Less Stuff, More Peace of Mind — It’s Not Just About The Stuff

by Katy on August 19, 2011 · 16 comments

I’ve noticed along my journey of owning less stuff that I am taking better care of the things that I choose to own. Not only does almost everything have a proper place to be stored when not in use, but most of the stuff that I was ambivalent about in the past has since been donated or sold. I’ve also noticed that the more I get rid of stuff, the happier I am in my home.

So what’s left? Mostly just the objects that I like and appreciate. (Note that I didn’t write that everything I own is functional, as I am still very sentimental and appreciative of cool old stuff.) I do still have a number of what-the-hell-am-I-supposed-to-do-with-this piles of paperwork. However, there’s finally some breathing room around the objects that I choose to call “mine.”

I have pretty much moved away from things getting broken, filthy or generally messed up because they’re not being stored properly. (If you’ve ever watched Hoarders, you’ve seen people unearthing their family heirlooms, only to find that they’ve been ruined from years of lying under a pile of crap.)

Another side effect of winnowing down my belongings, is that I can quickly and easily find my things. No longer do I waste time looking all over the place for that certain thingamabob, so there’s less frustration that enters my daily mentality.

I find that it’s so more restful to not be bombarded with immense amounts of visual stimuli in my home The inherent guilty stabs of “Oh crap, I’ve got to deal with that,” which then imprison me in a constant stress state.

I posted the question of “Do you treat your belongings better now that there’s less?” on my Twitter feed to Tammy Strobel of Rowdy Kittens and Dave Bruno of The 100 Thing Challenge, to which I got this response:


“In short, yes. Part of that has to do with a change in my mindset. For me living simply has taught me to be grateful for what I have. It’s a whole lot easier to take care of what’s in your life instead of heading the mall and I think that can be applied to any living circumstance.”


“Just a reminder, simplicity isn’t only about decluttering. It’s about freedom from consumerism. Freedom to be meaningful.”

So what is it, is decluttering about freedom from stuff  or is decluttering about your mindset?

Yes. No. Both.

Mindful owning of less stuff allows a person to pull their focus away from maintaining/paying for/cleaning/organizing their things and move towards, well . . . whatever that person’s passion may happen to be.

I am by no means a minimalist, but I am also not a hoarder. I am a person who has worked very hard (five days of garage sales plus countless Goodwill trips) to get the point where keeping my stuff maintained is no longer the main focus of my days. And if you ask me where my such-and-such is, I am likely to provide an immediate answer. I do still have a few problem zones in my enormous house, but those areas are happily now the exception.

Which is my happy state of mind.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Twitter.

Click HERE to join The Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook group.


{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

H. Wayne Hastrup (@FosterHope) August 19, 2011 at 12:09 pm

Decluttering has been for me a change in mindset. I come from a family of people who walk the hoarding fine line. Decluttering my own stuff has freed me from wanting to acquire more. As much as it hurts to get rid of things, it’s also a lesson in not having to go through that again in the future. I just emptied the garage two weeks ago and I feel better about getting rid of stuff that I’ve been transporting from apartments to apartments to our house over a 15+ year period. I used to pay storage for some of the crud I got rid of. Ugh. But the mindset also funnels over into other areas as well. As we’ve tried to reduce what we already have we’re trying to reduce what we bring in (which is helpful since losing my job 11 months ago). So there’s a spill over to our finances as well. And then we also have started looking at our diets, too. When we tried the whole “extreme” couponing thing we wound up buying a lot of food and things we didn’t really “need” simply because we were saving money on it. Now I try to buy the food and we need and a better quality of food (organic) and worry less about the quantity and in the end, I actually saved money, and even lost a few pounds. So decluttering is part of a greater snowball that has implications on the rest of my/our lives.


Katy August 19, 2011 at 9:28 pm

Great story, thanks for sharing!



Linda August 19, 2011 at 1:08 pm

My goal is to get to this start over the next year. Once the kids get back into school and I get in a routine, I would like to start decluttering closets, basement, attic and barn. The problem with having so much space is that you have more places to “just put” things.

We have a big yard sale in my mother’s neighborhood in September, so that is a goal to get some of the items out of my house. With the barn, I can certainly have some barn sales in the fall. I live on a main road, so lots of traffic especially in the fall with apple season.


Angela@MyYearWithoutSpending August 19, 2011 at 2:31 pm

Great post. And I’m relieved to hear that you have piles of paperwork you don’t know what to do with. Paperwork/magazines/writing notes, etc. are my biggest form of clutter and I find them the hardest to keep track of/organize/get rid of if necessary.


Katy August 19, 2011 at 9:27 pm

We try to keep the paper blizzard in check, (getting all bills by e-mail, etc.) but somehow it stays up nonetheless.

And Angela, you’ve been to my house. You already know how far from perfect it is.



Barb @ 1 Sentence Diary August 21, 2011 at 6:14 am

Paperwork is my downfall as well. I try system after system — but the paper continues to pile up.

But as my mother says, “thisshould be my worst problem!” I try to remember that I’ve gotten the rest of my house reasonable well less cluttered. And that’s great progress.


Ruthie August 19, 2011 at 4:12 pm

I am learning. I’ve actually been thinking about this a lot lately.

I had a friend in high school who’s parents immigrated here from the Philippines.

Every Spring the mom would do a huge Spring Cleaning. She would clean every item the family owned. From the mini-blinds to the ceramic dolls on the mantle to the refrigerator. My friend and her siblings hated it, obviously.

I think now that maybe this habit started when she lived a simpler life in the Philippines. Most of us couldn’t imagine cleaning everything we own. But we probably couldn’t even visually bring to mind everything we owned, either. I bet this mom knew every possession in her home, and was proud to own them.

I find simplifying my life is bringing me closer to that type of pride of ownership.


Ruthie August 19, 2011 at 4:20 pm

Also, having less things has empowered me to break free of the restrictions I had placed on myself and to try new things that I didn’t think I could do before (nursing school).


Carolyn August 19, 2011 at 5:25 pm

Your words wonderfully sum up why I love my work as a professional organizer. It is an honor to help others find peace in their lives, especially those that just don’t know where to start on their own. Organizing and decluttering is a journey, not a weekend event. I was so happy to let go of several items this week to Purple Heart and a local resale shop.


Katy August 19, 2011 at 9:24 pm


Nicely put, thank you!



Ellie August 20, 2011 at 8:24 am

I tend to agree with Katy – I see the value in de-cluttering, but also in keeping sentimental objects, things that are just pretty, etc. De-cluttering is not the same as asceticism.

I have to say, I really am not a fan of the “100 things” guy (something about him just rubs me the wrong way), nor a lot of the extreme minimalism that’s out there. I mean, if it works for someone, great – go for it. But I, personally, don’t want to live like that – I LIKE having nice things. By “nice” I mean, useful, comfortable, pretty, sentimental, etc. I also like reducing, reusing, and recycling, and minimizing my impact, and I believe in owning good-quality stuff and taking good care of it. But getting rid of the sentimental things I inherited, or “useless” things that I happen to like looking at, or not buying the occasional second-hand thing that I can use or enjoy, does not, in my opinion, contribute much to reducing my impact (there is too MUCH second-hand stuff already, for one). And as long as my “stuff” is organized and not excessive – that is, not overly cluttered – and the truly useless/unloved stuff is weeded out, I have plenty of time to focus on other things….and I have a comfortable, pretty home to do it in.

I like reading this blog because it’s doesn’t feel in any way extremist, or worse, competitive to me. Honestly, some of the anti-consumerism and frugality stuff out there can seem like a weird, reverse-status competition to me – “Look at me, I live with this little! How little can you live with?” ” Oh yeah? I live with even LESS, look at ME!” Or, “I’m so very frugal that I do this extreme, self-denying thing all the time, and that takes 2 cents off my monthly budget – look how super-frugal I can be! Can you?” Etc. I know nobody literally says those things, but it feels like for some, the anti-consumer obsession takes the place of the consumer obsession.

Katy seems, to me, to be all about frugalism and consumption-reduction and de-cluttering as a means to the end of a better quality of life…in a sane and moderate way.


Katy August 20, 2011 at 9:42 am

Thank you, this totally made my day!



Barb @ 1 Sentence Diary August 21, 2011 at 6:16 am

Where’s the “like” button? I want to LIKE LIKE LIKE this comment.


Carolyn August 23, 2011 at 6:38 am

Can I click “Like” too?
Well put, Ellie!


Indigo August 20, 2011 at 9:59 am

I have just made the leap from apartment dweller into home ownership. As a teacher, an artist, and a person who just generally cooks, cleans, lives in a space I was always trying to find things to weed out in the small apartments I lived in, because it always felt cluttered. My dine in kitchen instead housed a mini office.

When my brothers came over to help me move they were shocked with how little I had, I was busy thinking how many boxes full of stuff I still owned.

Now that I’m settling into the house there is an openness that I kept trying to gain. Now I just need to make sure I don’t fall into the trap of well I have the space, and instead keep the mindset, do I need this thing? How will it enrich my life either through its use or beauty and preferably both?


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: