Tuesday, January 15, 2008


We've been in the house a month and I still have a lot to unpack. Of what is unpacked, I need to dismantle, re-sort, and organize a large portion that we shoved on shelves and in closets for "the time being." How I've come to dislike those words! I can't really clean the house because very few items have a permanent place. It's all still in some state of chaos. How do you clean chaos?

I know we have far too much stuff, and we have said several times recently that we are going to slash our number of possessions dramatically. That's easier said than done though. The bottom line is that it takes an enormous amount of time and energy to manage excess stuff, time and energy that could be better spent elsewhere. If I had half the stuff I had I would have had the house put together long ago.

I think about people like Sara and Debra who have both drastically downsized recently, Sara to a motor home and Debra to a one bedroom apartment. Granted, Sara only has one small child and Debra's an empty nester, so I clearly require a bit more than they. Nevertheless, their stories of freedom from excess possessions are compelling.

These thoughts led me to do a little exercise with myself, partly for fun, partly to try to get my view of what I own in perspective. I imagined what it would be like if I were forced to live with one tenth my current possessions, divided into rough categories of the most space and time-consuming stuff. It was enlightening. I had to think: What's important to me and why? What do I really need? What would I want most? Most of all, it made me realize afresh what a materialistic society we are, and how frightfully spoiled I am. Even this list encompasses far more than most people in the world own, which makes me feel ashamed.

Although it will probably bore you to tears, here are a few of my notes. Below I'm listing the things I'd keep if I could only keep (roughly) 10% of what I own in each category. Don't be alarmed, I'm not really going to reduce my possessions by 90%. This is a game. And obviously this isn't really factoring in anyone's wishes but my own. But it helped me get a clearer view of what I hang onto and why.


Kids' most basic curricula
A general gardening book
A household how-to book
A cookbook (probably something all-purpose like Betty Crocker)
2 or 3 good health books (general, pregnancy, and natural)
Renovation of the Heart by Dallas Willard
Edgar A. Guest collected works
James Whitcomb Riley's complete verse
One Man's Meat by E. B. White
Any Elizabeth Goudge novels I have

And a few kid books:

Little House on the Prairie series
Happy Little Family series
Little Britches series
Picture books by Tasha Tudor
Picture books by Beatrix Potter
A few little boy picture books


Visual Bible-Matthew
Star Wars (For Billy, 'cause I could care less)
Ben Hur
Horatio Hornblower series
Princess Bride
My Big Fat Greek Wedding

And for the kids...I guess I'd have to say a few of their Nest Bible movies


Dining room table/chairs
B's antique pieces-desk, pie safe, and chest of drawers
Obviously a couple basic pieces of living room furniture
A book case


Basic stuff necessary to cook and eat, like stainless pots and utensils, basic plates and cutlery...This list got long and boring, but I was embarrassed to realize that in spite of its length I still probably only listed 10% of what I actually have.

Kitchen Gadgets

Come on, they deserve their own category, right?!

Wheat grinder
Bread machine
Toaster oven

China Cabinet

Tea pots
Grandma's tea cups


As much as I love papercraft, I have to say that you won't be creating any heirlooms or anything of lasting value with paper. So...

Sewing machine
Some fabric
Needles, thimble, thread, scissors--hand sewing/embroidery supplies


A doll or two for each girl
A truck and teddy bear for Silas
1 set blocks
A ball


Most of us don't have excess clothes

We do, however, have a lot of hand-me-downs. I'd have to keep only the highest quality/my very favorites.


So what about you? Are you happy with the amount of stuff you have? Is it too much? What would you get rid of if you had to? What would you keep?


Donetta said...

Wow our minds are thinking along similar terms. I have so much. My beloved is always wanting to shed stuff. I have this little pack rat that collects as if the depression is going to happen again and I just don't want to be off guard.
I love the E. A. Guest book too I have to return it in a few days for I have renewed it 3x now :)
I just found the Big Fat Greek Wedding movie at a yard sale have not watched it yet.
My old phaff 1955 machine would be one of my things too. We have too much and I need to do some courageous ebay selling to shed it down. I am so chicken to get started.
Hope all of you get better soon.

Jen said...

I've had this itch for the last two years to get rid of stuff. It started with a garage sale...ever since, each time we take a van full of "stuff" to the thrift shop, I think we've finally accomplished our goal. Then, I get to looking around a few days later a realize there are still piles of things we don't really need! Much of what we hold on to we do so in the name of sentimentality or economy, though I don't believe it is really anything other than lazy greed!
Praying for your sorting! If I lived closer, I'd come over to help!

Anonymous said...

cleaning the chaos. we're on the same page. downsizing. same page. constantly working at it and failing miserably...at times.

Mrs. Mordecai said...

We have too much stuff too. After our last move I left a bunch of stuff boxed up because I knew we'd move again soon, and I've hardly missed it. After this move, I'm going to go through boxes and fling!

Linda said...

I have too much stuff too. I need to give this some thought,I'm not sure what my essentials would be. I am constantly saying I want to downsize, I think it would almost be liberating. I collect so many things that when I bring something new in, I force myself to donate something. This helps...but I could do more.