Does having less stuff make life easier?

“Simple living isn’t about having less stuff; it’s about getting rid of what doesn’t belong to make way for what does.” ~ Erin Doland

If stuff seems to have overtaken your life, if you feel like you spend all day long shuffling stuff from one place to the other, only to have to move it back to find something else, you need to consider how getting rid of some of your stuff could make a difference in your stress level and quality of life.

The effect of stuff on our “Quality of Life”

Most people say that quality of life is extremely important to them, but many may not have clearly defined what that meant. Quality of life does not have to do with how many toys you have. Living a quality life is a life full of meaning and purpose. Having the freedom to make choices about what you want to do with your time, your belief and what you buy shape your quality of life.

Quality of life is going to look different for each one of you, just as determining what level of stuff is acceptable to you. And of course, a certain level of stuff will increase your quality of life. There comes a point when more stuff does not increase the quality of life and will actually start to diminish it. At that point, you have become a slave to your stuff.

A slave to stuff

When you read that line above, you may be thinking about the poor people we see on Hoarders, being tied so emotionally to belongings that they can’t get rid of them. But, if you take a step back, there are many of us who are just as enslaved to our stuff. We may not have as much, but we sure don’t want to let go of any of it!

Being a slave to your stuff is exhausting. You have to:

clean it, repair it, insure it, secure it, replace it, upgrade it, decorate it, organize it, move it, store it.

And that is the physical part of it. We have to mentally keep up with all this as well. It’s just more that we have to juggle.

5 things to do today to reduce your stuff


  • Before putting away clean laundry (because this is stuff that is definitely being used); remove 10 items of clothing in the closet or dresser for each person in your house.
  • Bag them up immediately and put in the trunk to take to Goodwill or other organization.
  • Try each week to remove another 3 or 4 items that are not worn or no longer fit.

It will become easier to pick out what to wear; your kids won’t have as much to throw on the floor, easier to put clothes away as the drawers/closet will have some space.

messy closet

Kitchen counters/table-

  • Survey your flat surfaces in the kitchen.
  • What is cluttering them up?
  • Do you use the appliances on the counter on a regular basis(several times a week)? If not, find another place to store them, under the counter or in the pantry.
  • Do you have food on your countertop? If possible, only have a basket for fruit and store other food elsewhere.
  • Use the top of the fridge if necessary, but work to clear the counters as much as possible.

messy kitchen

Papers on table/desk-

If papers tend to be a problem for you:

  • Very quickly gather up all the papers, bills, mail, school stuff, etc into one pile.
  • Get a trashcan and a basket or box and put them in front of you.
  • You have 3 choices here: trash (or recycle), to file or deal with later, and URGENT (has to be dealt with within 24 hours, such as school papers for tomorrow, etc). I don’t want you to think real hard, this is a fast process here.
  • Throw away what you can, put a lot in the basket and put aside the things that need to be done ASAP.

This is not a be-all, end-all solution. You will have to have a process for dealing with your papers. However, in the meantime, TODAY, you can enjoy a clean desk/table/counter. And until such a time as you can work through that basket, continue processing papers as they come in the door, but be ruthless with the trashcan!

messy desk


  • Depending on the ages of the people using the bathroom, this purging will look a little different.
  • If little kids use it, corral all the toys in a basket and keep under the counter.
  • Go through all the bottles, tubes, and jars and get rid of anything that is empty or hasn’t been used in forever.
  • Either place everything under the counter, or as I have done in my 18 year old daughter’s bathroom (which also happens to be the bathroom that guests would use) get a nice basket and put all the bottles, etc in the basket.
  • Your goal would be an empty countertop except for a basket or two.
  • Set the standard that this is what it is supposed to look like every day. It only takes 30 seconds or less to put back in order after using, yet can make a big difference!

messy bathroom

The “Living Room”-

Whether it is a living room, family room, den, whatever you call it, it is the room where you spend most of your time while at home. And so it tends to be the most cluttered. Again the ages of the inhabitants will come into play here.

  • If it is necessary to have toys in the room, keep them in a corner in a designated area and boxes or baskets.
  • Books can tend to multiply. I have had my share and recently reduced by 50% or more.
  • Magazines, newspapers and catalogs are still a problem in many homes. Contact catalog companies and ask to be removed from their snail mail list.
  • Read the magazines and then recycle. If you still get newspapers, read and then place in the recycle bin. If you have paper clutter here too, add them to the basket we talked about earlier.
  • Each night before going to bed, have every family member remove or put away any items they were using.
  • School books put away.
  • Food and trash taken to the kitchen and disposed of.
  • Teach little ones to pick up after themselves, it takes time and practice, but very worth it.
  • Clothes, socks and shoes should be put in their proper places.
  • Take a second to straighten the cushions, and put the remotes where they belong.

messy living room

Action Plan

These are all things that can be done fairly quickly. Get your family involved. Don’t try to make this a major purging today, just remove the easy top-level stuff this go round. I think you will feel a weight lift off of you as you start clearing off some of these spaces that tend to stay cluttered. You won’t be so uptight when you have to find something to wear or you no longer have to “squeeze” to get the laundry put away. It will feel good to get home tomorrow and the living room is neat, the counters are relatively clear, you can quickly sort your mail.

Let’s go back to the quote at the top. Simple living is not about depriving, it about getting rid of what doesn’t belong to make room for what does. By removing some of the extra stuff in your life, you are giving yourself room to breathe, to relax a little, to enjoy your family more.

So, what are you waiting for? Grab a trash bag and get started!

PS. While I am all for recycling as much as possible, if the weight of needing to shred your mail or sort the recycling is keeping you from clearing out your clutter, just throw it all out. You can start recycling once you have things under better control!

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35 comments to Does having less stuff make life easier?

  • Jan

    Wonderful post and very real tips for those of us who suffer from feeling overwhelmed at it all! I am definitely going to start today!
    Jan recently posted..Living Well Wednesday- 4-13-11My Profile

  • Great post. I’ve been on a purging process since the beginning of the year. I knew I would be moving into a smaller place so I started giving away, selling or trashing items that I no longer needed or that wouldn’t fit. I had to downsize my book collection, which I hate doing but surprisingly feel really good about that. I have to get more control over the laundry room and the papers on the desk, but I think I’m doing pretty good with the other things you talked about.

    Minimizing and organizing is an ongoing activity, but it’s so worth it!
    Petula recently posted..Undermount sinksMy Profile

  • Great tips, my favorite being get the entire family involved. They are helping to create that mess and stress, make it a priority that they help remove it too.
    Jamie recently posted..Knock Your Socks Off CookiesMy Profile

    bernicewood Reply:

    Absolutely. I am very big on this. Kids should not be asked to help clean. They should be taught to do *their part*. They are part of the family and they should pull their weight!
    Thanks for your comment!

  • I love the tip about making space as you’re putting away the laundry. Seems like I should have thought of that — but I didn’t!
    Hollee Temple recently posted..TGIFive-Bite FridayMy Profile

    bernicewood Reply:

    Hey Hollee!
    My older teenage daughter keeps quite a messy room. She always says she doesn’t have enough room for her clothes, and she *stores* most of it in piles on the floor. I try to get her to understand that she should purge her closets and drawers, because what is in there would not be her favorites or things she wears much. She doesn’t seem to get it!
    Thanks for coming by!

  • I have often said to my dd, who always wants something, whether it be a new book, or a new toy, or a new movie… or wants to save every single paper that comes home from school….that there won’t be any room for the good stuff to come to us if we’re stuck with all the bad stuff. Meaning, we have to purge out the junk: junk mail; junk toys (the broken ones and the ones we simply just don’t play with anymore); old magazines; clothes that don’t fit. It all needs to GO!

    And we donate so many of these things to others who need them. Blessing them blesses us too!

    bernicewood Reply:

    That is an absolutely great way to do things. It helps keep the clutter down and can help keep wants in check too.
    Thanks for your comment!

  • This is a great post; I love how it is broken down room by room with useful ideas you can do today. I started going through stuff and the rooms i already have “done” are the ones i gravitate to and want to spend time in as they are peaceful, uncluttered, serene…the other rooms are just waiting for their turn! great post! stopped by from the relational bloggers daily!

    bernicewood Reply:

    We will naturally gravitate towards the rooms that are cleaner as they are more calming. A cluttered dirty room is screaming at us as we sit there!
    Thanks for coming by!

  • great simple tips — but i have to say those pictures give me a mild heart attack just looking at them!! :)

    bernicewood Reply:

    I had fun finding them! And the thing is, my house has looked like that at times in the past. Scary!
    Thanks for coming by!

  • Hi there, visiting from SITS. Great post with very helpful tips. I am at the point where stuff has GOT to go. Seems though i constantly have a ‘to shred’ pile that gets bigger all the time. In this age of identity theft something that can’t be avoided i guess – i don’t want to just throw stuff away or in the recycle bin if it has my info on it….

    bernicewood Reply:

    I guess some are more concerned about this than others, I just tear it in pieces. Do you have a shredder? Do you have a child old enough to run the shredder? Let them do it! If not, set a time each week to just DO it!
    Thanks for your comment!

  • Loved this. Very useful purging tips. There for a second I thought the picture of the closet was my teenage daughter’s…

    Suzan’s “Life is Better in a Tiara”

    bernicewood Reply:

    LOl! I can’t even get to my teenage daughter’s closet! Well, no actually she did clean it this weekend and it does have a floor! She doesn’t adhere to my less stuff philosophy!
    Thanks for your comment!

  • I love having a simple life without clutter…less stuff equals more time for family, friends and helping others!

    bernicewood Reply:

    Absolutely! I am working on getting there myself. Seems to always be a work in progress, but I can see and feel the difference!
    Thanks for coming by and for your comment!

  • Tanya

    Really enjoyed the room-by-room checklists. It’s always good to take a look at what you have, whether you use it and why you’re keeping it! And then purge!

    bernicewood Reply:

    We tend to just hang on to stuff, even if we don’t need or use it anymore, mainly because we don’t have a method for clearing it out. Doing so on a regulary basis will help keep the clutter down.
    Thanks for coming by!

  • I couldn’t agree more, whenever we move we always go through our stuff and usually find things that have been stored away for years. I know it can be hard to get rid of things because we always think, “I might need that someday.” I’ve learned just to let things go.
    Todd | ChannelingMyself recently posted..The Hypocritical ChristianMy Profile

  • We are in the process of this as I type this. We are purging our Master Bedroom and it feels so good.

    Another tip a friend shared with me years ago for the kitchen is to only have a handful of plates/bowls in your main cupboard. The more you have, the more you will have to wash, organize and manage.
    Cris recently posted..Savory Muffins- Quiche MuffinsMy Profile

  • I like. Cool. Keep it up.

  • Totally liberating!!!!!! We’re a family of 4 that got rid of everything that didn’t fit in our car. This has opened us up to new business ventures and some amazing travel oppurtunities. I know that shedding the unnecessary stuff creates oppurtunities to recieve more important stuff.
    Heidi recently posted..Marriage- Kids- and the Solution to World PeaceMy Profile

  • Love the post! I can use many of the suggestions you have listed here to make my life a little less cluttered. Hubs and I actually rented a dumpster to clean out a lot of junk that has followed us from house to house. It was kind of scary at how quickly it got filled up!
    Vickie recently posted..Someone I Wish I Were Closer ToMy Profile

  • We’re pretty minimal at my house – - EXCEPT the bathroom counter. Making a note to head in there right after this and work on that!

  • Yes! Paring down is so freeing. RT @womanonajourney: Does having less stuff make life easier?

  • I absolutely love this post! After my mother died and we had to go through her stuff I was able to see that very little of what I was holding on to had any value for me. Slowly, over the next year I began to get rid of stuff. I would like to say that I am completely free but it is an ongoing process. As long as I keep working on it I feel better.

  • You are RIGHT! Stuff is stifling. I think carefully about everything I bring into my life, measuring the cost as I do. I learned this by watching the peace of monks…our house is relatively bare and decorated in muted tones and natural wood and stone. We’ve lost count of the number of people who find rest and refuge in it as a result.

  • di

    Try one room with a vaulted ceiling, skylights, arched windows, recessed lighting and heated floors.

    Shelving, cupboards, closets, bureaus, desks, tables or lamps are not needed.

    Try a luxurious sofabed and chair to sleep, lounge, study, dine and entertain.. Store minimal wardrobes in baskets beneath the furniture. Use a computer for media. Store handy items in a tote bag.

    Use a portable stovetop and one-pot recipes. Cover the sink area, an under-counter fridge and washer/dryer with large cutting boards. Stack minimal kitchen items behind a small set of curtains beneath the kitchen sink. Store utensils in a single basket. Dry dishes on towels.

    In the bathroom, try a tiny corner sink without a vanity. Hang towels on hooks. Store cosmetic baskets on the back of the toilet. Store soap in the shower. Try a full-length mirror and clothing hook on the back of the door.

    Try a swivel sweeper and one multi-purpose cleanser. Clean by hand, rinsing in a sink.

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