What Can I Live Without?

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It's been gnawing and nagging at my heart for sometime now.



Mismanagement and disorganization.

In so many ways our family has changed to more sustainable practices over the years, yet the question that has been gnawing at me is, “How can we be truly sustainable if we have so much stuff weighing us down?”

How can we be good stewards of all we have been given, if we merely amass it and stuff it in a drawer waiting for an opportunity to put it to good use?

I feel frustration so much of the time because our house has stuff strewn about, even when I've just finished putting everything away. With three small children, perhaps it's understandable, but I still don't consider that an adequate excuse. But what if the problem is not that I can't manage it all (which is what the voices in my head say over and over), but what if it's merely too much to manage?

Rather than figure out new ways to creatively organize and tuck things out of sight, let's get rid of it so there's less to manage.

Will you help me? Please leave a comment of what you are able to live without. I need all the inspiration I can get – and I'm sure other readers will benefit from your experience and wisdom too. ๐Ÿ™‚

And will you join me? What will you do this month to lighten your load?

What can I live without?

There are two categories in simplifying a home: getting rid of general clutter and getting rid of things you previously thought you needed but have now found ways to do without.

Here's the list of things I thought I needed thatย  I plan to oust from our house by the end of the month:

2 large boxes of books – we've got our own reference library with several hundred volumes, which both my husband and I cherish since we are both academic geeks, but since the internet these days makes research easy and we're constantly looking for places to keep all the books, some must go. I plan to donate these to my alma mater so that at least they'll be part of a collection where they're likely to get used rather than collecting dust at the local thrift store.

Hairdryers and other small electrics – we have two hairdryers, neither of which has been used for about 7 years, except to put newborn babies to sleep. And we recently discovered the Cloud B Gentle Giraffe Sound Machine, which works better anyway.

Paper products – we have moved to more reusable items, so this is a good push to finally clear out the extra paper towels, paper plates, and paper napkins that have been taking up space in the cupboard for a number of years. The toilet paper we'll keep – at least for awhile.

2+ totes of children's clothes – It's amazing how fast kids grow. I really struggle to keep the right size and season of clothing in my children's drawers! An overhaul is due for all three children and in the process, I'll sort through the outgrown outfits.

1+ tote of my own clothes – this may be difficult, as my clothing needs have changed rather constantly over the last six years due to multiple pregnancies, breastfeeding, various climates, various careers, and – ahem – a different shape than I used to be. However, I have more clothes than I need, so some must go.

Any kitchenware and kitchen electrics that haven't been used in the last year – heirlooms excluded. (What is your policy with heirlooms? Would you keep an heirloom that hasn't been used for several years?)

Here's the list of general clutter I plan to oust from our house by the end of the month:

All the only-partially-functioning televisions – We currently have 3 partially-working TVs (all stacked on top of each other) that are all at least 25 years old, so I'd like to pare this down to just one fully-functioning set. I sometimes wish we could go TV-free, but it is a wonderful tool at times!

All our partially-functioning DVD, CD, and VCR players – we don't have a single electronic device (except for our computers) that is less than 15 years old, and none of them work properly. The VCR eats every video, the DVD player only reads about 10% of our discs, and even our cordless telephones have packed it in. In light of the question, “What can I live without?” I have to ask whether these are even needed, but at this point in time, they are tools we use both for sanity and for edification – so as long as we can have only 1 fully-functioning unit, I will consider it acceptable. ๐Ÿ™‚

Children's stuffed animals / toys / games / dress-up clothes / bicycles – I hope to clean out more than 25% of our children's unused items. Ideally, I'd like for each child to have only 1 doll, 1-2 stuffed animals, and 1 box of “personal” toys, plus a reasonable amount of shared toys like play food, toy cars, games, art supplies, and building blocks. (This does not include homeschooling games and instructional toys.) I don't know if this is actually possible when our children have rather strong emotional attachments to the very generous gifts they've been given over the years, but it's my ideal.

Paper files – this is an excellent time to sort through our old paper files as well. I still have every paper I wrote in high school and university and nearly every card that has been given to us in the last 15 years. Perhaps I'll cherish these as I reread them and then end an era.

Outdated lotions, potions, and other personal products – since I started making our own soap, shampoo, lotions, deodorant, sunscreen, and other similar products, we have dozens of commercial bottles just sitting on the shelves. Yes, we could slowly use them up, but that would take years, so I'd prefer to just give them a new home and have a few shelves back.

Extra cloth diapers and homebirth supplies – Even though we currently have two children in diapers, our cloth diaper stash needs some tweaking, so I'll sell whatever diapers aren't working for us.

Excess office supplies – we have dozens of 3-ring binders, photo albums, scissors, and other supplies that are just sitting around waiting to be used. Time for a new home.

Knick-knacks and various kitsch – I don't how these worked their way in, but it's time for them to go out!


What other items are common ones that we tend to think we need but really we can do without?

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  1. Things I’ve gotten rid of in the last week: outgrown clothes not worth storing for the younger kids, toys they never play with, a few knick knacks I don’t absolutely love, clothing from my childhood that could still be used by someone, paper products, outgrown or redundant games, miss matched linens, the table cloths, napkins, and placemats I never use. And more! I think I’m most surprised by how little I miss things and how freeing it is. The heirlooms is a tricky one, I have a scale from my grandmother, and now also have a digital. This qualifies for purging, but I havent been able to let go of the old scale yet.

    Oh, and two criteria I use when evaluating whether to get rid of something: do I use it? Or is it beautiful enough to display it. If neither of these then I need to really think about why I’m keeping it.

    Happy purging!

  2. It is serendipitous that you are posting about the very thing I am doing. I have been organizing and selling, yes selling, not just giving everything away. I have made over $200 on stuff that I could have easily just packed in my car and headed to Goodwill. Some of the stuff I have sold has been old, dated toys, books, clothes, bicycles, riding toys, dolls, and household products. It was all relatively good stuff. But last time I did this I took it all to a resale shop and they gave me pennies for it. Now it did solve my problem of getting it out of the house quick, but I received about one-quarter of the money that I would have gotten if I would have put hours, yes hours into selling it on Craigslist or ebay. Since we have two children in private school, there is no other option now than to clearly sell it to make the money.
    I just designated every evening to posting stuff with lots of pictures every night. Try to post at least 10 a night. And I have made a corner in my living room the “area.” I lower my prices every week or so.
    Good luck! IT feels very good to be profitable in clearing out.

    1. Oh, goodness. Yes. Selling on craigslist is an incredible investment of time. I used to do it regularly, but now I have several totes that I just toss things in labelled “To Sell,” as I haven’t had time to take the pictures of each item. Your suggestion to just do a few things each night is probably a wise one. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. One of the best things for getting rid of electronics of all kinds is realizing that Best Buy will take almost everything and recycle them instead of having them just sit in a landfill. We got rid of a TV that didn’t work that way, but also a few old laptops after I harvested the hard drives and other still-functioning parts to use in other ways.

    I just pared down my belongings and decided that I could live without a good number of my books — I have just essentially kept the expensive ones, cookbooks, and things by my favorite authors or that I haven’t read yet. “Expensive ones” is a code term for all of the scholarly volumes I have on Greek and Roman literature. >_>

    1. Ah yes… the literature and theology tomes are the ones in our collection that are the most difficult to pare down. There was also a period of time when I read voraciously and always read with a pencil in hand, so many of the books have markings through my favorite sections. I feel guilty giving those ones away, even though I haven’t read them again since that time.

      Thanks for the heads-up about Best Buy. I may look into that option.

  4. What timing! I have spent a LOT of time journaling and thinking about stuff—clutter, materialism, and my wish lists. I am constantly saying that we need to get rid of half of the stuff in the house and yet my amazon wish list has literally hundreds of items on it. I am moving to a new, smaller home soon (I am house sitting in a large farmhouse and have managed to accumulate a lot).

    I think that after a lot of debate in my head I am coming to terms with the fact that I do want to have things. Things are not always bad. Much of what I have I use regularly or would miss if I got rid of it. I regularly give away novels, clothes etc. but much of my wish list is for tools. A new chopping board, a new wok (I split with my partner and I am giving lots to him).

    I am managing to get rid of toiletries now that I make my own, but I am struggling with craft items, holiday decorations and some books.

  5. You’re so right. Stuff does weigh us down.

    I managed to give away a bunch of old baby stuff to our local Playcentre Gala, which was great. It had been sitting in the hallway for months waiting to go.

    I’ve also started sending on things my girls have grown out of to friends with new babies, instead of buying them new items. It seems silly paying for “new” things, when I have perfectly good used things just sitting here. In fact, I just posted a box of items this evening to a friend.

  6. Instead of just pitching the old school papers why not take a bit and scan the best of them to your hard drive? THen you can go down memory lane at any time and not have to look at the paper clutter.

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