purged and it all fits now and the frustration I once felt with no linen space is now thankfulness that it has helped me see the light; that I can definitely survive with just 2 sets of towels :)
    Andrea Howe´s last post…Youve Got Questions- Ive Got Answers Part 3 – Fashion Edition

    • What a neat story about overcoming that frustration and the time it was consuming!

    • I did the same thing with my linen closet. One of the greatest benefits to my simplifying is seeing it affect my daughter. We recently redid her room and she minimized the furniture and stuff because she wanted it that way. A sign of maturity and growth to me which delighted my heart! It has taken me a lot longer!

    • I can relate to the towel “collection”. I felt like Monica on Friends (11 guest towels). The 3rd move with my husband, we had 2 kids, & I thought, why on earth do I have so many? The never used ones went to a local shelter, some looking a bit rough went to the cars/dog. Hubs & I have 2 sets of white towels (I love white towels- bleach them & they are brand new!). Our kids have 2 sets too. That is it. :) Ah, free from the towels!

  16. That is what I’m trying to do. In fact, my word for the year is ‘simplify’. we are moving this coming Sat. and are down-sizing. I’m actually excited about that part and it has felt SO good to throw out and give away. If we hadn’t used it in a year, it’s gone! :) Thanks for this post. It really makes you think about where our lives have ended up. I feel the same way….

  17. This message is so timely for me! We just moved and in the process of packing up our belongings I estimate that I got rid of about 25% of our things. And now that I’m unpacking I find that I’m still paring down. My big turning point was realizing that I haven’t been living the life I want to live partly because of the clutter in our house. I want to spend my time creating, playing with my children, caring for my family, reading, and cooking. When things literally get in the way of that, it’s time to clear it out.
    Wendy´s last post…The Inconsistent Week or Two in Bentos- February 7-18- 2011

  18. ”I hope I have a big house full of things that I bought just because they were on sale.” – this made me snort out loud. Great post.

  19. Ah, yes. I have a fondness for tote bags- there must be a name for it?

    I’m so over having stuff, too. It’s funny- the more I get rid of, the more I find that I can part with. Your blog’s been a big help to this former “keeper.”

    • Me too! This blog has been a tremendous help to me. I tend to hang onto things “just in case”. And that “just in case” never seems to happen. So I don’t keep anymore.

  20. What a lovely, well-written post. The last line is applause-worthy.

  21. Thank you Rachel, for this reflection. Since the holidays and my 3 year old’s birthday this month I find myself wasting hours fretting about what to do with all these toys. They seem to be taking over my house. Living with 2 kids in a three bed room house (1100 sq ft)should be fine right? then why does my mind keep wondering to thoughts of “if only we had a bigger house”…then what? then I could never get rid of any of my kid’s toys? Imagine that:)
    Even after what feel likes months of purging “stuff” I think i could purge a whole lot more.
    Now imagine all the fun I could have with my kids if I don’t have to spend that time shoving toys back into boxes!

    • “Now imagine all the fun I could have with my kids if I don’t have to spend that time shoving toys back into boxes!”

      How true! Those of us who can minimize cannot manage to minimize our childrens’ toys. It is a problem for me too. I think I’m going to ask my kids to make a list of their favorite toy, keep only what is on the list and donate the rest.

  22. This post is so lovely. So true what you say about those young girl dreams. They never include stuff, really. More like heart, hope, and all those invisible things.
    emily freeman´s last post…the magic of morning

  23. Love love love this post! We are moving towards less stuff, but thats easy. The hard part is not bringing “New” fun stuff home!

  24. LOVE this post – especially, “We never talked about our intentions to own so much stuff that we would spend our free time trying to organize it all.” That hit just the right spot with me!
    Lillian´s last post…Balancing

    • Oh, that sounds like where I have been living my life as well! I am working hard to purge and clear out even more, but I do believe some of these items have babies and multiply when I put them back in the cupboards!
      I am so over spending time moving stuff around!
      Bernice
      Living the Balanced Life´s last post…The world really is at our fingertips

      • LOL.. I agree, Bernice.. They do have babies:-) No seriously, I love this post but can I please say this, I love the discussion happening right here in the comments a whole lot more.. Thank you, amazing ladies.. You’ve shared some great stories, inspired a lot and been a great encouragement. I’m not a minimalist but neither am I a packrat. I’m just someone learning how lovely and liberating it is to not have too many “things”.
        Prerna´s last post…Cooking with Kids- Fun Foods Your Toddler Will Love to Make and Eat

  25. Yes, yes, yes! I’ve spent the last year living out of suitcases, and it’s taught me so much about what’s necessity vs. frivolity – for me. I have some “essentials” that have come with me to Texas, Southern California, Maryland, Germany, Ireland and now Korea. Travel coffee mug and Klean Kanteen. Blank journals. Yoga-bility (used to be a mat, now it’s sticky gloves and socks). Knitting supplies. IPhone and Macbook. I can make do with less clothing, if it’s all clothing that I love and that loves me. I have two small toiletries bags that haven’t been unpacked for 14 months and I don’t need more. Pretty soon I leave Korea and will be home for good, and I intend to stay conscious of just how little I actually need – and how little I am growing to even want – to feel met and fulfilled. Thank you for the reminder!
    Maggie´s last post…Wandernest- The DMZ

  26. Amen, I’ve been downsizing our things for almost 3 years now and am so embarrassed to say I’m still not done. This year alone I will donate, sell or trash 2,011 and hopefully that will be the end of that! More life, less stuff!
    Stacy of KSW´s last post…What I can’t stop eating

    • I totally hear you Stacy! My husband and I have moved every 6mos-three years over the last 10 years for a total of 14 moves!! After our last move, I realized how much stuff I just keep moving!!!! It’s ridiculous! I have been working for the last year on getting rid of stuff…..and totally embarrassed to admit that I’m not even close to done yet! I’m making progress though. Just last week, I finished shredding/filing papers that have been kept since 2003. I stuffed 10 kitchen trash bags full of the shredded stuff and was left with just a small handful of things to file. I still don’t completely understand why I have burdened myself with moving this stuff 5 times!!!!!

  27. Absolutely beautifully said, friend! You have a knack for saying in 100 words what I tend to say in 1,000.

    And you’re making me ache with yearning to live overseas again. We’ve been here one year now. And I’m counting the days until we’re released to go back again.

    Enjoy!
    Tsh @ Simple Mom´s last post…A Road Map for Your Financial Journey

  28. Am i the only one who noticed how totally bourgeoisie this post is? Happy to hear that your biggest problem is that you have too big a house full of stuff you bought on sale.

    You are only “OVER IT” because you have it- or the option of it if you want it.

    • Actually, I don’t own a house and never have, and I’m currently living out of a suitcase for a few months. But you’re right, having too many nice things seems like a nice problem to have, which is why I think so many people see what’s good about it…and miss something better.

    • Karen (Scotland) says:

      Yep, you probably are the only person to read that from this post and I’m guessing you’re fairly new to Small Notebook if that’s how you’ve read it?

      Rachel’s place in life seems to come from a combination of good planning, frugal living and astute choices. She seems to have chosen early on to avoid acquiring all the stuff so many of us felt essential in our twenties (including a house). This leaves her free to focus on the really important stuff (and, as a nice by-product, leaves her with the financial means to do so.)

      Karen
      (Scotland)

    • I love reading this blog and have been reading it for a long time now, so I get what the usual message is, however I have to agree with Boaz, “You are only “OVER IT” because you have it- or the option of it if you want it.”

      There seems to be a movement (you find it on certain blogs if you’re online a lot) that is against acquiring new purchases.

      Some of us did not grow up with a lot of stuff so when we do get older and can buy things we want those things and there is nothing wrong with that, we should have them if we want them and can afford them.

      It’s terrific to follow your dreams, passions, hopes, but unfortunately the majority of people I’ve encountered live lives ‘of quiet desperation’ as Thoreau said. Some of us will never get to live out our dreams, not through any fault of ours, it’s just the way life is sometimes. If stuff makes us feel good to have then I’d like to know how to organize it, how to get rid of stuff I don’t want anymore and possibly bless others with it, but I still want to keep some of it and not be made guilty by others who think it’s too much for me to have. It’s none of their business after all.

      I don’t think Rachel is saying that though. I think she’s just happy to be following her dreams, but hopefully there’s an awareness there that just because something works for one person or one family, doesn’t mean it will work across the board for all.

      • I totally agree! Owning stuff is not wrong. Neither is owning a home. A place for your roots. For your grown children to come back to. With “stuff” they remembered when they were young to bring them comfort. It feels good to still have some of those things around. As long as your “stuff” doesn’t own you then to each his own. Have stuff or not. We are all individuals.

  29. A great idea, but so very hard. We move every two years, last time from one side of the globe to the other – but we still have lots of stuff. Much of the big stuff is artworks, which we are not ready to part with. A lot are books – gorgeous, beautiful books. And tools – we rarely use them, but they are good to have when they are there. So many things that if we were truly being ‘minimalist’ we could let go of, but …

    That said, I am still bad at buying things I don’t need, use or really want after owning for awhile. I made a resolution to stop buying clothes for a year – and except for three things, I stuck to it. And you know what? I still manage to get dressed every day, and some of those days I look mighty fine, thank-you. The reason I am sharing this – previously I would not buy an excessive amount of new clothes, but once I resolved to buy NO new clothes, I realised that actually, I don’t need to.

    Just this morning I was talking with my six year old about buying some new orchid plants as they were going cheap. He said ‘why not just live with the ones you have’. So true. And I will remind him of that next time he bugs me for something new :)
    Natalia´s last post…Pomplamoose for slackers

  30. I am trying at the moment to clear a pathway through my belongings so I can find my future — as a mother, a wife, a librarian, a quilter, a knitter, whatever I may become. I am so overwhelmed with the things I (and my family) own that I cannot see past the end of the day. And that’s no way to live. Thank you for these words of inspiration; I hope they will keep me moving through the many days of sorting and unburdening to come.
    jennifer´s last post…created

  31. Thanks for this post, it is so well stated Rachel! I absolutely love this reminder to focus on the things that matter… I think I need to frame this up on the wall :)
    angelvalerie´s last post…living deliberately…

  32. As usual, you highlight an issue that runs rampant through the entirety of our culture. I don’t care whether you are “poor” or “rich,” or what your socioeconomic status is (referring to the above snarky commenter)– people feel the need to buy things for no real reason at all. I don’t really think this post is about de-cluttering, or even physically simplifying, but reassessing our desires and what is important to us. People are materialistic no matter where they are on the income scale. Even those of us that find intangible “things” to be far better need a wake-up call sometimes. I appreciate you introducing me to mine.
    Tara´s last post…Life Lessons for the Freelance Writer

  33. My hero.

  34. Thanks for this wonderful post Rachel! You are so right.

    I especially like the picture with the children lying in that pile of blankets. Children are so good at enjoying their environment. They don’t need a lot of stuff! A few things or toys is enough, imagination will do the rest. They enjoy their time, without over-thinking things. I love it!

  35. Thank you for this post, Rachel.

    My girlfriend and I are moving in together in May, and are struggling to come to a consensus about how much stuff we need to keep (and store, since there’s no way it will all fit in a NYC apartment!) and how much we can get rid of. There are family heirlooms and beloved items of usefulness, but there’s also a lot that we don’t actually need.

    I think we’re holding on to a security blanket. Which is fine, if we own up to that and come up with a plan to ween ourselves from the blankie once we realize we really don’t need it.
    Lissa´s last post…Book Review- Candor

  36. Yeehaw! Speak it sister!! I feel like a congregant in a boisterous, charismatic church. (preaching to the choir?)

    This kind of post gives me tingles and has me shouting “yes”.

  37. YES!! What YOU said!! I am sooooo over it, too. We’ve done the big, big dreamhouse with all the extra expenses and all the meaningless stuff…I am so ready for change! I am ready for a more lovely, quality-filled lifestyle…and simplified so we can focus on the most important things in our life: our immediate family!
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts! =-D
    ClassiclyAmber´s last post…23 Weeks

  38. Man, I didn’t get past the line about Taco Cabana. I love/miss that place.

  39. can’t agree loudly enough! I finally made it to this point where the stuff I thought I wanted & would solve some problem or need – really irritates me & I want. it. GONE! We’ve decided to downsize & this has proved to be a great motivator. I still get paralyzed trying to figure out the best place to give stuff to – but it’s jut another stall tactic. My family deserves better. Thanks for this beautiful example.

  40. If only the whole world would read this. Life changing. Thank you.

  41. Wow! I’m speechless.

  42. Just found this post via SimpleMom. Love it! I am not a minimalist either, and do enjoy the things I own. I think for me there’s a simple litmus test: if something gives me pleasure each time I look at it–and I find it a pleasure to take care of–it’s an object worth having.

    If something makes me feel tired, anxious, or weighed-down when I look at it, and taking care of it is a hassle, it’s just more “stuff.”

  43. I agree. This is something I wish that everyone in developed countries could read. I will do my part and share! Great post Rachel!
    Bernice
    Living the Balanced Life´s last post…Doing the right things at the right time

  44. Definitely! Shout it from the rooftops – even the Italian rooftops!! I’m making 2011 my year of “release”. My 4 yr old is what has spurred me into action. I personally don’t feel that we even have a lot of “stuff” but his attitude lately has been, “when I’m done with X, you can get me X” or expecting a token of some sort every time we step into a store. It’s already “expected” that he will attain something new all of the time.

    Yes, I’m well aware that’s partially my fault but I really don’t get him something every time we shop. I think it just seems like it to him. Either way, I do not want him to have this sense of expectation & disappointment over STUFF. I want him to feel that in regards to relationships, in regards to commitments, to have expectation of kindness & love & respect.

    Great post!!
    Vicki R.´s last post…39

  45. We’re in the process of packing up our things for an overseas move (Germany to the US). I can’t tell you how tempted I feel to throw it all out. How do we manage to collect so much?

    We’re downsizing anyway, so a lot of it is going straight to the thrift store, it’s quite a liberating feeling.
    Satakieli´s last post…The Big News

  46. Oh….this is so timely for us. We are moving to a new {3rd world country} place soon and there are so many questions about what we shall take. Amazing words…thank you…

  47. beautiful. and perfectly said. thank you for the reminder.

  48. This is something that my family and I will be experiencing very soon, on many levels. We are in the process of purchasing a travel trailer and moving into it full time to travel the country with our three children. What an adventure and learning experience we are about to embark on. Neither of us have a job we can take on the road so it will be little stops here and there along the way to work some new and exciting temp job to make some cash. We can’t wait… but even more than the trip I can’t wait to purge so much of the stuff in our home. I do often wonder why I need 15 bath towels or 12 dinner plates for our little family?? Why does my 2 year old NEED 75 hot wheels cars???? It is not a matter of it cluttering up my home (which it does of course) but it is weighing down our life. This post was wonderful and so very well timed for me to read!! Thank you!

  49. Well said, Rachel. I recently came to the conclusion that life is about appreciation of the stuff you have, if there’s too much ‘stuff,’ you can’t really appreciate it–you’re too busy ‘organizing’ it. Life shouldn’t be a numbers game. That said, I wish I could ditch half of what I have–there’s just too much to have to be responsible for all the time! : )

  50. “We never talked about our intentions to own so much stuff that we would spend our free time trying to organize it all.” Having just spent all of yesterday doing just that, your post really rang true! In fairness, part of yesterday was also spent purging my closets and taking three huge bags of clothes to Goodwill, but I still wound up at the store buying more plastic storage bins. Thanks for the great post!
    Kate´s last post…Savor the Sleeplessness

  51. Beautifully written. I am trying to release my hold on all the stuff that doesn’t matter. There’s just TOO MUCH of it. Amen – and thanks.
    Kristen@PrettySweet´s last post…Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Muffins

  52. Hallelujah and Amen.

    I’m currently registering for our first baby shower, and am trying to keep it as SIMPLE as possible. I don’t want to have to rent an extra truck just to haul around all these baby clothes and toys when we move!

    However, trying to convince my grandma that the baby will, indeed, survive without a wicker bassinet fringed in lace and with a halo suspended over it with draped tulle is a feat that is near impossible.
    Kait Palmer´s last post…It Was A Short Hike

  53. Love this! I so want to purge, purge, purge!! I will be sharing this on http://www.minimumwageprosperity.org!!

  54. “But I hate the idea that someone would trade in her special hopes and dreams for something that can be bought.”

    You really got to my heart with that one! When we were younger and just dating, my husband and I had so many dreams for our future that do not include the stuff we have accumulated in the past 3 years of marriage. We have been struggling to make a plan to pursue our Big Dream (namely moving overseas) and this post made me realize that the pursuit of stuff is getting in our way. Time to purge.
    Saz´s last post…Home Projects and ROI

  55. I just stumbled across your blog from a link to this article from Simple Mom. I have got to say – these are my exact words lately! I am so over stuff, so tired of it being everywhere, so tired of cleaning it all up and trying to organize it all. My daughter and I have gone through our home over the last month and have filled 18 containers full of stuff we do not want, need, use or are made with too many chemicals or products we don’t like. It’s insane the amount of stuff I alone accumulated before she even came along! Getting pregnant? Oh forget it, I added piles and piles of more stuff we didn’t need. I absolutely hate it now! We are selling and giving away 60-70% of our stuff. As rooms get emptier I find myself more and more at peace and at ease. We are sticking to owning as little as possible. Thanks for sharing, I am glad I’m not the only one feeling like this! :)
    Ashley´s last post…Cous Cous w- Kale- Mushrooms Dried Cranberries &amp Sunflower Seeds Recipe

  56. I’m reading this while on a break from helping my 10 yo packrat plow through her dizzying collection of minutia which is currently piled up in the middle of her room. Secretly, I just want to bag it all up and toss it!

  57. amazingly beautiful post. Thank you for putting these thoughts into words for our benefit! beautifully, and simply, said.
    -{darlene} @ fieldstonehilldesign

  58. So true! Thanks for putting it so plainly! A nice wake-up and readjust!

  59. I totally agree with today’s sentiment. I feel kind of sad when I think how much time I spend just moving things around (though there is a certain satisfaction when you redecorate), without really getting rid of anything. I prefer to recycle, reuse or sell what I purge, so it’s a slow process. I also realize I don’t tend to accomplish much with any of my projects when I’m spending more time with my “things.” However, I do quite enjoy thrift shopping and would be sad to give that up. I just try to limit the amount of trips I make and get rid of some old stuff after I bring the “new” stuff home.
    Cindy May´s last post…Drew Carey et al

  60. I really love the pictures in this post… inspiring!
    Christine´s last post…I Have a Historic Crush

  61. Yay Rachel, these sentiments really hit home. We have just had new carpet installed in four bedrooms and a walk in robe. We had to completely empty every room and bring a lot of “stuff” downstairs. With three daughters (17, 14 and 11) and having lived in the house for eight years – wow, what an eye opener!! The two older girls did well – lots of purging and “I don’t need that back in my room”. My youngest found it a struggle to part with much at all. Some more downsizing training is needed (and I’m sure soft toys reproduce!)
    Love your photos… keep them coming

  62. This is wonderful and it speaks the truth. It’s exactly what I needed to read today. Thank you.

  63. ouchie…

    but a necessary ouchie. I posted this post on FB.

  64. Beautiful!

  65. Beautiful post. As always! I agree with you whole-heartedly. My husband and I had this same discussion when we decided to stay in our tiny apartment rather than purchasing a house in the suburbs just because it’s what one’s “supposed to do.”

  66. Two thumbs up! This post is something near and dear to me as well. Being that I’m not a spring chicken — I came to term with this years ago when we moved from the last home that we actually owned.

    You see we put some things in storage before we moved — however, we didn’t realize until years later after we had retrieved them back that there were things missing. Only when I needed to use a particular item did I actually realize or understand what had happened. Someone had gone in and stolen some of our things while stored.

    I’ve seen bits & pieces of the show HOARDERS and it’s just too difficult to look at — (I don’t watch much TV anymore either.) that is, the dangerous extreme that excessiveness leads to. But on the other hand minimalism looks really cold & austere to me. I like to have a little cozy clutter around of mix & match furniture & quirky stuff that we find not only useful, but lovely things that are meaningful to me & my family to help give our home more authenticity.

    So I’m really saying that it’s all relative to who & where we are in our journey as to what we want to bring along with us.

    And it sounds like right now with your little ones in tow that you’re doing that lightly, but I’m thinking that will possibly change as they grow.

    Sounds like if some of your storage items were to come up missing — that you would be “SO OVER IT”. And it sounds like you have definitely come to terms and realized that things get burned, flooded, stolen, whatever… But they’re JUST things.

    Thanks for letting me get my say so out, and lovely pictures by the way.

  67. i love this!!!! these are exactly my sentiments at the moment.

  68. I have to say that losing my job 2 years ago is what started me on the path to living with less stuff. It was the best thing to happen to me. I didn’t (and still don’t) have any spending money to waste on stuff that I thought I just had to have….I still see stuff that I want, but I forget about it pretty quickly. I’ve started getting rid of the extra stuff as well and “upcycling” what I do have instead of buying new. It actually has brought out my creativity which I was sure had died due to lack of use :-)
    Kathie´s last post…chattin it up tuesday

  69. Amen and Amen!! Kelly
    Kelly´s last post…a box is the best toy

  70. For so many of us, stuff is a quick fix to try to fill the hole. The only thing is, the hole just grows…it never gets full because it’s not what we really need. If we all found a way to follow our hearts and find what we love in life we woulnd’t need the stuff to fill the hole.

    I can’t help but think many are in denial about this. My mother grew up extremely poor so she loves ‘stuff’ and to just shop…but at the end of the day I think she’s a very unfulfilled person who sees happiness as something that will happen when she has all the stuff she thinks she needs. Of course that day never comes. It can be very hard however to give up the idea that an object will bring us happiness…I know I feel like I’ve been programmed that way and have to fight against the urge to purchase things I don’t really need.

  71. Thanks I needed this reminder!

    Penny
    Penny´s last post…Comments

  72. You are so right! Thanks for the reminder!
    Beth Miko´s last post…Happy Valentines Day

  73. Audacious Goals. Amen!

  74. Right there with you. Why do I forget this so often? I’m ready to go through my house with a garbage bag & just throw it all away.
    punkinmama´s last post…smore snow please

  75. What a beautiful reminder of what really matters!

  76. The Nester sent me over.

    Oh my.
    Yes, to all of it.
    I don’t want knick-knacks to stand in the way of actual life.

    I’ve been downsizing, but I really have to keep the goals in mind.
    Thanks for the reminder!
    Dana @ Cooking At Cafe D´s last post…Homemade Ravioli in Brown Butter – With Recipe

  77. …trying to get rid of STUFF..not easy…thanks for the inspiration, keep it coming! :)
    priest’s wife´s last post…Films to Enjoy Again 7 Quick Takes

  78. Well said. We are cleaning and sorting and pitching after 23 years in the same house. . .preparing to move. My bubble thought is, “Who does all this STUFF belong to???” :o

  79. Thank you.
    Leslie, the Home Maker´s last post…Antique- Vintage and Family Heirloom Linens

  80. I am very new to blogging and don’t have many followers yet, but I linked to this lovely post because it has me thinking.

  81. Yes! Great words, well said. So much of life is a process, and how we meet the challenges says where our hearts are. Is it the stuff or the people around us that are most important? My demise is books. I struggle with always “needing” to acquire more, and if they are only 50 cents at a book sale, why not? Then, I have a wall of bookshelves, and hardly a lighter load – my family groans every time they have to move the heavy book boxes. I mentioned this post in my post today, relating to my challenge with lightening my load, travelighter.blogspot.com. Thank you for encouraging, inspiring us.
    MAUREEN´s last post…Lighten the Load

  82. We’d have a happier planet if we all needed less. Perhaps the point is to be conscious of what is enough for you. Having possessions isn’t a problem – as long as you love, use, and can live gracefully with everything you keep.

  83. Dude. I JUST boxed up three quarters of the kid’s toys and took away their toybox. The idea of having so many toys your kids can’t take care of them is super relevant to me. Why do we do this? I always feel like kids get sort of dizzy by the over-quantity, just like I do. Note to self: Pay attention to what my subconscious is saying.

  84. Never a wiser word spoken…I really need to take this on board.

    Somehow along my journey ‘stuff’ has assumed more importance than it should.
    Anna´s last post…World Book Day or how to cause unnecessary angst for working mothers day

  85. Excellent Insight!
    I wanted to let you know that I liked it so much that I linked you on my blog
    http://delightfullyorganized.blogspot.com/2011/02/around-blogging-world-in-8-posts.html
    Suzanne´s last post…Around the blogging World in 8 Posts

  86. Gah, I wonder if I’m brave enough to actually give up some of my 800 books. This post makes me think maybe I should. I feel like I have to say “No books! Stop biting books!” to my 10 month old about 8 million times a day, and I’ve been wondering if maybe it would just be easier to get rid of them…
    Jessicah´s last post…the furniture- he has been assembled!

  87. Thank you for this post. It’s exactly what I needed. We’re having such a hard time saving money. Because I don’t enjoy being at home much because we’ve got so much stuff, we waste our money on buying more stuff. It’s a vicious cycle and it needs to stop NOW.

    Thank you so much.

  88. I just love this post :)
    I am re-thinking “stuff” at the moment – all stuff!
    I am recycling/donating 20 items every day and it is so freeing. I feel like I can breathe again – and in all honesty I was not much into stuff compared to society today yet I can still find plenty to donate each day. It was only meant to be a five day project but I ma enjoying it so much I have continued into week 2 :)
    L.x.

  89. My husband are “over” our stuff too. For 13 years we have gone back and forth between purchasing unnecessary stuff and purging unnecessary stuff. When I was working, before our son was born, we could afford to purchase the occasional unnecessary stuff. And we moved every couple of years (sometimes less). Every move has allowed us to shed some of our stuff. Now we are feeling overwhelmed by our stuff, even though we have a lot less than we used to (if you don’t count child’s toys). We are working on getting rid of some of our stuff that has continued to follow us from place to place but has not been used in the last decade. It is slow going, but we are enjoying the process. I can’t wait to get to the point that our small home feels big because we have only things we love and use in it.
    Jennifer G´s last post…Food Waste Friday

  90. Great post!!! lots to think about.
    Handy Man, Crafty Woman´s last post…Make Your Own Envelopes

  91. So beautifully put. I find myself investing so much time and thought into a THING instead of ME. That somehow, if I hang onto that ribbon scrap just another year… somehow it will have the chance to redeem my habits.
    This was a good reminder that quality>quantity.

  92. Amen!!

  93. i just love this, and keep returning to it to reread. it is so very well put. thank you!

  94. I LOVE this post. It’s so important to remember the important things are the people in our lives, not the stuff. We can’t spend enough quality time with our loved ones when we are too busy “picking up” stuff and trying to organize too many things.

    I committed to the Simple Mom’s Project Simplify starting this week. I’ll be sharing my before and after photos on my site over the coming weeks. Wish me luck! I have a newborn and a 2 yr old and there just isn’t enough room for excess in our lives right now.

  95. I truly hope all of you that talked about and did the purging so you could spend more quality time with family did just that. There is nothing more rewarding than quality family time. With or without stuff.

  96. What a beautiful post! I love the ending the most.

  97. Beautiful and TRUE! Me and my husband spent 10 days in Ethiopia last year adopting our 2 youngest and that trip really reshaped our feelings about “stuff”. We realized, tangibly, how little we all need. We need our families, food, a roof overhead and a few clothes. The other things just crowd our space. Now that a year has gone by I find that I have fallen away from those feelings I had in Ethiopia and I NEED to get back to them again. Thanks for the reminder and for this great introduction to your blog :)
    sara´s last post…Pixel Furniture

  98. Wow!! Everything all of say is so true!! Been there, done it!! We hit the nail on the head right upfront when the girls were little. Few toys, all second hand partywear, give away as soon as the season is over. My closet is relatively empty, with only few mostly designer resale pieces. When the season is over, I donate 50 percent of these. Resale shops rock!!
    Over living room has only two couches, one coffee table and 4 director chairs folded. No rug, no end tables. One floor lamp from Ikea. That is it. Cleaning is a snap/
    Master Bedroom has one bed, two nightstands and one TV. Ofcourse hampers to hold our laundry. I constantly clean out our closets.
    My husband of 30 yrs is a gem and supports my simplicity idea. Ok so he is the President of a software company. Doesnt mean we need more than a 2000 sq ft ranch for the two of us and a little pooch. We use only half of it anyway. No one uses the finished basement so I got rid of half the stuff there.
    I married my husband and not the stuff……. so I can live without it.

  99. Fantastic article. Its amazing how we can fill our home to capacity, no matter how many rooms we have! I also love books (and bags, photo frames and more!) Now every time I bring something new home I donate something to charity :)

  100. I’m just now reading this article, many months after all the other readers. I just wanted to say this is my favorite article. I have recently been trying to think of the happiest times in my life and the reasons they were the happiest. I was the most happy in college (I owned very few things and owed a lot of $ for that education). The almost MOST happiest I’ve ever been was studying abroad, I still owed $ and I had even less stuff to worry about it. Now I just need to figure out how to recreate these happy times with my one year old. Owning less stuff is so hard with a child! But I believe I can get there and possibly be as happy as I was in college.

  101. I love your page…you’re such an inspiration for simplicity! I think I’m starting further down the rabbit hole of clutter than you did, but I’m working hard! I linked to your page on my blog, hope you’ll check it out!
    Erin´s last post…Tis the season…for binge shopping?