I am surprised by the numbers of you who have left comments telling me that you too find the urge to declutter and clean up your spaces now that the holidays are over, I really thought I was the only one who did this in January.

I thought I would add a few comments today on the subject of our belongings.

Stephanie Kaza teaches a class at the University of Vermont called Unlearning Consumerism.  Sounds like a great class, right?  That is until I found that her first homework assignment for her students is to list every thing they own, every last item.  Even in my small space it would take me a while to list everything,  thinking about the craft drawer alone.  The premise of her assignment is to “begin to wonder where it all came from, what you are going to do with it, and whether, in fact, it is all really necessary.”

I’ve given some consideration to doing just what Ms. Kaza assigns her students as I go through my cleaning, but not sure I really want to see the list when I’m done, so maybe I will avoid this one.

The kitchen cabinet
The kitchen cabinet

Plato said “A life not examined is a life not worth living”

If I listened to Plato, and this sounds like good advise, then I should take more time with my decluttering and think about each item I still own and why I have it.

In the winter issue of Yes Magazine I spotted this:  “Americans have so much, yet we are unwilling to give anything up, and are still reaching for more”

I think that may have pertained to me at one time, but I have transitioned to more of a bartering/sharing way of living.  This summer I was able to benefit from a neighbor who shared her tools with me to garden.  I also do my part to share what I own.  In this way we are freer to own less.

An organized drawer, everything in it's place
An organized drawer, everything in it’s place

Do we still need all the DVDs and electronics that we may own.  Past generations told stories, played cards, and visited with neighbors when they had free time.  How many times will you watch the same movie, re-read the same book, or play that hand held game…even I got bored of Angry Birds after a while.

I learned after the deaths of my grandparents that the things I took from their home to have a sense of them with me weren’t them, those things aren’t my memories, when I realized that I was able to let them go.  My home felt like a museum of their life, not mine. I had to take ownership back of my home.

The idea that things aren’t our memories may help you to let go of other mementos.  I used to save every concert stub from every concert I ever went to.  One day I realized I didn’t need to have those stubs as I knew what concerts I attended.  Why was I holding on to them?  I tossed them and moved on.

If you are purging items from your home, as I am yet again, take a good look at what you no longer need.  There are those with so much less than you and I.  Here are some ideas for places and people who will gladly take your items off your  hands:

  • Homeless shelters:  blankets, winter coats, gloves, and the like are needed by those who have none.
  • Foster programs are always in need of items for the children.  Most children when they are removed from their current home leave with nothing. There is an organization (sorry I forget their name) which takes new pajamas.  When a child can at least have a pair of pj’s that are their own it makes it easier on them. Can you imagine being removed from your home and not being able to take anything with you?
  • If you have decided to focus on weight loss this January, as many do, and want to rid your home of those “bad” foods why not drop them off to the food pantry?
  • Hospitals will accept “new” hats for preemies.
  • Schools, hospitals, libraries, nursing homes will all accept books and nursing homes will accept games as well.

I will leave you today with a quote from a favorite author Nell M. Rodgers

Nature abhors a vacuum. Create space for your metamorphosis.  A cocoon holds a butterfly, but unless there is space the butterfly can never spread its wings




  1. What a beautiful quote. I admit that I too am feeling the urge to purge – or at least to organize, but I think that organizing would be much easier if I had less stuff. Even after all these years of trying not to collect stuff, I still suffer from the “what if I want it later” syndrome. But in reality there is very little that I own which couldn’t be easily replaced for a dollar or two at the thrift store. And there’s a part of me that sometimes fantasizes about “loosing everything” so that I could start anew with just the things I really, really want.

    In terms of the homework assignment… I fear it would take me a lifetime just to get through the items on the top of my desk! But I did clear the kitchen counter yesterday and it made me feel worlds better! I just have to keep reminding myself that it’s a process not a destination. Sigh.


    • Glad you liked the quote. It’s easier to let go of things now that I’m not a homeowner. There was the “What if” about most little things, “I could rig this if it broke” way of thinking. Of course I was a single mom who wanted the extra money saved for the children’s needs. As far as fantasizing about losing everything, the problem with that is that there really were things we were sad to lose when it happened to us. Of course, dumb me faced with starting over allowed too much back in the new home.

      Can you just imagine receiving that homework assignment? I would be overwhelmed by the task with a deadline.

      Congrats on finding your kitchen counter I cleared a cabinet and drawer in my kitchen and better organized my cabinet that holds my pantry items.


  2. I’m having my new year de-clutter. I have been ruthless with my CD collection today. I had already put the music onto my computer so didn’t really need the disks as well so I gave a big box of them to to the charity shop. Got a bit ruthless with my cookery books too. I love them but there were some that I hadn’t opened in 12 months. .. More to sort out tomorrow.


    • I haven’t digitized my music yet, not sure if I will, there’s one of my holdouts. I like having my music and I figure the electricity used to play the small CD player is less than turning on the computer to listen to music.

      Cookbooks, I don’t know what it is about them, but I had quite a few and I don’t care to cook! Maybe I thought one of them would change my mind about being in the kitchen? I would read them, find recipes I thought I’d like mark them and then the book went on a shelf only to be dusted regularly. I did have one book that got used almost daily it was by Le Leche, we lost it in the fire and the newer editions aren’t the same. This one had ingredients asterisked with substitutions for that ingredient if you didn’t have it on hand. It’s the book my boys learned to cook with.


  3. A couple more things about giving things a way. Most food pantries want food that has not expired, so check the date on the cans. Also, most shelters like to get the little bottles of toiletries that you get from hotels.

    I’ve started with my paperwork first for decluttering because that is what is bothering me the most.


    • I hate paperwork, it drives me nuts. Hope you are almost through that task. I hadn’t thought of the small toiletries but that’s a good idea along with checking expiration dates on your food. Thanks for adding those.


  4. Having moved into my apartment in June, I have a great “mid-point” for decluttering — if I haven’t used something in the six months I have lived on my own, why keep it around? I’m a little scared, but excited too. I know there are clothes I haven’t worn, books I haven’t read, and movies I haven’t watched (after I already got rid of at least 2/3 of what I owned before moving)… time to take a hard look at my stuff.


    • Six months is a good time frame to take another look at your belongings. It’s so easy to let it go because it fits in our small homes. I still have some movies, but not nearly as many as I used to have.


      • I’m planning on at least making a list of everything I’m getting rid of… I want to see how much I can kick out 🙂 I agree with you that it’s daunting to think about making a list of everything you own. Not sure I will go that far. I am not a 100-possessions minimalist!


        • Making a list of what you got rid of is good. It may help you not to replace those items as easily when you have something to see that reminds you that you didn’t need it. I too will never be a 100 possessions minimalist, it just doesn’t work for my lifestyle.


  5. I’ve actually done the list of everything I own, coming in at around 190 items. Granted I am a student who lives at home so I don’t have any household things to count. But you’d be surprised how captivating listing your possessions is once you get started. I’m a little sad that I’m done now! 🙂


    • I’m impressed that you took the time to actually count your belongings. Other than the fact that I have kitchen things you probably wouldn’t have living at home I don’t have too much more stuff. It’s the counting of each spool of thread and things like that that make me believe the job would be huge. Every now and again I revisit Ms Kaza’s assignment and wonder if I want to tackle it.


  6. I feel like decluttering will be a never-ending job for me. Not a problem since I enjoy it! Moving from a 900 sq ft 1br-apartment to a 1200 sq-ft one hasn’t helped. Realizing that baby stuff and babies themselves will have to fit in there as well in the next two years is giving me motivation to keep decluttering, though! It’s all about the motivation.


    • There is something to say for having more space when you feel confined by your belongings. Babies will take up space, my son was shocked by how much room his baby took up with the extras he hadn’t thought about, like the changing table, pack and play high chair and so on that take up so much space. Now that his daughter is getting older her toys and books end up all over and he’d like to reduce some of her items.


  7. I think there’s something about new beginnings that makes you want to take stock of what you already have and organize yourself. Or maybe it’s because I received lots of stuff for Christmas? At least, that helps explain why I suddenly want to get rid of old things and organize myself lately!

    Writing down everything I have would be such a chore. It’s time for me to start, one closet at a time! Thanks for the inspiration!


    • Luckily I didn’t get much for Christmas that needs to be put away, two smallish tools. It’s the leaving of the gifts for others I had here that helps make my place feel cleaner and makes me want to do more.

      Even for me writing down everything I have feels like a chore, I can’t imagine if I had a whole house to inventory.


  8. You had a fire? If you posted about that, could you reply with the link?
    I did list everything I owned 10 years ago when I moved from the US to Canada. It was required as part of the border crossing and international move procedures. However, I took them too literally and later found out they only needed a general list (2 boxes of books, 2 boxes of dishes, etc.)! But I kept the list as a home inventory, and would be interested to update it – I hope I haven’t added too much stuff!


    • Yes I did, you can read about it here

      How funny that you over-did your inventory to move, I’m glad you held on to it. Did it bring any revelations to you at the time concerning your belongings as Ms Kaza believes it will for her students?


      • Can you try again with the link?
        No, sadly, it didn’t bring me enough eureka moments about my stuff back then! However, I did decide to stop bringing home discarded books from the library where I work, and to stop accumulating so many toys and crafts materials for my 1 child that it would take multiple lifetimes to use them all. After moving 10 times, I have been in this house 8 years, so it finally feels like I am somewhere “permanent” and I am no longer thinking about what my “next place” might hold.


        • Here it is again, try this If it didn’t work this time the title of the post is house fire a wake up call.

          I need to stop bringing home enough patterns and craft supplies I would never finish in ten lifetimes:-)

          I’m glad you have found a place that feels permanent, this move finally feels that way for me too. Before this I would look around soon after moving into a place (usually within 2 months) and start thinking I wanted something different. It feels good to have a sense of home finally.


  9. I de-clutter year round. But I just have less time and accumulate more stuff in December, making January a very important month to really tackle the stuff. I live in a household with 5 accumulators and only one of me to sort through it all — a never-ending job, I’m afraid!

    The pj program you’re referring to may be The Pajama Program. They have something like 79 chapters in 42 of the 50 United States. They also collect books for children. Their website is
    But also, if you’re outside the US, you can google pj programs and find those nearer to you. It’s a wonderful thing to do for a scared child, removed from all that feels safe, often sleeping in their underwear or day clothing, to give them their very own pjs and book that belongs to only them.


    • Lili thank you for the information on the Pajama Program, I have bought pajamas and a friend drops them off for me so I’ve never actually been to their offices. I feel for you with your clutter, my two boys were enough for me to have to keep on top of.


  10. I do this too. I have a tendency to “purge” my spaces randomly throughout the year. Every couple of months I trip over something or move something for the 10th time without actually using it and it goes in the “donate” pile. I currently live at home with my parents, which is a blessing in disguise because I dislike attaining “stuff” that will steal my time away and with being at home I have 2 rooms … a bedroom and a small office (about the size of a small walk-in closet) to hold everything I own.
    These 2 posts have urged me to take a look at my stuff again, and see what is ready to go!


    • How nice to have two rooms in your parents home, you may actually have more space than I do, depending on the size of the rooms 🙂 I really should take a tip from you and plan a purge-fest around here every couple of months instead of when I feel like it. Glad I gave you the incentive to take a second look around your spaces.


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