How to simplify your “stuff” in 2 simple steps.

So, I have a lot of stuff. (and no, this is not a photo of any room that I have lived in, nor the room of either of my boys, or of any child that I personally know)

I am sure that many people reading this blog might be able to say the same thing … and if you have any number of children, I am most certainly sure that you can say the same thing.  And if you live in America, you can say that as well, because by default you have more stuff than you actually need to survive, at least in comparison to the rest of the world.  Here are some facts about the “poor” in America (from recent US Census Data, and analysis by the Heritage Foundation). (Please note: “Poor” in this analysis is based on the US Census Guidelines):

  • 80 percent of poor households have air conditioning. In 1970, only 36 percent of the entire U.S. population enjoyed air conditioning.
  • 92 percent of poor households have a microwave.
  • Nearly three-fourths have a car or truck, and 31 percent have two or more cars or trucks.
  • Nearly two-thirds have cable or satellite TV.
  • Two-thirds have at least one DVD player, and 70 percent have a VCR.
  • Half have a personal computer, and one in seven have two or more computers.
  • More than half of poor families with children have a video game system, such as an Xbox or PlayStation.
  • 43 percent have Internet access.
  • One-third have a wide-screen plasma or LCD TV.
  • One-fourth have a digital video recorder system, such as a TiVo.

This idea (that we as Americans are incredibly consumer-centric, and have way too many “things”) is something I have been reading about all year from books on My List, but has been most prominent in two of the books: Radical (review here) and Crazy Love (finished but not yet reviewed).  Both of which have helped me to take a more proper perspective in relation to the “stuff” that we all so often crave.

Simplifying my stuff also falls right into #18 (Invest myself in a cause greater than myself, outside the shores of the United States.) as my connection to my stuff impacts my ability to complete #18.

So, what about it?  I promised you 2 simple steps?  Well, here they are, both of which are principles instituted just this week at our home.

1. Be “stuff” neutral.

Make a committment to not increase in your stuff from day to day.  How do we plan to do this?  Simple.  If something comes in, something goes out.  For example, just yesterday, because Summer got a friend to sign up with her bank, Summer was given a Paula Dean Bread Pan.  To follow principle #1, Summer then had to select at least one item to remove from the house (to sell or to give away to charity).  Summer selected some books.

It’s really that simple.

Buy a shirt, give a shirt away.

Buy a book, donate a book to the local library.

But a new piece of fitness gear, make sure an older one goes to helping someone else.

If something comes in, something must go out.  This doesn’t have to be limited to just you adults.  You have kids?  Let them participate as well.  If they get a new toy, what is a toy they can give away to someone else?

2. Commit to reducing your stuff each week.

Occasionally Summer and I just get overwhelmed with what we have.  And to be honest, maybe we don’t have very much when compared to other American families, but when we are compared to what people really actually need … we are wealthy.  Just as it is with any large goal, though, is that when you stare at the elephant … you never think that you can eat it all.  You become defeated and hopeless.

So stop making it an all or nothing endeavour.

It’s no different with us.

We, as a family, have committed to lessening our “stuff imprint” by 2 items per week.  Maybe it doesn’t sound crazy or glamorous or noble, but it’s what makes it doable.  Each Sunday (we just did it this last Sunday) we select any two items in the house to either sell or to give away.  We will continue to do this until we assess our collective “stuff” is in a more manageable and responsible place.

So, that’s how we plan on simplifying our stuff.

Do you have stories where you’ve cleared out the clutter?

How do you decide what is really essential for living in your home?

Has anything you have read or experienced lately impacted your personal beliefs and convictions about what you own?



4 responses to “How to simplify your “stuff” in 2 simple steps.

  • Jon

    So since you brought in like 8,000 legos the other day, that means you have to get rid of 8,000 other items in the house, right?

    Just kidding! Liz and I just took and swept through our room the other day including the closet. We have two huge bags of clothes that’s either going to goodwill or the homeless mission that our youth group works with.

    Good post!


    • Thomas

      You’re lucky I decided to approve this post. I will have you know, that exodus of Legos is one of the prompts that let us back to this conclusion. 🙂

      For those of you who don’t know what Jon is talking about: I recently was able to find and clean my collection of Lego bricks and gave them to my son. Needless to say, it feels kind of excessive, but has forced again to take a look at what we actually have, and what we actually need.

      Which, for my son means getting rid of some of his other toys so that he can keep the glorious Legos!

  • Summer

    Why can’t I just like Jon’s comment and leave it at that? :O)

  • 30 While 30: Day 257 – Not “for what” … but “how” are you thankful? « Thom's Thoughts

    […] I haven’t really used.  Ever since Summer and I have been working on simplifying our stuff (which you can read about here), I have been becoming more and more cognizant of what I actually own and how I use […]

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