You can begin to enjoy the benefits of simple living after an afternoon--or just 20 minutes--of purging. Learn how quality of living improves with less stuff, rather than more.

Guest post by Elsie Callender 

“What can I take to Heaven when I die?” I asked my mom, back when I wore dresses and pigtails every day, and my collection of American Girl Doll accessories was small, but precious.

“Nothing. You don’t take anything with you when you die,” Mom gave me the truth, straight up.

Surely… “What if I have things in my pockets?”

“Nope.”

“What if I’m holding my blankie?”

“No, your blankie will stay here.”

I reluctantly accepted this, yet my first instinct has always been to hang on to my stuff, as if it gives me security and adds inherent value to my life.

Gradually, with lots and lots of hands-on practice, I’m coming to understand that my quality of living improves with less stuff, rather than more.

I discovered that I enjoy an uncluttered life; that simplifying is rewarding and energizing. Last year I wrote a series of blog posts on simplifying, as I worked through different areas around my home: the linen closet, makeup drawer, shoes, and so on. Somewhere along the way my husband got on board, too, and now we actually think it’s fun to spend an afternoon simplifying a closet together!

Recently we kicked our simplifying up about 12 notches when we made plans to move into a 600-square-foot cabin in Alabama. Even if we wanted to, we couldn’t take all of our stuff with us.

So we simplify.

In our pre-cabin days, our modus operandi  was to scan a pile of stuff and ask: “What can I pull out? What can I get rid of?” And we’d come up with one little bag of stuff to take to Goodwill. But in preparation for our move, we examined every single item we own with a critical eye, mentally interrogating it with the following questions:

  • Does this fit with the style of our new home?
  • Do we already have one?
  • Do we use this a lot? Is this worth taking up space for the amount or type of use this item gets?
  • Do we love it?
  • What would life be like without this item?

Many times, we realize our life would be better without the item in question, for any of these 10 reasons!

Here are some of the things we’ve eliminated through this interrogation process:

TV:  When our old, clunky one died, we decided to use my laptop as a TV until our student loans are paid off!

Entertainment center: The TV is gone, and the other items that used to go inside (DVDs, dish towels, vases, etc.) have been simplified, too!

Bedroom set: It won’t fit in the cabin, so we’ll be using a small dresser and finding a free-standing option for hang-up clothes.

Shelf decor: We’re only keeping the meaningful items, like the hand-carved wooden elephant from my great uncle!

Our Journey to Simple Living (and How to Begin Your Own) {KeeperoftheHome.org}

Clothes: This one’s fun, because if you only keep the items you love, you get to love how you look every day!

Toiletries: We like to keep only a few natural products in use, and replace as needed. (See this post, and this one.)

Old “technology”: We had a baffling amount of old computer cords, cameras, and cellphones that needed to go.

Desk supplies: Why keep 50 pens and pencils when you only need 5? Or 2 staplers when 1 will do?

Gift wrap: I plan to only keep on hand some brown kraft paper and a couple of different colors of ribbon–super versatile! We can buy a roll of Christmas paper if we feel the need when the time comes.

Magazines: I have stacks of glorious Real Simple magazines, but I rarely look through old issues. My plan is to cut out a few choice articles to keep in an idea binder, and recycle the rest of the stash.

Bedding: With only a small pull-out couch on the main level, and our queen bed in the loft, we don’t need more than a couple of pillows, sheet sets, and blankets.

Papers: We’ve purged tons of appliance instruction booklets and outdated warranties!

Our Journey to Simple Living (and How to Begin Your Own) {KeeperoftheHome.org}

Books: We’re big readers, but we decided to only keep our most treasured volumes (which still take up a couple of bookcases worth!). For the rest, we’ll borrow from the library or friends.

Jars: For some reason, real foodies seem to think that every empty jar needs to be kept. From now on, I’m only keeping what I actually, currently use in my pantry. If I need more, I can always eat another jar of salsa!

Video games: Some of the old ones can bring in a surprising amount of money on Amazonor eBay.

Extras: We had too many candles, mugs, dish towels, mixing bowls, etc. Cabinets in our cabin are prime real estate, so we’ll keep the minimum of items and just wash them or restock more often.

[Tweet “We love the freedom and white space we gain with each item we purge.”] And although we don’t plan on living in a small house long term, we want to maintain simplicity as a lifelong habit.

You can begin to enjoy the benefits of simple living after an afternoon--or just 20 minutes--of purging. Learn how quality of living improves with less stuff, rather than more.

Begin Your Own Simple Living Journey

Even if you have no intention of moving, you can begin to enjoy the benefits of a simpler home after an afternoon–or just 20 minutes–of purging.  Don’t wait for your whole family to get on board! Start your simplifying journey now, with your own stuff, or the areas you have more control over.

The results are more tangible when you simplify with specific goals in mind. Think to yourself: “I want my clothes to fit on x number of hangers.” Or, “I want all of my papers to fit into this binder,” “I want my books to fit on x number of bookshelves.” Try using the “Rule of 10” for simplifying your wardrobe!

Determine your standards for each item in your home, and then mentally interrogate each thing to decide if it’s truly worth keeping.

The more I simplify, the more I realize that there are 5 main “problem areas” when it comes to things I should (but haven’t) purged. Perhaps you’ll recognize these roadblocks in your own simplifying process:

1. Stuff I have multiples of

I don’t need 10 T-shirts, 2 pairs of brown sandals, 4 tablecloths, 6 vases when less will do!

2. Stuff I’m sentimental about

I am a very nostalgic person and I tend to keep items for the sake of the memories attached. I’m learning to keep a few choice items, and then snap pictures of the rest before giving them away.

3. Stuff that’s expensive

Do not hang on to something merely because it cost a lot of money for you–or someone else–to buy. If you begrudge the space and energy it takes up in your home, it will only weigh you down! Sell it.

4. Stuff I’m lazy about

I keep stuff that I know I don’t want, simply because I’m too lazy to deal with it. If you run into this problem, you may need to treat these items as frogs and eat them first thing in the morning.

5. Stuff on hold

It’s painful, but I need to recognize that I will never get to every project, hobby, and fixer-upper that’s waiting around the house. Sometimes it’s better to take the materials to Goodwill and focus on just a few choice hobbies or projects.

I think you’re going to love how your home feels when you start to clear it out. I think you’re going to love how you feel as you begin to loosen your grip on stuff, and as it loosens its grip on you! Dream about what you can do with the freedom of less stuff–travel the worldmake room for guests, or simply enjoy a more peaceful, intentional home.

Note: I’ve ignored the issue of kid clutter in this post, because our only “child” is a cat! For simplifying with kids, let me refer you to this post and this one.

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Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. When you buy through our links, we earn a small commission, which helps to keep this site going so that we can continue to offer free and useful content, so thanks!