Help a Reader Out — How to Stop Holding Onto Stuff?

by Katy on August 31, 2011 · 75 comments

Yesterday, Naomi, a Non-Consumer Advocate reader posted this question over at the Facebook group:

“While I absolutely believe that less is more, and aspire to a more minimalist approach, the fact that I also like to not purchase stuff means that I tend to hang onto things ‘in case’ they are useful. I end up with piles of shoes that have a little bit more wear left in them, spares for when things do break down, clothes that I mean to get round to altering, and random stuff that was donated by friends who know I am ‘thrifty’. So I end up with more stuff than if I were to just go out and buy new when I needed it. If anyone has any advice on how they deal with this dilemma it would be much appreciated. Thanks.”

Non-Consumer Advocate group members have been putting their two cents in like crazy, but I thought I would open it up to blog readers at large.

I know that I struggle with this as well, although more so in the past than at present. Buying only used and focusing on frugal definitely steers me towards holding onto stuff “just in case.” On the other hand, that “just in case” mentality can lead to a cluttering up a home with piles of unnecessary stuff. (Mind you, my house is still clutter-y, but massively less so than in the past.)

I am lucky enough to live in a big house, which means that I do have room for backup possessions. But that doesn’t mean that I should fill it to the rafters. Just last week I was going through the dresser that my husband and I share. His T-shirt drawer had become so full that it was hard to close. So I dumped everything out onto the bed to discover that my husband was holding onto a dozen or so stained and paint encrusted T-shirts for when he’s working on the house. So I asked him:

“Do you really think that you’ll be in a situation where you’re going to work on the house 12 days in a row without the option of doing laundry?”

Saying this out loud made my husband realize that it was not necessary to keep these shirts just in case. And now, there are a perfect number of shirts in the drawer, which opens and closes with ease.

What advice do you have for Naomi? How do you address the issue of holding onto stuff “just in case?”

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”

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{ 75 comments… read them below or add one }

cj sime August 31, 2011 at 8:00 am

Define LOVE in your possessions. I have been working down my collection of stuff and I have two items in particular that I have no clue how best display them, but I LOVE them. On the other hand, there was lots I was holding on to that didn’t evoke the same sense of joy in ownership. GONE!!

I also ask myself, is this item replacable if I decided I needed it in 6 months? More often than not, the answer is yes it is replacable, but 6 months rolls around, and I find I don’t remember what it was.


robin August 31, 2011 at 8:02 am

One thing that has helped me was reading Don Aslett’s book “The High Cost of Keeping Stuff”. Very eye-opening!


fiwa August 31, 2011 at 8:19 am

I only have 968 square feet in my home – there really is no room to hold on to anything for “just in case”. I have a hard time figuring out where to put an extra roll of toilet paper. 😉

I guess I would look at it like this – what is going to make you happier, having some extra space and less clutter in your home, or having that stuff around just in case. I buy everything used anyway, so I’m just as happy to have an excuse to run down to a thrift store and poke around or keep an eye out at garage sales for things I need.

I do have a question though – specifically about those paint stained t-shirts. What do you do with those kinds of items? Do you throw them away? That always makes me feel sooo guilty, but I’d also feel bad taking something like that to Goodwill because I doubt anyone else would want it…


Katy August 31, 2011 at 8:29 am

I struggle with the same question, “Is this too crappy to donate to Goodwill. Am I just burdening them with stuff they can’t sell?” I know that they sell too-worn-out-to-sell blue jeans to a company that shreds it up for insulation. And I think they deal with rag companies, although I’m not really sure.



fiwa August 31, 2011 at 10:18 am

Wow – I didn’t know that about the blue jeans. I love that!


Laure August 31, 2011 at 6:05 pm

I believe it may vary by charity, but most of the big ones don’t let anything go to waste. Some worn out clothes they sell by the pound for rags and some things – possibly your shirts with holes/paint/etc – they ship to impoverished countries/refugee camps/etc and give away. It’s the reason you sometimes see people in dire straits wearing old GAP tshirts, etc. It’s all part of the mission of the charities. I was told by them to donate anything (worn out shoes, etc) and let them decide. In addition to the blue jeans, the soles of old running shoes are often recycled into the soft base that playground equipment sits on in cities.


Lisa@Granola Catholic September 4, 2011 at 7:49 pm

I was told the same info, donate anything you think may be useful, not all of it ends up in the thrift stores, but they can sort out what is useful. So I rarely throw anything out unless it is beyond what I would use myself, instead I will donate it.


Mary September 1, 2011 at 9:48 am

At the construction company I work for, we buy “rags”directly from Goodwill. They sell the old stained t-shirts by the pound. We then cut them up to the size we need. Sometimes there will be some pretty nasty ones in there and sometimes some pretty decent ones. It saves our company a lot of money. So yes even your old t-shirts are put to good use. Just please wash them first. The dirty ones aren’t real fun to handle!


Jackie September 2, 2011 at 5:38 am

I cut up old t-shirts for cleaning rags. When I have plenty of cleaning rags, I set a box of t-shirts and other stuff out at the curb and put up a “free” sign.

There is a lot of traffic on my street including all the lawn crews. The guys who paint houses and mow lawns are glad to have more t-shirts.


Megg August 31, 2011 at 8:53 am

I’ve heard too that Goodwill will recycle for money to support them (because they’re mostly non-profit) so I don’t mind donating worn out things (obviously I draw the line at socks and underwear though!)


Connie August 31, 2011 at 8:22 am

I know myself really really well. So I know that if an item is really not working in it’s present form, I will never remake it into something useful again. BUT I also know that if something else needs a minor repair (like a button) I will scavenge from the old items anything that will help in the minor repair.

So what I keep are the buttons and other things that are enable fixing other items.


ellie August 31, 2011 at 10:37 am

Connie – I had to giggle – I have roughly 62,000 buttons for the same reason you save them — maybe I’ll have to re-think this. (But they don’t take up much room).


Linda September 1, 2011 at 5:30 am

I too had the mega button collection “just in case & for craft projects” until a I saw a post on freecycle WANTED: buttons for my daughters school project. I sorted out what I was willing to part with and now I only have 31,000.


Fernanda September 1, 2011 at 5:42 am

Hey Ellie, I need some buttons but have very few that I’ve saved. Maybe we could chat and I could tell you what I need and you could send me some–I’d be happy to pay postage. Drop me a line.


Terri August 31, 2011 at 8:43 am

For me, it’s a spiritual issue. Do I trust that God will meet my needs or not? If I do, then it’s not necessary to hold onto every last bit of stuff. Also, I think that being unwilling to part with “stuff” can be a form of idolatry. Ever since I grasped both of these concepts, getting rid of stuff has been a breeze!


anotherhousewife September 1, 2011 at 7:46 am

I love that perspective!


Debbie Donovan September 1, 2011 at 9:44 am

@Terry I also agree with your perspective. I remember reading it in a book called Clearing your clutter with feng shui” by Karen Kingston. I keep needing to remind myself of that concept all the time. She did a great job of breaking the reasons for keeping specific types of items into psychological issues–oh so helpful.


Megg August 31, 2011 at 8:51 am

I have a general rule of thumb that I try to use on my husband, who happens to get attached to the most random things. If you don’t use it within a year, then you don’t need it.
As for your shoes and clothes, try putting them all in a separate closet. Every morning go to your main closet and pick clothes from there first. If you don’t like what you see, then go to the other closet. At the end of a year, look at what you have in the other closet and donate those clothes because you obviously haven’t worn them in a year. At first, obviously, you’ll be going to the other closet all the time, but as time goes on I think you’ll find that there are things that you aren’t wearing. You can do this with your shoes too.
Also, as far as mending things…I’d say that if it’s been waiting around for a few months, just donate it (goodwill can recycle things they can’t use for money).


Raf September 2, 2011 at 3:44 am

I just got rid of a pile of “somewhere” clothes which I was keeping with a lot of excuses. Well, I feel much lighter without it. And the clothes seem a lot STILL. 🙂
My closet is now tidy and I really made my mind that every item in it must be something I truly love to wear. I’m testing myself when I’m getting dressed. I look at something (right for the season, of course) and tell myself “ok, if you like it wear it NOW”. If I don’t, it’s another item for the Red Cross bin!


Cyndi August 31, 2011 at 8:53 am

For me, it took two realizations to be able to deal with this:
1) There is so much stuff in the world that unless something is extremely rare or unusual, I will easily be able to replace it if necessary.
2) I’m saving so much money by buying quality/used and taking care of our stuff, that if I do find myself needing something, I will be able to buy it.

I want to let others have a chance to use my stuff and I want to have more room.


Carolyn August 31, 2011 at 9:42 am

I am a professional organizer near Ann Arbor, Michigan. I help folks let go one on one and in the seminars that I give. Here are my “rules” (they aren’t so hard and fast) from my downsizing seminar on how to decide what stays and what goes:

Keep It If:
You use it, love it and it makes you feel good.

Let It Go If:
You “might” use it “someday” (someone else could be using it now)
You hate it
Or it makes you feel terrible (no time for bad karma, fung shui or whatever you believe in)


Katy August 31, 2011 at 3:40 pm

I love this, thanks!



harriet August 31, 2011 at 5:59 pm

Could someone help me figure out what to do with my children’s toys? My kids are 14 and 17 now, but I can’t seem to let go of their toys and neither can they. It would be nice to save at least some of it for their own kids, but my daughter’s American Girl stuff (for one example) takes up a lot of room and clutters the house. It feels like I’m throwing away their childhoods to get rid of it.

Am I the only mom who feels this way? It’s so hard for me. And yet, we have TOO MUCH STUFF.


Rachel August 31, 2011 at 6:27 pm

Here is how my mom worked out the childhood nostalgia for the 4 kids in my family after we reached the age of 8 or 10: let each kid have one or two or three moving boxes of “important kid stuff” and pack it away in a closet, garage, out-of-the-way corner; wait a few years; have each kid go through the boxes and sift through; repack what remains; repeat until your kids are living on their own. Many things that were really important to me at age 12 (my 6th grade basketball team trophy and friendship bracelet from summer camp) were not so important at age 16, and laughably not important at age 22. My mom did set aside a box or two of special toys and books for her own memories and for the possible future grandkids.


Molly September 2, 2011 at 5:36 am

My American Girl stuff is actually the only stuff that I kept and took with me when I moved out of my parents’ house. I’m now 27, and I’m keeping it. I gave my Breyer horses to a little girl who looooooves them, I have one shelf of childrens books, and that’s it. We don’t intend to have children, so why would I keep stuff I don’t *really* want now?


harriet September 2, 2011 at 9:49 am

Thanks, but none of this really answers my question. I know I can take boxes and put stuff in it and give the rest away. The problem is the heartache.

Erica September 2, 2011 at 5:31 pm

I don’t have any kids, but I have experience on the kids side of things. My brother and I wanted to keep almost all of our toys. Even when we grew older, and out of interest, we insisted she keep them stored in the garage.

You just need to have an honest conversation with them and get them involved in the experience. It’s hard to let go of “things”, but when I knew the things I loved were going to be loved again it made me feel really happy. And once we got rid of most of it, we all felt a lot better. Sometimes, you just have to DO it.

And you aren’t throwing away their childhood, you’re just sharing them with others. It’s hard to get through, but once you get through it you will all be better for it.


Renee September 3, 2011 at 10:10 am

I am glad that I save the quality Fisher Price play sets for my grandchildren who love the original Little People. But I understand the feeling of throwing away your past. I am going through that now, downsizing in retirement. If there’s no more room in the special memory box, and something has to go, be sure and take a picture of it, and put it in the memory box.

AMT September 7, 2011 at 11:32 am

When I am dealing with sentimental items I ask myself some questions:

1. Could someone else benefit from this item right now? This is useful for books, toys, etc. that are just sitting in my closet. I try to focus on sending love out into the world instead of keeping it to myself.
2. I try to look to the future. Instead of saying goodbye to your kids’ childhood, look at what wonderful teenagers and future adults they are becoming. Welcome this new stage with open arms because it is fantastic and exciting. Be in the moment and don’t miss these good times!
3. I also think about what will happen to the item when I am gone. Will it be valuable to anyone else? If the answer is no, then toss it. Do I really want to leave my loved ones to sort through a lot of my personal items?


Katherine August 31, 2011 at 10:41 am

When we moved into our apartment with minimal closet and kitchen space, my friend Bev told me “all the space you see here is all the space you have”.

If you have space (literally and figuratively) to hold on to a few “just in case” items, then do it. If your closet is maxed out or the drawers won’t shut (great example!) then you need to re-examine the space you have and remember to live comfortably in it. Like living within your financial means- live within your space means, as well. Trust that you will be able to find another _____ when yours breaks down in two years, and you don’t need to hold onto that spare part right now.

My two cents.


Juhli August 31, 2011 at 11:53 am

If I were in this situation I would look at the items by category, select the best one (best condition, love it the most, etc.) and next best one. I’d use the best one – otherwise why do I have it? Obviously in the case of categories where multiples are necessary (e.g. socks, plates, etc.) I’d first define the number needed for routine use just as you did with your laundry question. Then I’d pick the right number best ones and add one as back up. The rest would go out the door.


Jo August 31, 2011 at 12:12 pm

I struggle greatly with this issue as well. So, no advice, just anxious hovering in hopes of finding nuggets of wisdom.

Katy, would you consider printing the facebook answers here? I do not belong to facebook and not even this issue will make me join 🙂


Laura's Last Ditch--Vintage Kitchenwares August 31, 2011 at 12:20 pm

I like to save spares of things that are harder to find at a reasonable price and I know I’ll need FOR SURE. I have a hard time finding sandals I like in my size, so I don’t mind having a spare for when my current ones are worn.

I don’t need spare shirts, because those are easy to find at thrift stores.

So, I ask myself, “What’s the worst that will happen if I get rid of this?”

If the worst case is great inconvenience or unreasonable expense, it stays. If it’s very minor inconvenience or minimal expense, it can go.

The best thing, though, is to manage the intake. It’s hard to pass up something really cheap or free. Some people feel they OUGHT to take something cheap or free that they might be able to use. The way I keep myself from taking excess to begin with is to figure I will leave it to bless someone else.


Molly September 2, 2011 at 5:37 am

Me too on the shoes! I have too many for me to enjoy right now, but I know that I won’t be able to find a plain pair of black comfortable heels when I need them, so I’ll buy and keep a spare now.


Samantha August 31, 2011 at 12:41 pm

I watched a great TED talk a few weeks ago where Jessi Arrington was talking about thrift store shopping. She finished off on a great note saying that it’s okay to let go, you don’t need to get emotionally attached to things because around the corner there is always going to be something else. I try to adopt this for myself – if I don’t need it now, I let it go. When I need something I’ve always managed to find it by thrifting, asking friends, or checking local classifieds.


Jo August 31, 2011 at 1:25 pm

I’m not sure this would work for clothing, though, especially if you are hard to fit like I am. I can search for months even at full retail prices to find pants to fit.


Samantha August 31, 2011 at 1:54 pm

Perhaps not for you, but most people do not fall into the category of hard to fit. My cousin is 6’4″ so she cannot easily pick up pants, but then again, she’s also not likely to ever be in the position of having “too much” clothing since she doesn’t come by it easily.


Sara Tetreault August 31, 2011 at 1:13 pm

We go with the “if something comes in (found, bought used, given, hand-me-down, purchased new, etc.), something must go out” strategy. Keep the river flowing! I keep a box for donations handy so every family member can add to it when something no longer fits, is too stained or isn’t fashionable enough. I have been burned by NOT keeping things mind you – I recently went to put on a jacket that I had parted with years ago!


Beth August 31, 2011 at 5:09 pm

Occasionally I have that happen too 🙂 At first I’m annoyed, then I think my sweater/coat/shoes were probably getting more use in someone else’s home than in mine, so that makes it okay again!


Kate August 31, 2011 at 2:53 pm

I think ideally I’d be like others suggested in the comments – don’t worry about “just in case” and buy replacement items as needed. I haven’t quite gotten to being that confident yet but I’m working on it.

Katy’s post is really close to what I would suggest. One organizing book I read (I’m pretty sure it was It’s Just Too Much) pointed out that you have a certain amount of storage space in your home – x feet of closet space, y cubic feet of drawer space, etc. Whatever you have has to fit in that space. So if you only have space for 5 just-in-case shirts, you can only have 5 just-in-case shirts. Or look at the clothes by function, like Katy did with her husband’s shirts. I have one junky pair of sneakers for cutting the grass and other dirty tasks, and when a nicer pair wears out they become the new junky sneakers. But I only need one pair of junky sneakers at a time, so the old ones have to go – no saving them in case I tear the new ones or anything like that!


Indigo August 31, 2011 at 2:54 pm

Until very recently, I have always lived in very small spaces (Think under 500 sqft, I’ve “upgraded” into a 1,000 sqft house I share with a friend, my big dog, cat, and whoever’s dog(s) I’m looking after.) So bringing home just one extra item could make my place feel overstuffed. As a result I’ve developed an excellent method for controlling the madness of too much.

1. Does it serve a real purpose, and how often?

Do I need an ice cream machine because I thought at one time that might be fun? NO! Do I use my electric kettle everyday (sometimes several times0 Yes! Do I love walking by and looking at that piece of art. Yes! So the kettle and artwork stay, and the ice cream machine is left at Goodwill.

2. Where will it go?

I have a terrible time finding cloths that fit, especially work cloths. I’m barely 5’3 and I have yet to find any retailer offline that keeps men’s professional wear in that size. So If I find something that needs very little altering, or that holy grail of an off the rack item. I pick it up. As for that ceramic cup, chair, etc. If I can’t picture where it will go in my home, it isn’t coming home with me.


rosa rugosa August 31, 2011 at 3:45 pm

I like Katharine’s analogy of living within your space means being like living within your financial means. So true, and that’s a useful way to look at it. I also agree with Indigo that if I can’t picture where it’s going to go in my little house, then it isn’t coming home with me!
I find that being a good gatekeeper and keeping out of stores unless I really need something is key. I also have very definite ideas about what I want and what I like. I find that if I buy something that’s almost right, I will keep on buying almosts. But if I hold out until I find what I really want, I will be happy with it and keep it forever, or until it wears out.


Renee September 3, 2011 at 10:15 am

I tend to buy “almosts” on Craigslist, use them while looking for “just right” and when I do find it, put the “almost” back on Craigslist. I’ve actually made a little money at it!


Shannon Breen August 31, 2011 at 4:03 pm

That’s so funny! I was JUST having one of those moments last night. My 12 year old son just keeps growing and many of his t-shirts were starting to stretch across his midsection more than is flattering. I brought home half a dozen shirts from the consignment store, then started pulling the tight ones out of his closet. I was going to put them in storage for his little sister and then I had to stop myself. Yes, it’s possible she might have need for an old t-shirt for art camp, but does it have to be big brother’s? And even if the shirt is in good condition, is she likely to wear a black one with a T-Rex on the front? (Not my girl.)

I ended up tossing about 10 shirts into the Goodwill bag while putting aside a couple with the school logo for my daughter. I’m always trying to find that line that divides hoarding from legitimately holding onto things for future use. I try to ask myself the odds that I’ll REALLY need the item again or won’t have an acceptable substitute (as with the shirts). If there’s a relatively small chance I’ll need it and it’s not a super expensive item, I let it go.


Beth August 31, 2011 at 5:06 pm

I love how many people are pointing out “someone else could be using it today” — that’s what I try to remember when getting rid of things. I feel that just as I am provided for, that I should help provide for others. That means owning up to my buying mistakes and learning to share.

One of the best tips I read once was to take a picture of something if it has sentimental meaning (keep the pictures, not the items!) My friends can’t believe I haven’t kept a single special occasion dress (prom, formal, bridesmaid dress). I’m happy to know those dresses are off in the world being party of other people’s special days, and I helped make it happen!


Ann September 1, 2011 at 7:48 am

Special occasion dresses kept “forever” become crumbled old relics in the bottom of a chest. For someone else to discard in the trash – which could have been part of someone else’s party only if given away while still useable. I know…I just had to de-junk a chest of my late mother…found her dress from the 1944 West Point Hop in a box. It crumbled to dust in my hands. Why had she kept it? Who knows? But it had moved from NY to SC to IL to NB to IL to KS to NJ to NY to SC to CA over the 67 years.


Ann September 1, 2011 at 7:51 am

AND…I never knew she had it!!


Renee September 3, 2011 at 10:21 am

Oh no! I have a box of prom dresses (not very fancy, it was the ’60’s) but my mother made them and they are beautifully done. I have shortened most of them to wear when I was a young mom and needed to dress up for some reason or another. I’ll have to think about that one. I know none of my children will want them. I do have 3 grandaughters, hmmmmm……


Linda H. September 1, 2011 at 9:52 am

People gasp when I tell them that I donated my wedding dress, veil and shoes. I wanted someone else to be able to wear it again when it was still in style. I am not having any children, so no daughter would ever wear it. I felt so happy giving it away!


Lisa P. August 31, 2011 at 5:21 pm

To be honest I tend to keep things for “just in case”. Lately they have been coming in handy (a filter hose on the pool popped a leak and I saved a lot of water by having a spare on hand). For me the key is organization. As long as an item has a home & I can locate it when needed I think it’s fine to keep. On the other hand I just got rid of many plastic containers (from spreadable butter etc) that I was saving and now only keep a couple in the garage if I need a small one for paint or something. When I use one I’ll clean out another and save it. I tend to have many plastic food saving types of bowls but am trying to clean out to only the bpa free – BUT when I had to stuff my freezer full of ice before Irene this week I filled them all w/ water and made big ice cubes. I don’t think having something handy is bad at all ~ the key for me is keeping things organized.


Laure August 31, 2011 at 6:14 pm

This makes total sense to me – keep what you have space for AND can keep organized, so you know you have it. (I also have too many of the disposable plastic containers, and they need to go. Too bad Chicago won’t recycle them! I keep thinking I’ll bring them to the suburbs, but don’t, sigh.)
I think it really varies for each person. I have been going through a terrible financial time, and not buying anything that isn’t food. Clothes/shoes/sheets/towels have continued to wear out, etc. and I am moving through what I had accumulated. I wouldn’t be able to afford to buy replacements. I do LOVE the additional space of less stuff, though, so when my finances improve, I’ll save the $ for “in case” instead of getting more stuff.
I also don’t live anywhere near second-hand shops, so don’t have that option. If I did, and could very frugally replace anything that wears out/breaks that I need, I’d be more willing to part with more now, so again, I think it varies for each person.


susmcl August 31, 2011 at 8:43 pm

I am with you~I don’t want to pitch things that I won’t be able to repurchase due to expense, plus~~the quality of so many new items is so poor compared to older purchases that I own already.


Indigo September 1, 2011 at 1:43 pm

Contact a local school’s art teacher. We always need them to hold crayons, pastels, scissors, pencils, water, you name it. Remember reuse comes before recycle!


Karen August 31, 2011 at 5:50 pm

So true, Lisa. I was cleaning out a kitchen drawer this week and ran across some packaged tubing which I had found at a thrift store for a buck. I bought it a few years ago because I was looking for tubing in order to decant homemade liqueur into the final container.

The trouble is, I forgot I had the tubing, it got stuffed in a drawer, and I and gradually lost interest in making my own liqueurs. So I just donated it to Goodwill–I couldn’t think of another use for it. I am now inclined to write down my thrift store purchases, which hopefully will prevent the above scenario!


Shannon August 31, 2011 at 6:01 pm

I have, totally unscientifically, determined that only one out of every thirty-seven things I keep “just in case” ever gets used. By that rationale, I basically get rid of things on the premise that even the one thing I could maybe use “someday” has only a sliver of a chance of being unburied from all the other stuff. I also believe that useful stuff has energy—it is way better off going out the door to someone who might actually use it. I figure if I’m always giving, the universe will bring me what I need when I need it 🙂


Jan Horwood September 19, 2011 at 8:38 pm

I love that idea!


Katrina August 31, 2011 at 6:49 pm

With 5 people living in under 1,000 square feet, space is a premium. When three of those five people are under the age of 5 and constantly growing, I am finding storage of clothing to be a problem. I know in a year I will need my oldest son’s clothes for his younger brother, but storing it takes up so much space. While I have gotten better at getting rid of badly stained or ripped clothing, I still feel like our entire attic space contains kid’s clothing and toys waiting for someone to grow into them.

Does anyone have any suggestions or ideas on how to store kid’s clothing when you know you will need most of it later?


Jo August 31, 2011 at 8:53 pm

Is it possible to store clothing in the closet of the child who will be wearing it next? Sometimes hanging things takes less room than folding and packing them. Could you store some under the child’s bed? Will the clothing be the right size when it is the right season for it? If not, it could be weeded out now too. It’s also possible you won’t need as many “kept” things for the second child if your family and friends give clothing or toys for birthdays and holidays – if you keep fewer things he will still have plenty through gifts.

The only other suggestion I would make is to be sure to think of the stored items first when he starts needing a bigger size. It’s easy to forget them sometimes – out of sight, out of mind! My friend used to make a special deal out of taking her younger child “shopping” in the attic. I always thought that was a neat approach.


Indigo September 1, 2011 at 1:47 pm

I’m one of five kids, so we had the same issue. My mum actually bough beanbags for us that did not have the stuffing in them and would unzip and fill them with folded cloths intended for us for when we grew into them. Served as kid friendly seating and as soon as we needed to store more things we had to take stuff out. They were wrinkled to be sure, but it worked really well for us.


Jan Horwood September 19, 2011 at 8:43 pm

What an awesome idea!


Heather August 31, 2011 at 6:52 pm

having stuff is stressful. . . sometimes having to purchase a “something” that I got rid of is better than keeping all kinds of stuff “in case”.


Anne Weber-Falk September 1, 2011 at 5:57 am

You said it! I will show my mother this comment. She is a hoarder. The stuff has taken over her life. She is very stressed about the mountains of stuff and where to start and how to start and where to put it and what if I need it later but I got rid of it…AHHHH! What is really awful is that she has so much that she winds up buying more because she can’t find what she already has or what she has is ruined because she didn’t take the care to putting it away.


Su Mama August 31, 2011 at 7:19 pm

The Almighty FlyLady says if it doesn’t make you smile when you look at it, pitch it. Working alongside Katy some month ago, I was able to use that advice. One of the things I was delighted to dump was a nasty amber-colored vase that was a gift from someone nearly 50 years ago, a person who turned out to be a jerk! Every time I looked at it, I got PO’ed again! Buh-bye!

Like Ellie, however, I too have something like 62,000 buttons.


ellen September 1, 2011 at 4:49 am

Good topic….
they say if you do not use something in 6 months then you really do not need it…
The stuff overwelms me , I am working on getting less stuff…


Anne Weber-Falk September 1, 2011 at 5:51 am

I think the T-shirts say it all for your reader. You hold onto eight or ten pairs of worn shoes because they have a little more wear in them but you can only wear one pair of shoes at a time. If you can think of this when you open your closet/drawers more often it could help. What also helped me was realizing how many things I had at the back of the closet for “just in case” and how many people in my community didn’t have enough for every day. Why would I keep all those shoes that are gathering dust when there are people walking around with holes in their shoes. Thinking of this has me going through the house twice a year looking for things to donate to those in need. I work for PADS and what I see saddens me. Winter is coming so I make an extra effort this time of year. Perhaps you could find a cause as that could help motivate you too.


anotherhousewife September 1, 2011 at 8:01 am

I once was nearly homeless and lived out of a backpack for sometime so getting attached to stuff is not an issue for me. My husband, who still had clothes from high school when we met, is another story.
For Clothes: I saw once to hang them with the hanger the opposite way and once you wear it place it back the correct way. After a select period of time whatever is not the correct way, toss! We did this for 6months x 2 to account for Summer/Winter clothes and it was eye opening for my husband and he was more willing to part with things.
T-Shirts: My husband played and still plays sports and so do my kids and because of that we have t-shirts for this team/tournament coming out of our ears. Of course they all mark a “special” event. I found recently you can make a quilt using all of those shirts and I can double it as gift!
Kids School Work/Crafts. etc. I take pictures of things I think are cute or important and toss the rest. I do have a slim file for each kid of things I keep but I either frame them or file them away.
For any other things my hubby says he “might” need I put it away and after 6 months to a year if he hasn’t “needed” it, it gets tossed!


Sheryl September 1, 2011 at 10:27 am

I’ve used the backwards hanger trick, and it’s great! It really helped me downsize what’s in my closet, and now what’s in there fits and is regularly worn. The only exception I made were a few items that I only wear to “events” (e.g., extra nice blouses for parties, a couple of suits for infrequent business meetings, etc.) I just occasionally try them on to make certain they still fit, and that they don’t look dated, require cleaning, etc.


Ellie September 1, 2011 at 6:00 pm

I do have to say, I have experience with this issue “on the other end”, so to speak, so I’m a little torn.

When it came time for me to “set up shop” on my own, I was actually really glad that my mother is such a pack rat! She had extras of EVERYTHING in her basement! I have a well-stocked kitchen, and have barely spent a cent on pots, pans, dishes, serving platters, flatware, glasses, napkin holders, etc. Most of my small appliances (toaster, blender, mixer, iron, etc.) are all things that were in good condition when she “scavaged” from cleaning out elderly relatives’ homes, and put in the basement “for when you need it.” Well, the time came that I did want those things, and I got them all for free! Ditto the extra furniture she kept in the basement – I’m sitting on some of it now.

So I’m a little torn…on one hand, I understand the battle against clutter and holding on to things you don’t need. On the other hand, I’ve been the direct beneficiary of a basement full of “stuff”, so I can see the point of hanging on to stuff – or at least, useful, working stuff – for the future, if you have a kid like me, who will be thrilled to furnish her home with free vintage things!

On the other hand, clithes are a different matter – that’s an area where I think it’s better to get rid off things. With the exception of a few things that get used infrequently but which I know will get dragged out again after a hiatus (for example, my hiking boots), I say if you didn’t wear it this year, you probably won’t wear it next year!

(Note – it looks like we have two Ellie’s! i’ve been posting here as Ellie for a few months, but I’m not the Ellie who posted above!)


Laure September 2, 2011 at 4:15 am

Interesting point. I also have never purchased pots, pans, any kitchenware… I have such a large family that whenever someone is ready to “set up housekeeping” it seems someone else is getting married and willing to share their bachelor possessions, or we can all just cull our collections and rustle up enough.
I think this still falls into what others’ have said above, though. It depends on how much space you have, and what your needs will be. In these cases, as I currently have several members in college, we know that they will soon want to set up housekeeping. So we aren’t saving things “just in case.” Also, a few family members have a lot of extra space, so they generally get to be the keepers in the interim.
However, if we kept things with no reasonably foreseeable purpose, or were crowding ourselves out due to lack of storage space, then it could compromise our quality of life. It varies for everyone, but it seems the criteria for keeping/purging are generally applicable…which I need to get better at, LOL!


Melissa September 2, 2011 at 9:02 am

I’m pretty good about letting stuff go (even my wedding dress, because the thought of some bride-to-be with no money being able to buy a wedding dress for her big day made it easy), but for some reason I couldn’t let go of the books I bought back in college as an English major. Over twenty years ago. I finally just the other day asked myself if I were really going to re-read some of those books, especially since I keep checking new ones out of the library! I challenged myself to get rid of five books and was easily able to toss five times that many in the goodwill box. Besides, if I ever really, really want to re-read Main Street, I’m pretty sure I can either pony up the $1.99 at Goodwill or find it at the library.


hydra September 4, 2011 at 9:35 am

Funny that you mention Main Street. I recently found a copy of this on my book shelf. I don’t remember ever having bought it, though it’s possible I bought it for an English class in college. Finally read it (10 years later)! Glad I’ve held onto it, but now that I’ve read it, time to pass it along. Great book!


Carla September 2, 2011 at 6:51 pm

I struggle with this too. We have 3 kids under 5 and we get lots of hand-me-downs (thankfully!) which I have to store. I struggle with how much to store and etc., but it’s really nice to have clothes ready for the kids when the season changes, they grow, etc. My kids are so used to just getting new things from the basement that my middle kid refuses to try on shoes at a store, she will only wear shoes if I just give them to her and say here, wear them, and she loves them. However, as soon as the youngest finishes wearing something, out it goes.

I think the key is to keep only as much stuff as you can easily find and you know where it is. Once it’s in an unknown place, you might as well not have it.


Sarah September 4, 2011 at 12:18 pm

Count up how many outfits your kids wear now. Keep that many in the next size up, plus a couple for accidents, including the washer broke type accidents.
Or count how many of each kind of clothing (x pairs of shorts, x t-shirts, x pairs of dress shoes) the child has now and keep that many plus a couple in case of accident.
Everything else in that size can go. Try to match seasons when deciding how much to keep – they’re probably want more shorts in summer than in winter. Be sure everything you keep goes with something else to make an outfit.
And of course, if your kid wears only beige, don’t bother keeping that orange plaid shirt.


Miss Roman Apartment September 4, 2011 at 11:31 am

I live in a little house and have access to all sorts of great used stuff. One of the things that keeps my house from being overwhelmed: I put a “use by” date on everything. (Sometimes with an actual sticker). If I haven’t worn that shirt in a year, it’s gone. If I haven’t repaired that chair by July 14th, it’s going back out on the curb. How many sweaters can I actually knit in my lifetime? Do I need that yarn in my house?

Anything you can live without using for a year, is probably something you can either live without forever, or find a replacement for down the road when you actually do need it.


Jan Horwood September 19, 2011 at 9:07 pm

I had a huge problem with this. I would say I was bordering on becoming a hoarder. The problem started when my ex and I bought a house with my parents – and each brought a five-ton truck full of stuff to it!! Then my husband and I separated, and eventually my friend moved in with her two kids and house full of stuff. Then my dad died and mum went into a home because of Alzheimer’s. I was left with all the belongings of my broken family, all the kids’ memories, my parents’ stuff – none of which I was ready to part with, plus I felt I had to hold on to it for my siblings – and my friend’s stuff. I became very overwhelmed, depressed, lethargic and unable to deal with the clutter and mess everywhere.

The first thing that helped me turn the corner was a very kind and loving friend came over and helped my go through my bookshelves. She questioned me gently on every single book and why I was keeping it, until I was putting more in the giveaway box than back on the shelf. Another friend came over to help with another difficult area, and I have been working slowly but surely, ever since. I probably took a box or more to Goodwill every week for over a year. That’s slowing down a bit now.

The great thing is, I’m getting over my depression and enjoying my MUCH cleaner, more organized house. I find it’s very much connected to my self-esteem. When my house is clean and organized, I feel much better than if it’s cluttered and dirty.

By the way, I also rented a storage unit and put most of my parents’ stuff in there, except what I wanted to keep. When my siblings are ready, it’s there for them.

Great topic, lots of great posts!


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