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How I Got Rid of More Than Half of Our Stuff

william-morris-quote-have-nothing-in-your-house-thI started living by this quote long before I heard it.  I’ve seen it everywhere lately and I love it!  There seems to be a movement going on to simplify our stuff.  I love that there are so many of us that feel this way.  A few years ago, I started to get rid of stuff.  I mean, really get rid of stuff.  I felt like it was a necessity.  When I started, I didn’t know that I was preparing our home to be able to move off grid.  I just felt like I needed to get stuff out of my house.  We had so much that I didn’t want or need.  I wanted it gone so that I could find and use the things that I really loved and needed.  All of it seemed pointless.

When I first started, I just took one closet at a time.  I decided what I wanted to keep in that closet and only those things were allowed to stay.  First I got rid of all the clothing that my husband and I just didn’t like, then we decided on things that we would probably never wear again.  Yes, I took my wedding dress to the Goodwill!  It was a good one too.  Someone probably snatched it up and has gotten married in it by now!  We decided to keep a variety of clothes that were too small.  We planned to be smaller versions of ourselves, so keeping this clothing was important to us.  Today we now fit most of it!  And all of our too large clothing is gone.  We now have an average size bedroom closet with one rod and shelf above.  All of our clothing fits in it and one dresser.  On the floor of the closet we have a small shelf for shoes and two bins for seasonal clothing.  I also got rid of most of my shoes.  I just didn’t care about them anymore!

I generally kept things picked up in my house, but if there were things sitting out, I started there too.  What was in that bowl sitting on my kitchen counter?  Things kept going in and never coming out.  Everyday I would pick something like that to sort and clean out.  I threw out or donated what I didn’t need and found a home for the rest.  And then I put the bowl away in the cupboard.  The hard part is finding homes for the things you use, homes that make sense.  My policy now is that I don’t have anything sitting out on a surface that is not decorative and/or gets used frequently.

I worked like this around my house.  Little by little, I went through each space.  The bathroom was one of the spaces that was particularly freeing to me.  I had so many bottles of half used things: hair products, lotions, makeup, fancy smelling soaps that I had been given, etc.  I got rid of most of it because I don’t use all that stuff anymore.  I only have what I use.  Why should I keep a bottle of lotion that I will never use just because it was given to me as a door prize to some event I went to?  I may have spent $10 on that tube of lipstick, but I never liked the color and makeup is not even me anymore.  I threw all this stuff away without feeling guilty!

Now in my much smaller new home, I look around and know exactly where things are.  Our bedroom has clothing, extra blankets, and my craft supplies.  My boys’ room has their clothing (including bins of bigger sizes for the future under the bed), toys and games.  At the end of the hallway, I have a desk with a bookshelf.  This holds all our office supplies and books.  Under it I have a bin for sheets and one for towels.  The bathroom has extra toiletry items, first aid items, and toilet paper.  It also has my laundry table, so I keep my laundry supplies there too.  In the kitchen, I have a cupboard designated for homeschool where we have all our books and supplies.  Underneath it, I have a cupboard for tools (screwdriver, hammer, knife sharpener, pliers, etc.).  These things may seem out of place in a kitchen, but they work for me here.  I use them  everyday.  Why not keep them close to where I usually am?  Everything we own has a “home” that makes sense, so we know where to find things and put things away.

Getting rid of stuff can be a daunting task.  How would I recommend getting started?

  1. dresser-clutterJust pick something.  Maybe it has been forever since you have actually been able to sit in the chair in your bedroom.  Decide today to clean that off.  If it has been very long since you have seen the items at the bottom of the pile, you probably don’t need them!  Or maybe it’s your dresser or the bathroom counter.  Whatever it is, pick something!  Something that will make a difference for you today and will help you feel successful when you are first starting.  Don’t say that you are going to clean out the garage when you first start.  That is too big of a task.  Pick something that you can completely finish in an hour or less.  Do a little bit every day.  You will start to see lots of progress!
  2. Throw away your trash: takeout menus, magazines, broken toys, used rolls of wrapping paper.  Do you really need these?  I even threw out old art projects that my son had done.  Before, you get too judgmental, I saved the best ones!  I have a folder in my homeschool cupboard of all of his best work up to now.  We are able to look through it and reminisce together of how far he has come because I have not saved piles and piles of every drawing or project that he has done.
  3. Put items to donate in your car.  Don’t let them sit in another pile in your house.  The next time you leave the house, drive by a donation site.  When we lived in the city, there was usually a Goodwill truck in the parking lot of a grocery store near us.  I pulled up, opened the back of my van, and the friendly man unloaded it all for me.  Sometimes, I would load the van and my husband would take it on his way to work.  My point is: Get it out of your house and then out of your car!
  4. Put away the things that you plan to keep, in a place that makes sense.  Don’t let your bedroom be a catchall for everything!  The kids’ stuff should go in their room.  If there is not enough room, then they will have to get rid of stuff too.  When you start, just put an item away somewhere that makes sense.  Don’t try to worry about cleaning that place out too.  Just put the item in its spot and decide to focus on that drawer, closet, or cupboard another day.  (Maybe you need to set the item close by because the drawer is too packed already.)  The point is to clean off the ONE space you have chosen.  Don’t get distracted.  You will become overwhelmed.
  5. If something is worth money, put it on Ebay or Craigslist, or have an online garage sale.  Facebook has these for different areas.  (We never had much success with real garage sales.  Maybe some people do, depending on the area.)  Post single items today!  Don’t let them sit around anymore.  If you are getting together a number of things for a yard sale, designate an area to put them.  But have the yard sale.  If they are still there after a month or so, just save yourself time and donate them.
  6. giftDon’t be afraid to get rid of something that was given to you.  Things are just things.  We attach so much emotional value to them.  Don’t let yourself feel guilty about getting rid of something, no matter how you acquired it.
  7. Don’t be afraid to sell something that may be important to you.  My husband and I both got rid of things that we once loved, things that still had sentimental value.  But they had to go because we were no longer using them and they had no room in our life.  One of those things for my husband was a very expensive Star Wars Storm Trooper costume.  It was exactly like the one worn on the set of the movie.  He loved it, but he knew that he didn’t need it and we did not have a place to store it.  Among many other things, I got rid of crystal bowls that I had been given at my wedding, and a pair of silver strappy sandals that were so pretty!  But I don’t wear high heels anymore.  They had to go.  I don’t miss these things.  They were just taking up room.
  8. Decide that the spot you cleaned is now a clutter free zone.  Don’t put things back on it that don’t belong!
  9. If you can’t find a “home” for something, you probably don’t need it because it is not something you use regularly.  If it is something you love, put it somewhere where you can enjoy it.  I have a shelf in my kitchen/dining room with my Grandma’s teacups.  She used to let me pick one to use every time we shared “tea” together.  She is gone now and they are so special to me.  They are displayed out of reach of little hands, but still where I can see them and enjoy them.  Ask yourself: How important is something to me, if I haven’t used it or displayed it to be enjoyed?

When you are committed to getting rid of things and stick with it, you will begin to see huge progress!  I am so thankful that I took the time and hard work to do this.  It has paid off so much.

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About JaimieB

Jaimie lives with her husband on their off-grid homestead known online as An American Homestead. They live with their two sons and her parents Tim and Joann on 50 acres located deep in the American Ozark Mountains.

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15 comments

  1. Good morning, We have spent the last month going through ever room in our house. it has been a learning experience . It is unreal the amount of stuff we have that is of NO use to us. We had 2 yard sales and made enough to buy some needed hand tools ,plus the lack of clutter is a really great feeling.

    • I feel like I still constantly do this. Once I got started, I just can’t stop! Lack of clutter is a great feeling. I just filled up two trashbags from the boys’ room this week, one for donation and one for trash. I’m so proud of my oldest son for getting rid of things he doesn’t play with or use. He’s getting into it too!

  2. we are moving, I put everything right now in the trash who i think we don’t need that anymore 😀 lol

  3. Thanks for the article Jaimie. I am in the very early stages of de-cluttering my house and have a long way to go. One of the things on my list to do is to de-clutter my girls’ artwork by scanning it in and creating a photo book through Shutterfly. That way, they can keep it with them as they grow and will save a ton of space. I will still keep the essential pieces for sentimental value, though. 🙂

  4. My family has been talking for months now that we have to get rid of at least 50 percent of our belonging but most likely around 75 percent. We are planning on living in a RV while we prepare the land and build our house. Our goal is to be in the new house by Christmas 2016. Our family thinks we are crazy, so we were so excited to find out that you guys lived in one also, just not that long.
    Anyways this past week my husband and I set up to do a garage sale/ partial moving sale in our house. I was so surprised that I was having a hard time letting go of my things. I am so ready for this new life style but trying to let go of something’s that I barely use now was difficult fo me 🙁

    So we started our garage/moving sale on Friday and was planning on going all weekend. But man we had such an awesome day Friday we were running around the upstairs trying to find more stuff we could sale. Lol. So now we are even more motivated to weed out what we don’t need or love. And we are having another sale this coming up Thursday and Friday! Seeing all this stuff (that isn’t needed in the first place) go somewhere else is amazing. I really don’t know how I lived in all this clutter before.

    Thank you guys,
    Antonia

  5. Yeah we were thinking we would be hauling all this stuff to a goodwill. But thankfully most of it was sold!!! And yesterday we didn’t do as good as Friday. A lot of people that came on Friday said they prefer to go to them on Thursdays and Fridays while the kids are in school. So that is the plan.

  6. Hi Jaimie – I know this doesn’t have anything to do with getting rid of stuff (unless you count getting rid of the burden of coloring your hair and the money it costs to do so. AND the effect of the chemicals going into your body. Anyway, I digress.), but one of the things that I can get rid of is coloring my hair. However, my husband likes long hair and doesn’t want me to cut if off extremely short in order to grow it out naturally. After watching your videos, I had an ah-ha moment – I could wear head wraps while it is growing! Where do you get yours or do you sew them yourself?? We are enjoying watching your videos. It is amazing how everything that your husband says is EXACTLY what my husband has been leading us to do. He will finish his sentences sometimes as we are watching, which is entertaining. It has always made me a little nervous, so it is very encouraging for me to see you doing it and doing it well 🙂 Thanks for sharing your journey!!

    • Love it! I stopped coloring my hair several years ago. Gray is a good thing. 🙂 It was amazing how many “beauty” products that I threw away in our big purge. I’m so happy without all of it. I’ve purchased a lot of my scarves at Walmart because that is one of the few stores in my area. Most of them are just regular scarves that you see worn around women’s necks.

      • I loved this article …very encouraging to me! I long for a clutter free simple way of life. I am so tired of stuff , things and junk. We have 3 children (we home-school and they are all currently living at home.Ages 22,18,11…2 boys and 1 girl) So we have accumulated a lot of junk over the years. I have been working on cleaning up clutter which can be overwhelming sometimes but we are making progress and you have great tips here. It is crazy how we tend to put sentimental value on so many things,we are all (my fam) so bad about it. I wish I would have made better choices to teach them not to hold onto “stuff” for memory sake at an earlier age. Their artwork/crafts are so hard to put in the trash so I admit I have way to many tubs full. :/ sigh. But we are working on it now which is better than never. Thanks for writing&sharing encouragement! Lastly I have to add (though this was commented on some time ago) that I love your head wraps too Jamie 🙂 …in my opinion they sometimes look bohemian… which I love. If there is a certain way you put it in that style could you maybe do a simple “how to” steps in an article or maybe a step by step video tutorial on your bohemian style head wraps? 🙂

      • Can you please do a video on your head scarves, how do you wrap your hair so that it looks so pretty?

        I have a lot of hair and so I am looking for a way to cover my hair and protect it from getting dirty when I work outside, and near the bonfire.

        They don’t make bonnets anymore!

        🙂

  7. This was just what I needed, thank you! I’ve been recently forced to start this process, so your article was well timed, and helped me thing through my strategy. I’ve rid myself of many man items in the last couple weeks, and it feels good! Many more to come!

    Keep writing, friend!,
    Amy

  8. I LOVE your website and youtube channel. My husband and I have land and a cabin that we will be moving into soon. We are so excited and can’t wait to get in it but we have one more child at home that doesn’t want to leave her school/friends so we are trying to wait till May but it is hard. I am starting to go through stuff and get rid of it now. Our cabin is small and I won’t have room for unnecessary things. I have learned a lot from you. Thanks and God Bless!!
    Misty ☺

  9. Amen!! A year and a half ago our family sold our house and purchased a house half the size with a bigger back yard. We live in a small town and do not have the option right now to purchase land so we are suburban homesteaders! We have planted blueberry bushes, strawberries and blackberries. (just a small area, but it’s a start) and I have 2 raised beds for gardening, plus an herb garden and flowers because they are beautiful and bring bees! With our move we desired to simplify our lives and get rid of so much stuff. I so resonated with what you said about how now you know where things are and all your things have a “home.” It is sooo FREEING to get rid of clutter and stuff. I laughed when I read about how you felt so great throwing away lotion you don’t use–I felt the same way with all those toiletries! 🙂 We live a much more natural life–using essential oils, making lots of cleaning products and personal care products to avoid chemicals and toxins, etc. It was great to toss that stuff! 🙂

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