the lazy gal’s guide : perspective (less is the new more)

Hey guys! More on this topic today. Pour yourself a cup of coffee and get cozy. This one’s a little long.

I’d love for you to check out (the unofficial) part one, here if you missed it last week + more of our series, here.

Two weekends ago, I cleaned out Aiden’s closet. I didn’t know why but the more we sorted through, the more overwhelmed I was. I started crying, and I didn’t know why. A few things had piled up in my life and this was the last straw. This was it. I was done.

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On a regular occurrence I do at least two of the following: A. Stand in my closet with enough clothes to fashion a small village, and complain that I have nothing to wear in a loud enough voice for Jamin to hear (usually as part of an elaborate scheme to obtain more of said clothing to cover an additional small village). B. I hover in our fridge and pantry, staring at all the food we own, and bemoan that it’s not what I’m craving. C. Complain in general about the status of something in our lives. Plain and simple: I’m not living in the present. I think I’m entitled.

I can’t even see what I do have, for all the stuff. This stings to admit how selfish I’ve been. While others in the world crave the taste of fresh water, I really have been missing the mark.

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I’ve been in such a rush to “get there”. Wherever “there” is. In the process, I’ve been fighting a losing battle. I’ve felt so suffocated by it all. I can’t blame it on the ‘survival mode’ of life anymore. It’s time I stepped back, took a deep breath, and thought about where on earth I’m really rushing to. Is it a bigger house? A nicer car? Prettier clothes? More… stuff?

And then what? Isn’t that how we live our lives? In search of the next big thing? Let me clarify: there’s nothing wrong with stuff in itself. It is a part of our lives. But there is something wrong with the excess of it all. When it starts to take over, when you’re constantly managing it… when there’s a mindless consumption taking place and blatant wastefulness dominating. When I have to mindlessly shove the fiftieth object in a drawer, or my kids can’t find half of their toys for all the pieces…. I think there’s a problem.

The scariest part of it all, is that I’m called to a higher responsibility. I have children. Little citizens of the future world. What am I teaching them? Over the past year, there have been little whispers taking place in my life. Marked by small moments of realization. Slowly but surely, the blackened places of my heart have been whittled away, and I feel as though I’ve been brought to this place. In the past, I’ve been in too much of a hurry. Rushing towards something I don’t even think I really wanted. Frustrated by something I couldn’t put a finger on. Hoping for things that don’t really matter. Comparing myself to some invisible line of attainment that is never possible anyway, because I would just keep raising my own bar. (I am SO ridiculous!) And if it were attainable, at what cost? Why do we do this to ourselves?

I can’t ever keep up.

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They say that writing is an act of discovery. Never, my friends, were truer words spoken. When I went back and read all your comments from last week’s post, there were things I was feeling, that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. You did that for me. Apparently less is the new more, because you guys made it very clear that I’m not the only one feeling this way. I truly believe that with our economy in the state it is in, and as products of a past generation, we’re simply ready for something different.

Here’s a little of  what you had to say, one eye opening comment at a time:

…………

Amanda at The Paper Arrow wrote: Natasha….we DID that.:)The downsizing part. In the spring, I suddenly felt this sickening feeling that enough was enough and too much was just that – TOO MUCH. I felt overwhelmed, my husband works 80 hours a week (every single week) so that we can live in our giant home and send our kids to private Christian school, etc. So I told him I wanted to move somewhere simpler. I was ready to move from a 4000 sq ft home to a 2 bedroom apartment for a year to regroup my thinking about life.

We didn’t go that drastic because I finally realized that we didn’t have to, but here we are….sold our big house last week and are living with friends for this past week (with only the items we could fit in our 2 cars) while our new (old 1956) home is being cleaned, slightly renovated, and freshened up for us. And I’m happy. As I unpack each box next week, I’m going to do it intentionally and if I don’t NEED it, it’s going away somewhere.:)

We ultimately have chosen a bigger yard, a smaller home, something closer to my husband’s job and my son’s school, so that we can make more of family time, less time on the road going from place to place, more outdoor time and less indoor time, as much as possible. The kids bedrooms are tinier, their single shared bathroom is smaller, the kitchen is a third of the size with equally less space, but it will be home. That is all that matters to me anymore.

Also, we will be choosing a child from Compassion shortly to sponsor and showing the kids the beauty of helping in that way. Also, at their birthdays we will be asking for no gifts from friends, but optional donations toward their sponsor child instead. Hoping to teach them love and sympathy and understanding of others and awareness of how very, very blessed they have been. It’s an ongoing battle though, but one that I feel mothers are up for. ASHLEY – You just wrote this post as if it came straight from my mind. I am sharing this on Facebook today because I think my friends think I’ve gone nuts and this explains it all. LOVE YOUR BLOG.:)

Elizabeth Wrote: My family has struggled with this in the past and recently as well. Being a military family, it always hits the hardest when it is time to move, again. We go through this HUGE purge of stuff, only to find items after the move that we don’t need or want anymore. Why is there always such a huge excess of stuff in our lives? So we, as a family, decided that we needed to change and that it wouldn’t happen overnight. We now have a system of monthly goals, as a means of establishing habits, as a family. Every month, we pick a new goal: “Find one item per person to donate everyday”, “No shopping at stores that are not locally owned”, “No television”, “Donate a book a day”. By establishing a goal, talking about it, tracking it, having a deadline, and working together as a family, it has established habits that work without having an aspect of singular responsibility, i.e. “That’s not my job!”. It doesn’t happen overnight, but the little steps add up to so much more than expected.

Rebecca said: We lost our home in the April ’12 tornadoes and pretty much lost all of our belongings. It’s a horrible feeling to lose your ‘home’, but it quickly didn’t take long for me to realize I wasn’t missing any of my ‘stuff’. As we were sifting through debris trying to recover things, I even found myself tossing out things I could have saved because I’d quickly realized that I didn’t need them. Through blessings of insurance we have a lovely home and quickly started buying things back. It was actually a nice feeling to live in a home that didn’t have ‘junk’ laying around. I find myself tossing things out much easier these days and don’t just stuff things into corners or boxes out of the way because I don’t want to get overwhelmed with ‘stuff’ again.

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Perspective, right?

So over the weekend, I picked up and proceeded to absolutely devour Jen Hatmaker’s book, 7. Run, dear sweet readers, do not walk, to your nearest book store and purchase this book. This book will challenge you regarding all things American consumerism and the way we tend to mindlessly lead our lives. What cutting back could mean for us, and the lives of others and what we’re really called to do… It’s one of the most inspiring, convicting, and funniest reads I’ve ever put my hands on.

7 was recommended to me originally by the lovely Nester this summer (see her own awesome post, here) and to be honest I think I was afraid to read it. I was already on the edge, and when I finally picked it up, Jen just pushed me over the cliff. (It was a good cliff once the fear wore off. We went cliff diving.)

Did you know (per 7-Jen’s book) that if you make 35,000 dollars a year we’re in the top 4 percent of the world’s wealth? And if you make 50,000 the top 1?

Wow. Let’s just let that sink in.

We have more of a responsibility with our money, as much as this scares me to admit, to do more with it than surround ourselves with STUFF. And in the process (because I love how all of this ties in) won’t our homes ultimately be more of what we’re striving for?

Never have I wanted to run so far away from the proverbial Joneses. I don’t want to keep up with the stinkin’ Kardashians. My entire life has been a struggle to ‘keep up’, whether I realized it or not. My inner competitor wants to feel ‘worthy’. I want to feel like I have ‘enough’. But I am never satisfied. I’ve been focused on the wrong things in a culture brainwashed by the desire for MORE.

I can’t keep up. It’s impossible.

But I can purge my home that is full of STUFF. I can bless others with our surplus, and I can teach my children a different way of life. This will be a process. A messy, emotional, exhausting, ugly, embarrassing process. After a week of processing, I’m ready to take action. I’m ready to make this change.

This Lazy Gal Series and my original intent for it, is only scratching the surface of what truly lies beneath in a world of potential. It’s scaring me. I think it’s good to be scared.

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So here are a few things regarding my own personal plan of action. I really hope you’ll join us:

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1. The Lazy Gal’s Great Purge. In January, we’re completely purging our home. From the bathroom cabinets, to the attic… Of anything we no longer use, didn’t know we had, and haven’t touched in months. Of anything I’ve been guilty of “stuffing”. Of anything I’ve held on to out of guilt. I’m donating our clothes, extra toys, and things to those who can really use them. I’m establishing recycling bins and paring it down. It’s just best for us, and best for others. It’s time to make a change. Sound radical? I need something radical. Consider it a grand kickoff in the name of change. Hold me. I’m scared.

2. I’m having a gargantuan hoarder’s purge garage sale. This is what it shall be called. Handmade Home style. On February the 2nd of 2013 (if the Mayans don’t rapture us up on a spaceship commanded by Thor). There will be food and music and good times, and a portion of this money will go to those less fortunate. (We’re working on the deats.) So if you’re NOT purging your home (I will not be an enabler) or if you’re looking for something new to you, feel free to come over and hang out with us. I know it will be decor and furniture and original art at fair prices. I can’t wait to get rid of it. I know that if I set my date, it will be done. February the SECOND. Road trip to Alabamer, anyone? Write it down! I will have more of this coming up.

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3. Lazy Gals UNITE. Here’s the really important part. Are you still with me? I truly believe that big things are accomplished by conquering them together. People who are of the same cause. Starting in January, in the grand tradition of Auld Lang Syne, and all of you inspired by the idea of less being more, (I’ve dubbed January ‘The Lazy Gal’s Great Purge’) I’m also opening up a section of our site for you to share your own projects in your own homes. What are you cleaning up? What are you cleaning out? What are you getting rid of? Befores + afters, shameless piles of stuff, thoughts + musings… Goals accomplished and even total fails… amazing inspiration created by you for others.

I’d love to see. I think we all would. There is strength in numbers, and its good to let others know they’re not alone in this venture (where all of our friends and family now officially think we’ve lost it…) I’d love for you to post here, even if you don’t have a blog. If it’s just a simple start with cleaning out a messy drawer, or if you’re going for radical, we would love for this to be a place where we can come and be encouraged by each other’s efforts. I’ll have more on this coming up, so stay tuned, and start thinking about what you’d like to share in your own lives.

Just a side note: Don’t worry. There’s more to all of this. There will be systems. There will be prevention and proactive steps so that more stuff will not replace the initial stuff. One grandiose over the top purge is not the end of our story. I’ll have more on that too, and I hope you can find some of it to work for your own homes and families. It’s a big step, and it’s a lot to tackle. But there really is strength in numbers, and strength in the process.

(Cue the part where I really hope there aren’t crickets…)

What do you think? Are you with me? Please tell me your thoughts!


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86 Responses to the lazy gal’s guide : perspective (less is the new more)

  1. I love this idea. We have been preparing for a move and I can’t believe all the stuff I have to box up. It’s really eye opening!

  2. Anna says:

    Yes. Yes. And YES!!!

  3. Deanne says:

    definitely in on this, we have already started with the cleaning out stuff before Christmas, but will be continuing on into the new year!

  4. Tiffany says:

    !! Inspiration, community, cleaning–I love it!! (And I love the Hyperbole and a Half illustrations. Too fun.)

  5. Rachel Wishum says:

    I love this. Russ and I don’t have children yet, but we hope to soon, and I have been thinking a lot about how we will be more mindful of how we spend money, collect things, etc. Just for the two of us, and with us being (relative to mainstream America) frugal people, we still have so, so much stuff. Two sets of what seems like everything, and I just don’t seem to want to let any of it go, even when I know it takes too much time to maintain it all. Russ and I are really hoping that we can get some of these parts of our culture out of us, and start living more in tune with what we believe before we have children watching our every move, which means now is the time to really make some changes. We have already tried to do some of this with Christmas, and I think now may be the time to do it with other areas of our lives, as well. I sent this article over to him, warned him that it is by a girl and mostly aimed at girls, but asked him to read it anyway so we can talk about it later. Thanks for the good thoughts.

  6. Angela R says:

    I love this, I need this! I’m a pretty good tosser except when it comes to craft supplies, but my husband keeps everything like he is preparing for a zombie apocalypse. I am so sick of going into my daughter’s closet and wading through a pile of stuffed animals. I want to scream and pull my hair out every time I go in my attic. There are literally tons of wedding presents up there that we will never use, and we got married 4.5 years ago. With another baby due in May I think its finally time get our butts in gear!

  7. April says:

    Want to really look nuts? Try purging your stuff and resolving to get and STAY debt-free. That is what my husband and I did roughly 6 years ago. We are debt-free now. I believe that all the “stuff” and wanting of more “stuff” can be an indication of debt and stress. Check out Dave Ramsey sometime. Just give him a try. Hey, you can always go back to the way you were before if you don’t like his plan.

    • Yep. Not a Dave fan at all, but we are almost completely debt free. ;} Working hard to make that happen.

      • Jana Lincoln says:

        I get why you are not a fan. I really do. He has some points but apparently, the dude has 18 shower heads in his shower, and over 13,000 square feet in his new McMansion. He proclaims to live like no one else to succeed while he sells a book of common sense to those who are struggling, but he didn’t use common sense to get rich. He sold his theology. Which is inconsistent. While I’m glad the man is successful, there’s this nagging feeling in the back of my head about needles and camels. This is not what we are to aspire to. I get that he gives. But were called to do and be more. It’s about more than debt. The excess of his lifestyle, the apparent obsession with the possession of things is kind of a bummer for me. Sorry for the rant. I feel rather strongly about him and the idea of “missing the mark” as you said earlier.

        • Anna says:

          Dave Ramsey ‘Americanized’ his theology. It had a good start, but in the end, it fizzled out with his lifestyle. I think we’re missing the point. His very lifestyle is missing the point. It really doesn’t speak of simplicity. Not at all.

      • April says:

        That is great that you are working to be debt-free. I just knew you all had bought a really nice new Honda Odyssey so I wasn’t sure. But none of my beez wax. I don’t get the “Americanization” mentioned below of his theology. The fact is the “normal” American lifestyle is to look like you got it all while actually being broke once you take income minus expenses and debt. That is just a fact. But I totally agree with Ashley’s thinking that less is totally more in our homes and our lives. That is how I try to live. I just know that my husband and I agree on money and give more than we ever have in our lives since we started following his baby steps.

        • I am saying this in the nicest way possible, but your comment was kind of unwarranted. You’re right. It really isn’t any of your ‘beez wax’. We’re not following anyone elses mantra. We’re doing what works for us. ;}

          • April says:

            You are right. It was unwarranted and I apologize. That Honda Odyssey is my dream ride so I was just jealous.

    • Aimee says:

      So much to think about, thank you, and I wish I could come rummage through your yard sale. Oh and not a Dave fan either. Principles are good, but nothing new. His life does not speak of simplicity to me, which I feel like is important.

  8. melissa gray says:

    We just moved into our new house a couple months ago and have already been going through our things, cleaning and purging. When you go from 1000 sq ft to 3400 sq ft things just start showing up and you realize “I don’t really need this.” I want to fill my home with things that we truly love and treasure, not just stuff for the sake of filling our home. We’ve actually become more confident in saying “no” to people who have been offering us their used furniture. While it is nice stuff, it’s not stuff that we are in love with, that we want to have for a lifetime. It’s so funny because the people who are offering are like “well you do need a coffee table, are you sure you don’t want it just until you find one you love?” Thanks but no thanks. I would rather wait and hold off, otherwise its just more work for me in the long run of trying to find a new home for that table:) As a mother and a wife and a woman, I am starting to get some swagger back in my ability to say “no thank you.” And I’ve realized that people are not offended at all.

  9. Angela Smith says:

    Love it. It’s like you’ve posted this just for me! We just had a yard sale in November, but it still seems like there is so much stuff everywhere, no matter how much I clean, it’s still there! I’ve felt almost claustrophobic. I have fears of becoming one of those people on that Hoarders show (even though we aren’t THAT bad). What a great initiative! Count me in!! P.S. If the Mayans to take us up into that space ship…I would be more than happy to have Thor as my leader….(wink)

  10. Amen! I’m in…but I think I shouldn’t wait until January. After reading your uber-inspiring post, I’m ready to start cleaning out the closets TODAY!!:)

  11. Mrs. Fish says:

    this is ABSOLUTELY inspiring! I can’t wait to share with my husband this challenge tonight. As a new mom to a 5-month old, I am really beginning to see how much of how I live my own life (ie. consuming, excessive materialism, discontentment with what i already own etc) will influence my daughter. I do not want to raise a selfish child who inherits this culture’s (and mommy’s) mentality of “buy more = be happier”. thank you for your openness to share your heart! this is quite exciting & very liberating!

  12. Sheri says:

    Well I am in, I am a great purger, but I need to convince our son, who is on the hoarder route (everything has a memory, trying to figure out a way around that) and my husband who goes on “collecting” binges and things start showing up in the mail from some late night ebay buying spree. I am not sure I can get him on board, but I’m working on the son. There is always the possibility that we could be transferred over seas with his job and I always say “what are you going to do with all these “collectables?” Arrrggghhhh. It’s very frustrating. Any suggestions from anyone would be grateful. Thanks.

  13. Amanda says:

    I love this idea! I’ve found that I clean/purge when I’m having a really stressful week at work/don’t feel in control. Over Hurricane Sandy weekend, I cleaned out my basement, organized my husband’s tools, and labeled all of our Christmas boxes. We went through our ornaments and decided which ones we liked/were important to us, and the rest are going elsewhere. I did the same thing with my clothes. We still have a ridiculous amount of stuff, but I’m looking forward to your “purge the house” series, and I’ll definitely be joining in. Good luck!!

  14. Amanda W. says:

    I’ve realized my “stuff” problem is due to a lack of planning and, quite frankly, impatience. I’m what I call a “yo-yo purger” meaning that I purge (very well) about once a year, but “stuff” gradually starts to accumulate again. After reading some minimalism/simple living blogs, I realized that my main problem is the WAY I shop. I shopped without a purpose, a plan. For example, instead of going into a clothing store looking for a specific item to make my wardrobe more functional, I went in blindly trying on anything that looked pretty. As a result, like you, I ended up with a closet full of clothes that I didn’t wear and didn’t work together.

    After realizing this, I purged my closet and then made a list, based on my “clothes & accessories” pinterest board, of key pieces I needed to create a functional, manageable wardrobe that I love. I also have strict a one-in-one-out rule to keep the size of the wardrobe under control and to train myself to more selective with my purchases.

    I’ve also adopted the same philosophy/plan of action with the rest of the house with a couple of exceptions (ie. furniture – we just got married so there’s nothing to replace lol), but the general idea is the same. Everything I own should be something that I either need to live, love, or has sentimental value. It’s a hard thing to stick to in our culture, but I’m determined to do it.

  15. Roxanne says:

    We are moving as I type. This Saturday will be the finale with the furniture. Wow. I totally agree and I totally ‘get’ this. I have bagged and boxed till I hear the tape gun in my sleep. As I unpack… I VOW to look at each thing again and make ‘it all’ simpler. There will be more bags and boxes going out once we get there. I went through a good bit as I packed… but there is more that needs to be done.. So much more. Thank you for this post. :)
    Keep us posted on that garage sale!!
    I triple love your blog and find myself reading and digging around on it almost everyday :)

  16. Amy Gillespie says:

    Testify! We are coming out of a long tunnel (4 years) of catastrophic injury(husband), diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome(son), deaths in the family-you know, life. Our big beautiful house is a mess. Don’t open ANY closet. Please don’t look in the laundry room. And the garage, yes, there is proof of a black hole in our solar system. I just want to know why that stuff is in there instead of my car. So I will go on this scary, exhausting journey, too, because we are so blessed and I want to be able to see the blessing, and for my children to be able to as well.

  17. Lucy says:

    But what happens when you live with someone who doesn’t want to give up the stuff of any description, as that is where I am at the moment.
    I do not want a bigger house but my hubby does, he want me to work more to enable us to do that, I do not. I have two wonderful children that I want to be with. I am happy to work a little as I love being a nurse but I do not want to be full time. Where I am is enough for me ( although a bit of purging would not go amiss) but not for hubby.
    Any thoughts?

    • Jamin says:

      Lucy, That indeed is a hard spot to be in. It may take time for him to get there, we have to remember we all don’t arrive at the same conviction with the same speed. So be patient with him, keep it in conversation with him, expose him to new thoughts about it. With genuine interest find out why he wants that future tat seems so different than yours. More than likely he is seeking status and every last one of us is taught to do that, some unlearn it faster than others. Be patient. Second be respectful of his desire, be willing to listen to why he wants this and be willing to work towards it, at the same time demand the same of him, as you are trying to work toward his idea of the future ask him to work towards yours. This should not be a combative fight to the future, but a journey for the both of you. Isn’t marriage, after all, about putting the other before yourself? What a wonderful time for y’all to practice this. You will find that the future you both desire, may indeed not be the one you now hold in your head, but something better.

  18. Jodi M says:

    YES!!YES!! YES!! I am inspired…thank you again.Not sure how long the road trip would be from Texas but I am pretty sure I would end up with more STUFF. I just told my husband last night I was planning an EPIC garage sale in March to purge the house. Good luck!! and may the force be with you!

  19. Kimberly says:

    I’m with you! Recently started reading Jen Hatmaker’s book also. I’ve found the stuff/clutter/excess in our house is giving me anxiety attacks. Time to scale down! Less is more! More time with family. More time with friends. More time out enjoying life. Less time trying to find a place to put it all! Looking forward to a bright New Year of simplicity!

  20. Mary Beth Schwarz says:

    Yes I am with you! I feel the same and am tired of all the stuff to wade through. Cleaning is really easy with less stuff. Everything should have a home and be returned to its home after use. It is simple (HA, takes work to set this up)! MB

  21. Bethany says:

    This could not have come at a better time. I am so feeling the way you are and am glad to see I’m not alone. Thanks for sharing and opening up….I can’t wait to read more and follow along.

    Oh, and where in Alabama are you? I live just outside of Birmingham.

  22. Nuukaska says:

    Count us in. We have actually started already and recycling, reusing… I was reading this post and my soon 3 year old daughter come behind me, gave me a hug and kiss and said: Mom I find you!
    Some times this is also the thing, how to see our loved ones when in rush to the next idea and goal. How to live in the moment.
    A finnish philoshopher said something like this that we (in the west) are the first generations that can´t really find more wellbeingg by working more, owning more compared to previoius generations. There aren´t really anything that we can achieve as individuals or as a nation by working more, havin more money or things. We also need to take account the nature and natural recourses. This is confusing and people are getting depressed and unwell.
    We need a new goal. I think it is just this that you are writing and thinking about. Living more in the moment, more simple and having more by slowing down and having more mental wealth. For me this means also challenging my self by finding new ways of reusing things and materials. Finding again old ways of doing things (like cleaning up) more nature friendly.

  23. Erin says:

    Agreed! I’ve been reading your Lazy Gal posts with interest – and I’m with you! Less is the new more!

  24. andrea jenkins says:

    great post – exactly how i’ve been feeling. but where to start?? looking forward to upcoming posts on what this is all going to look like, one step at a time. merry christmas!

  25. Katherine Rothgeb says:

    Yay Ashley! What a great plan. I’m with you and sooooooo looking forward to joining all those other Great! Lazy Gals.

  26. Whitney Dupuis says:

    I have been on the verge of this for a long time. I have been procrastinating – not so much because I can’t bear to part with stuff but because I am always tired after working all day and I want to share the weekends with my family doing family stuff. You know, excuses that I tell myself. It is time to stop. This constant hoarding (let’s call it what it is) has got to stop. There are things in the closets of my house that are not doing anyone any good because I don’t even remember that they are there. Unacceptable. I will be off work the entire week of Christmas and I will be cleaning out our closets and nooks and crannies. We will be donating a lot of stuff to those less fortunate. It is time to teach my son (2.5) the joy of giving. Thank you for the push. We are going cliff diving too!

  27. Holly says:

    I’m with you! I’ve been telling family this past month that come January, I am going through every inch of my house and getting rid of anything that is not used, worn, or played with. We have moved quite a bit in the last 5 years, and purged during every move. But for some reason, I keep things because I might use it sometime in the future or my kids play with it ‘once and a while’. Well…that thinking is gone! I am looking forward to your January posts and hope that they keep me motivated right along with you!

  28. Mary says:

    You have hit the nail on the head! This is exactly the way I have been thinking as well! You are doing a wonderful job putting these thoughts into words. I think it is so important for all of us to take a step back once in a while, and look at what is really important in life. Problem is, it seems like something catestrophic needs to happen to really get people to do this (such as losing a job, or even a death in the family). I have been hearing about Jen Hatmaker’s book “7” a lot lately, and am convinced I need to read it!
    My latest issue is, what to do about Christmas? We have many well intentioned family members that love to shower the kids in gifts- just as this idea of “less is more” is making me want to throw out everything but the kitchen sink :) How are you handling Christmas this year?

    • Oh girl. I even considered writing about this in my post…there was just so much I wanted to cover. I have been torn. When I had my ‘revelation’ I had already purchased a few things, albeit they are very purposeful in themselves because I was already thinking along those lines, so here’s what we’re doing:

      1. We’re being purposeful this year. With what they get from Santa, we want the majority to be educational. We’re not going OVERBOARD. (What is really considered overboard? Anyone can argue that point.) I especially feel pressure when relatives are all, “What did you get for Christmas?!” Silly, but I feel this pressure, like better give them a lot so they have things to list and everyone will feel like they received a worthy Christmas, right alongside their cousins. We don’t want them to feel neglected. Stupid. Shallow. I know.

      So, we gave a specific list to my parents, and then either approved or respectfully requested an ‘absolutely not’ on other gift ideas. I also respect the idea that they love my children and they want to give them gifts, and maybe that’s okay to let them. It makes me sound like an ingrate but I tell people all the time that A. our home can only handle so much and B. what is this teaching them? I feel like in the past, it may have hurt feelings, but I am trying really hard to communicate this with family members, and I think that over time this is happening. (Though I still find this season very frustrating.) NEXT year : Bank account. College fund. Donations in lieu of stuff. It’s happening. (I’m a people pleaser so I’m pretty terrified I even wrote that… it’s just that we’re spending money on toys when we could be putting something towards their future.)

      2. I am torn, because my children are so very young, they don’t yet grasp the concept.This also means they are impressionable. (My three year old rescues toys from the donate pile that my seven year old has placed there.) SO christmas has a purposeful gift purchasing point this year (things they can really use-though we’re torn because there is a bit of FUN thrown in there… I mean come on it IS Christmas-see how hard this is?!?! Especially when fighting the battle with family…)

      AFTERWARDS, to me, is the key. This season is not a total loss, but we were not proactive enough, early enough. In this big purge via January, I want us to start fresh from there. As a family. I want our kids to be involved, and let them choose what goes. The idea on my end is to not really traumatize them, not take away the fun of Christmas, but also not miss the point of it. The last thing I want to do, is turn them off to the idea with loads of guilt and “Meanwhile in Africa” statements from me and forcing them to donate… I hate the idea of gifts coming with strings attached. And guilt. This will just make them less willing to do it. But to lead by example. I want them to see us cleaning up OUR stuff. Donating OUR stuff. And see what they do from there. I would like to think (fingers crossed?) that they are much more generous than we give them credit for. This is a lifestyle change, not a cold turkey, fill the baskets up with more one month later, thing. So in this process, we will incorporate it into every day life, (and do things like get a sponsored child, etc.) If the lead by example isn’t enough of a nudge, I will create an outline. They have plenty to choose from, so for instance, five toys isn’t a big deal especially when they have some in storage that they don’t even remember. That’s where our thinking is headed. I’m also thinking that after I get them into a healthy habit, we establish a routine of once a month, passing along things we do not need.

      (I may or may not also clean out a few things that they just won’t miss behind their back. I’m not above that. Before we even bring them out of storage. WE still have stuff in storage because our home was for sale this time last year.) But the idea is, to ease them in this direction. It’s a teaching process, and I am going to have to be patient. This is the reality I’ve created for them, after all. I can’t expect too much at once. While I can rationalize it and say “well, they’re definitely not as spoiled as so and so,” -and trust me, they aren’t… the idea is to create our own new order and process in our home. Gradually.

      I don’t want my children to be bitter towards the homeless and the neglected. The idea is to develop compassion towards them. I’m hoping at varying degrees with appropriate age levels, this will help. The end. ;}

      • SAH says:

        Sounds so cliche….but thank you for this comment, this post…sometimes I just need to know I am not alone…and that I AM NOT “ridiculous” or “no fun” or “rude” or “fill in the blank” because I want my family to not be swimming (drowning?) in excess or focused just on “STUFF”…Your response to this question here is filled with so many thoughtful and important points. I share your philosophy on that line between guilt and resentment…You should really add this as a post-script to your post or make the question and answer it’s own post tomorrow? It really deserves a highlighted spot…and not to be hidden in the comments! (I’m not usually a comment reader…but was comforted by the amount of people with similar thoughts….SO glad I scrolled down because this right here was what I needed. THANK YOU for sharing!

      • Becky says:

        We have been doing lots of thinking on this topic for Christmas and we found some inspiration from a nonprofit leader I work with. Check out his tips on Huffington Post about Teaching Children about Philanthropy. I loved his suggestions! http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-schmitz/philanthropy_b_2173346.html

      • Heather says:

        I feel your pain on this one! We just bought a house so, needless to say….we’re broke. Of course we want to give our kids something from Santa, but what I DON’T want is a bunch of $5 plastic cluttering up my house! I really want to teach my kids quality over quantity. SO, we got them fairly expensive learning toys. I debated a long time about it and finally came to the conclusion that it would make their and my life easier. I really would like my Iphone back from my 2 year old!

        A few weeks ago I did the same thing you did…I looked at my son’s closet and cried. How in the WORLD did he get all these clothes and toys!? I’ve decided they multiply at night. I couldn’t take it anymore! He’s 2 years old WHY does he have 15 pairs of jeans? (Well, it because he’s the youngest of 4 boys in the family, but it’s no excuse really.)

        And the toys….oh my, the TOYS! It’s enough to make my head spin just thinking about them! So, I had “Playroom Boot-camp”. I explained to my 5 year old that many kids didn’t have any toys and we had to share our toys with them. We went through ALL of our toys and decided together what we needed/wanted and didn’t need/want. I was so proud of my little man! He gave away some of his favorite toys to the kids who didn’t have any! I thought for sure we were going to have a melt down when he saw the bags full of toys that were going away, but not the case. It made me feel like maybe, just maybe, we were doing something right as parents.

        As we drove to the drop off location all he could talk about was how much those kids were going to love those toys. When we got there, he waved and said hello to the lady and told her about all the toys and clothes we had for “her” kids.

        My point being, you’re right, Ashley. Kids are very impressionable and if we don’t lead by example now, it may be too late in 10 years. What’s so wrong with being a minimalist? (Clutter makes me hyperventilate anyways!) If we have everything we need and somethings we want…I’d say we’re pretty lucky!

    • Liz says:

      I have been working towards less stuff for the last year or so, and I am slowly making progress. One thing I did for Christmas this year was coordinate the gifts among the family members. Santa is bringing a play kitchen for my daughter, but any (limited) accessories are coming from various family members.

      Friends with slightly older children often ask for experiences for their children instead of physical toys. For example (depending on the age of the children): movie tickets, favorite restaurant dates, bowling, etc. They make the activities something special the child and gift giver can do together–less stuff with the bonus of quality time. Some people resist the idea of giving those kinds of things, but a lot of people really like it.

      We are definitely a work in progress over here, but I hope to get better and better about being purposeful in our things each month! I am looking forward to your challenge!

  29. Carrie says:

    Thanks for this post! I’ve been feeling the same way. My daughter is only 18 months old, so we don’t have that much in the way of her toys, but with Christmas coming on, I know we’ll be bringing home a truckload from well-meaning relatives. The stuggle, however, is mostly myself. WHY do I need new clothes? I have a closet over flowing and yet I still want more and feel like what I have isnt’ enough. I’ve been praying over this and working on a change in my heart. Thanks for your post. It’s nice to know I’m not alone. :-)

  30. Miriam says:

    I really relate to what you’re saying, I’ve been feeling the same. We’re in a transitional phase, but as we move & unpack, I’m going to do a major purge, & I’m already starting with some stuff I have available now. My goal is to be really intentional with what I keep – not only useful, but also useful for more than 1thing, like a vase I can use for flowers, in a centerpiece, as a silverware caddy, etc. A friend has a great collection of vintage kitchen items & uses a great method – for every new-to-her item that comes in, something must go out. It keeps her collection in check, & also helps her stay focused on keeping only what she really loves; I want to do the same thing. I totally agree, it ain’t gonna’ be easy, and will definitely be a process over time, but I think it will be so worth it! Looking forward to upcoming ideas & tips!

  31. Amanda says:

    ugh…and I mean UGH!!! This post may have just as well grown arms and slapped me up-side the head for how much I needed to hear it. I promised myself that this Christmas would be different. I wouldn’t over spend on a bunch of STUFF that we don’t need. I would be sensible. I would show self-control and be the merrier for it. All I have done ALL DEC. is cheat my own budget, buy like I couldn’t get enough, and feel bad for myself that I couldn’t have more! I am surrounded by stuff that has become clutter and it’s definitley not making me happy!! I am going to join you in Jan. and start to dig myself out of this mess and this lifestyle. Thanks for sharing!!

    • BLESS you, Amanda. You are not alone at all my dear! The first step to recovery is recognizing it, right? You have a good heart. Sometimes we’re really hard on ourselves, and sometimes we need to be. So I get it, and good for you! ;} Stay with me and we will conquer it together. ;}

  32. Stacy says:

    I love this. And I think we may join you in your Feb 2nd Hoarders Unite stuff sale. I’ve been cleaning out for about a month, but haven’t actually gotten the stuff out of my house! It is slowly piling up in my garage…
    So the idea of a sale that will raise money for a worthy cause is great! My kids have already thrown out ideas of orphanages in Guyana and Africa, the Blood Water project, and Hefer International.
    What a great idea, you had- thanks for sharing!

  33. Kendra says:

    My husband and I are right at this point as well. We bought our house a couple of years ago and simply moved two households’ worth of stuff (that had been in storage for 3 years) into the garage. In the meantime, we had a wedding, a lot of deaths in the family, and a work issue that had me working 12-hour days for 5 months – all in the first year of owning our home and being married. As you can imagine, the thought of dealing with anything just about put me over the edge.

    This year has been my year of renewal. I started with me at the beginning of the year – getting my own life back in order (re-establishing routines, remembering to get enough sleep). I’ve been focusing on us over the last few months, and now I feel like it’s time to tackle our stuff. I’m thinking there will be a giant trip to the local donation center soon (I’ve got giveaway stuff everywhere and it’s driving me nuts) as well as the dump for the stuff that no one wants. We’ve gone through the garage a few times to get rid of the obvious stuff, but it’s becoming a giant “out box” (a la Apartment Therapy). The longer stuff sits out there and the longer that I forget about it and don’t use it, the less of an attachment I have to it. And the easier it is becoming to give it away.

    I’m tired of being a “Stuff Manager” (thank you to The Nester for giving that role a name), and thankfully my husband is starting arriving to that realization as well.

  34. Debbie says:

    Wow, I think you’ve been reading my mind! I kinda already started as I’ve been having some of the same feelings. I’m in :)

  35. Haley Lansing says:

    Sounds like our promise to change in 2013. We are with you!!

  36. Candace says:

    I’m with ya, sister! Purge, purge, purge! Thanks, again, for another inspiring and well-stated blog. Live simply.

  37. tiffini says:

    SOOO funny you wrote this because my heart has been here for awhile too. and no we are NOT alone. many many feel this way. it is the American way but it is destroying us…from the inside out.
    I already started purging and come January I am going for it. In ALL areas of my life. Since I am mainly a single mom I have to be even more careful and I really feel God is calling me this way. I haven’t read the 7 book yet…wondering if I should?
    and I bemoan the lack of food that I want and clothes and yada yada. Thank you for being real….xo

    • Hey Tiffini! Let’s do it together! ;} I am with you. I think you would really like 7. It’s not a guilt trip. It’s a convicting, funny, realistic book. I feel like I could have written it, she and I, Jen, are so alike. You will find her very relatable. It’s also very motivating. Check it out! ;}

  38. Jamie Fetzer says:

    You are not alone and so glad others feel this way too. I read the book The Joy of Less by Francine Jay earlier this year and it really made me think about all the “stuff” we own. It is a somewhat minimalist philosophy and she also goes room by room with how to purge your belongings. I have been working on this but fall off the wagon a lot and go on spending splurges. Can’t wait to take this journey with you. Trying to live more intentionally in my home and life too. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  39. Jami Nato says:

    boom! we’re doing this too. our battle is with ungratefulness in this house at least. when we look at our stuff and say that it’s not enough, it actually goes deeper than that. your consumption of more and more and not being satisfied has everything to do with relationship with Christ and your dissatisfaction and ungratefulness there. a lot of times, you look underneath the ungratefulness and it is unbelief. we don’t believe that God is enough. and that He is good, even without our fancy couch and our pretty home and the approval we get from that. anyway, maybe i’m rewriting jen’s book. i haven’t read it yet but should. if only i could read a book! proud of you for spurring others away from worthless things.

    • Well, way to hit home with the sofa, sofa twin. GAH. ;} I’m really really REALLY needing to work on the ungratefulness part, as well. On the way home from dropping my oldest off at school this morning, my daughter informed me that she didn’t want a light pink toy car (the giant one that costs oodles that you drive around that my parents purchased her) she wanted a HOT pink one. Some of this is kids being kids but I think we can only take that excuse so far. I told her she had a wonderful car, and that some kids only wish they had her car. I think it opened her eyes a little. She’s definitely opening mine. One day at a time, right??? ;}

  40. Mirinda says:

    My goal for 2012- still in progress- was to purge and de-clutter my life and my home to make room for what is truly important. I found that any space I made was filled to overflowing with people and projects I am truly excited about and self revelations that led to more people, projects and things I could have never imagined wanting. I wish you the same.

  41. Wow. What a moving post. Bravo. And thanks for laying it all out there. That couldn’t have been easy. Thanks for taking the lead to inspire us all out here!!!!!!!!

  42. Anna Samson says:

    Bravo to you! Awesome post. I have been going through my home for the last few months and putting things aside that we dont need, dont use, not sure why we ever bought piles. I held a garage sale and made $500.00 to put towards our debt. Whatever didnt sell I donated to our children’s school that has an auction amongest the students. The children earned ‘bucks’ for good behavior, respectfulness and helping their fellow class mates out. It is a great boost for these children who otherwise wouldnt be able to go out and purchase such items because of cost, etc. I am humbled by small experiences and feel richly blessed. I feel compelled to share this with others. It feels incredible to let these items go…for they are just items…not important things like my children’s health, homelessness, etc. Thank you so much for sharing this. I look forward to moving into this New Year with a fresh and simple outlook.

  43. Chrissie says:

    We started off our adult life with heaps of hand-me-downs and thrift finds. It was definitely helpful in some ways (hello, parents’ spare dining table!) and not so great in others (hello box of random old, warped plastic kitchenware??).
    We’ve made our spare room the collection point for stuff to sell at the markets or donate – the box of melted, scratched and broken kitchenware didn’t make the cut ;-)
    Early next year we may even have an actual, useable spare room again!

  44. Melinda Dower says:

    Yes! I so need to do this! I have annual leave over Christmas so I am determined to clear the clutter from my home. Clearing the clutter helps to clear my mind, too!

  45. Abbe Gally says:

    Ditto, ditto, and ditto. Simplicity is my motto and I achieved it in our last house in southern Illinois. Then circumstances brought us to eastern Pennsylvania to live in my childhood home which we are slowly trying to empty out and make our home. Anyway, as a gal trying to appreciate a purer life, I think you will find zerowastehome.blogspot.com and concordgreen.blogspot.com an interesting read. These two homes both demonstrate that life can be simple and fulfilling at the same time.

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  47. Colleen says:

    I’m so in! I have done purges before and posted before and after pictures on my blog and even though that was nearly two years ago, those posts and traffic from those sites are by far the most popular on my blog. I am not the most organized person on the planet, I have to really work at it…I’m an “art-brain” so if you’re one too, you’ll know what I mean by the struggle. Getting organized and purging is easy, but keeping it that way is the real struggle. I’ve collected so many thrifted craft pieces over the last year that I have no more room to store the stuff…stuff I will not likely ever get around to using…my pantry is full of food we probably won’t ever get around to using and I will be purging that too and taking it to the local food bank. This post hit so close to home I was pretty sure you jumped in my brain and had a nice long look around. I turned 44 a couple months ago (yep, just put that out there) and I am finding that the older I get the less I care about keeping up with anyone else and the more I just want to live my life for me and my family and surround myself with items that have meaning to me and to my husband and to us as a couple. I found that as much as I love all the great ideas out there on Pinterest and in blogland, I will never have time to make all those crafty things, remodel all those rooms and spend all that money…it’s just not going to happen and it makes me feel inadequate and wondering how everyone else seems to have time to do all of this except me? Reality check time. I look forward to taking this journey with you and I will not be afraid to share the good, the bad and the ugly along the way.

  48. elicia says:

    Love, love, love it!!! I am so with you on every word and it is beyond refreshing to hear. Bring it on.

  49. Lauren says:

    I’m so with you! I’ve been excited to declutter the house, etc. but this has me even more psyched. I don’t want my home overrun with stuff anymore.

  50. Gemma says:

    I started the purge during the summer. I’m going to Australia in summer 2013 so whatever I have left is going in to storage. I still have a very very looooooong way to go but I’m right there with you. Look out eBay and my local charity shops. I had a letter last week from the one I donate to regularly. Apparently my junk has raised £40 for them last year. Not much but better than sitting in a cupboard not doing anything. It has motivated me to clear out more though so that’s what I’ll be doing in January after the chaos of the holidays. I have already asked family to only get me the few things I need for Christmas so hopefully there won’t be any more junk added either.

    I know it’s hard to do but I’m determined. Can’t wait to read what you’ve been up to along the way.

  51. thefolia says:

    Good luck with the purge and the new lifestyle. I recently had a virtual/garage sale just before my last move. It was a success. I sold furniture and garage/garden items since we do not have either in the new place. I held on to one big piece, the wagon wheel table since I thought I could fit this fabulous piece into my new place. Turns out it doesn’t, however, I haven’t had a chance to get a corner desk so the wagon wheel table will have to suffice. Would love it if it fit into someone else’s nest. Check it out it–it’s the only post in August at http://www.thefolia.com. Any interests anyone?

  52. Holly Mc says:

    I’m with you. I have read your blog for months and this is my first reply. I say to my husband regularly that I hate myself for living like a slave to all my stuff. I literally feel like I’m drowning. I just can’t seem to stick with any kind of game plan!! I want to be better and mean more with my life and not feel like a failure all the time because my house is a wreck. I’m a stay-at-home momma. Shouldn’t I be able to atleast keep my house picked up? Thanks, Ashley, for putting into print what i say in my heart everyday……..

  53. Heidi G says:

    I’m with you! I agree that less is the new more. We’re finishing our basement, which made us start to go through the stuff stored there. We’re been purging a lot. It amazes me how much stuff was there that we don’t need. Now we’ve started moving on to the guest bedroom and closet. It feels so good to purge rooms and get rid of stuff we don’t need. I look forward to continuing this room by room in my house. We’re on a roll!

  54. Kira says:

    Im pretty sure we are the same person. This is the second time I have read one of your posts and had to make my husband read it as well to make sure I wasn’t imagining things. These thoughts weigh so heavy on my heart. We have been craving simplicity for this past year. We have started the big purge of “stuff”. But, for us it isnt enough. Now we want to downsize our home too. The problem being we bought at the peak of the market. (Which is a whole other dilemma that takes away much sleep in our house. ) Anyways, Im really looking forward to following your “simplify” posts. Im definately on board. Thank you so much for being able to put my thoughts into words for me. It is an amazing talent you have for articulation. I wish I also possessed this talent. ( :

  55. Misty Leslie says:

    Love this and you couldn’t be more correct!! Less is more! We are a military family, move often, and while you think we would purge more …we don’t! I find myself at the end of a move just cramming stuff b/c I am tired of unpacking/dealing with it. Of course that backfires b/c we end up with things crammed and no organization what so ever so clutter ends up taking over our lives. ( and with 4 kids and two dogs…we have some clutter!!) So I have been trying (using that loosely) to get things purged and organized while the hubs is deployed. Half way through the deployment and your post could not have come at a better time. Knowing others struggle with their own clutter and all the issues that seem to go along with it has been the “help” I needed to keep it up. I am totally looking forward to when the hubs comes home and our lives/house is ( hopefully) streamlined so we have more free time to do fun stuff family stuff and less time is spent cleaning, stuffing stuff here or there, reorganizing the garage 50 billion times (aka move stuff around to make it appear more organized) a year….everything! So thank you and Happy Holidays to your family!

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  57. Thank you for your post talking about your families current changes. This is a valuable life lesson you can teach your children that will stay with them for life and likely change their course of how they live. At 62, I’m at the other end of the timeline. At age 45 and into a 24 year marriage, I went through an unexpected divorce. Everything changed. My children were grown, I no longer knew who I was or what I wanted to do with my life. I took in renters to pay my bills and then I took a year to read, write, process, walk in the woods and think about what I wanted in my new life. This was a difficult but healing and ultimately a growing and joyful time for me. I discovered I craved a simpler, more creative and closer to the earth/outdoor life working with my hands. Then I set about creating it. It’s been a creative journey that has been fulfilling and teaches me new lessons everyday. Isn’t that what life is about?

    Small House / Big Sky Donna / White Oak Studio Designs / SW Michigan
    Hand-Painted Vintage Furniture Transformations
    Blog: http://smallhouseunderabigsky.wordpress.com
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  58. Leslie says:

    A wonderful idea! Less is more! I have been trying to clean out rooms for awhile now …there is always just to much clutter. A friend of a friend told me about Flylady.com she helps organize your house and get rid of imperfections and clutter. I fall off the bandwagon weekly, sometimes daily – but that’s the point it didn’t get cluttered in a day and it won’t get cleaned in a day either.

  59. Cristina says:

    We are a family of 4 in 500 sq ft and we want for nothing. Its a beautiful house designed and built by my husband and I and we’ve been here for 5 years. We have a strict “no stuff” rule that all family members break at every holiday, birthday, or just any day because something about human nature makes loved ones feel uncomfortable about not giving stuff. So although we don’t personally purchase much of anything, I still find myself purging constantly. We occasionally have a weak moment where we dream about moving into a bigger house but before we get too far into the process of moving, we realize how much we love our little house and the simplicity of it and we always back away from the idea. I love our little house and I will be so sad the day we leave it. I know there will be many that hear crickets as they read your post because I encounter this over consuming American force in people everyday but I am with you! Now go purge and, more importantly, stay away from the evil force of the stuff! A little tip: Be prepared to fight the urge in the early fall and spring. There is something about the changing of the seasons that will make even the most un-commercial woman want to gather.

  60. Cristina says:

    P.S. Since this is an older post and we’ve now past Christmas, Valentine’s Day, etc; I’m curious, how did it go with trying not to acquire more stuff? Did you proclaim your idea to family members and ask them not to give stuff? If so, how was that received? I’m still trying to figure this one out myself. You’d think that, “We live in 500 sq ft” would be a reasonable excuse for not wanting stuff without having to worry about offending people, but that has not been the case for us. :-/ Specifically, I’m speaking to kids toys. I frequently find that it offends people when I tell them that we can’t fit anymore toys.

    • Hey Cristina! It’s been a process. I guess you could say we’re still working on that part. On one hand, I respect the fact that they want to give them things. Everyone has scaled back a little and I’m actually really proud of them because I think this was a big deal and took a lot of effort. I also think they read the blog so that helps. ;} Slowly but surely. It’s a lot to do with the work on our end, because I’ve gradually realized I can’t control what others do, but I can control how I handle it. We touched some on here. And it’s still a process. This lifestyle adjustment is a process, and I keep telling myself that, one day- one phase of life- at a time. ;}

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