I practice simple living but I still love my stuff

I love my stuff.

I know it’s not cool to admit that anymore, but here I am. My name is Sarah, and I love my stuff.

Loving our stuff has gone a bit off popularity these days. We’re supposed to be modern minimalists with clean lines. We’re supposed to try experiments, like only having 100 things in our homes. We’re supposed to be enchanted with tiny houses. The KonMari Method has us lugging trash bags of stuff from our homes with glee.

I find these movements inspiring: I see the benefits and the truth of the philosophy behind the purging. We all have too much stuff. We aren’t living simply. We over-spend until we are in debt and distracted.

Over the years, I’ve embraced a simpler way of life. We have done our share of purging, particularly a few years ago when we lived in a small urban space. I love a tidy and clean home, clutter drives me bonkers (with four tinies, this is a losing battle). I devoured The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up along with the rest of the world and I liked it (well, I didn’t quite get into thanking my t-shirts every time I hung them up, but you know what I mean).

As a Christian, I’ve been led to pursue a simpler life because I believe that consumerism is stealing our money, our time, our resources, and even our identities. I practice simple living, and I do my level best to be intentional and thoughtful about justice issues, even in everyday purchases like clothing and food and furniture. I believe in living within our means and in being unreasonably generous.

But I still love my stuff.

I love the teacups my Grandma gave to me along with her kitchen knick-knacks – the cream cow, the decorative plates, the battered copies of her favourite Zane Grey novels, the slender violently orange ceramic cat that presided over her kitchen sink from the window sill and now rests in my window sill. I love collecting old editions of L.M. Montgomery and Madeleine L’Engle books that I stumble across in second-hand stores – no online purchasing allowed. I have scrapbooks and memory boxes from university that I’ve moved across national boundaries, and the first stories I ever wrote are still tucked away along with my embarrassing high school and college journals. My mother’s old dishes, the first dress I bought for our first baby, the love letters my husband used to write to me when we were dating sixteen years ago. I adore our big kitchen table with the mismatched chairs, and every day, I use the white teapot I bought in Germany ten years ago.

It’s not about the things themselves, not really. It’s about the stories of the stuff and the way I want to embody those stories in our home.

For instance, after years of Ikea and second-hand stuff, we finally bought our first really nice piece of furniture together: a gigantic Canadian poplar kitchen table to seat the whole family. I love it so much, not because of the thing itself, but because of what it represents to me: family, gathering at the table, space for a few more, laughter, all the people I love most near me while they eat the good food we’ve prepared together.

Another example: that white teapot is an emblem of one of the most difficult seasons of my life, the trip itself a fulcrum of our life before and afterward, as we reset our entire trajectory as a result of the sorrows and strangeness of that time. It’s functional, yes – I have a pot of tea every day – but it’s also lovely, and it is an icon in our marriage and in my own spiritual life of life-before and life-after that moment in time.

The things I have kept over the years do bring me joy and so I keep them. Even KonMari approves of this method.

I believe there is room in our homes – and in our lives – for more than just the useful or functional; there is room for the lovely, the memory-filled, the beautiful, the sacred, the just-because-I-love-it-still stuff.

So even though I consider myself someone who practices simple and intentional living, I still surround myself with the familiar things. I’ve discovered that I’m not the type of person who can live as a minimalist, not really.

My soul craves and finds rest in handmade over commercial, slow over fast, quiet over loud, old over new, cozy over modern, tidy over messy, clean over clutter, comfortable over stylish.

It seems we can live our metaphors in so many corners of our lives. In my new book Out of Sorts, I write about going through this process in my faith, too. I have found myself rummaging through what I believe over the years, figuring out what needs to go and what needs to stay. And I have found myself reclaiming so much of what I thought I had outgrown, so many beliefs or practices or ideas that I thought were holding me back. It turned out that they were actually precious to me and I learned to live with them, to make peace with them, even as there were other beliefs or ideas or opinions that I released altogether.

The tracing of the line of time, of my lineage, of my family’s stories and my own stories and the stories that matter to me in the world, is meaningful and beautiful to me. I feel like it’s part of my purpose as a storyteller, to embody and hold space for the physical stories, too.

Simple living doesn’t mean we untether from the material world: as Tsh defines it, simple living means that we live holistically within our life’s purpose. There is room there for you, sentimental friends. And now I have learned that this holds true in our homes and in our spirits, we aren’t required to toss everything we were taught or given. As we grow and change, we become more fully ourselves, and there is room to honour and hold space for the precious and the meaningful, even as you evolve in your beliefs, your home, and your life.

Sarah Bessey

Sarah Bessey is the author of Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith and Jesus Feminist. She is also an award-winning blogger at and lives in Abbotsford, British Columbia, with her husband and four tinies. You can also find her on Twitter @sarahbessey.

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  1. I’m with you! I love my vintage stuff – the china, the books, the artworks. And I love my craft supplies, also. I read minamilist blogs all the time, and am working on decluttering 2015 items from our home this year, but that sure won’t include the items that bring me joy. What I have learnt to do (a little) is to showcase fewer items, the most precious ones, many of which belonged to my grandmothers, although some were the result of happy times searching through antique shops on family holidays. I guess there will always be some push and pull when it comes to my belongings, the urge to declutter vs the urge for coziness and comfort. My decluttering efforts have shown me that I could live without many of my belongings, and have also helped me to find more value in experiences and good times with family. I’ve definitely slowed down my purchases and am enjoying working on the balance.
    Great article, and I’m drooling over your LM Montgomery collection!

  2. Your words resonate deply in me, I just live and feel the same way. In fact I just wrote an article yestarday (in French), about decluterring my attic and to summon I said I had to be realistic and benevolent with who I really am. If my first writing, all the drawings friends made for me and my old correspondence bring me joy, I keep it. I went trough all my stuff and kept things that extreme minimalist would consider superflous, but when I see my memory boxes I can feel all the love and the happy things in it – no way I would throw them to trash. (but I still give away more than half of the items, the one that didn’t bring me joy to quote Mari Kondo).
    I believe there is space enough for all kind of minimalism, from the one who wants to live with the bare minimals to the one that only want to declutter (a lot) and appreciate each and everedy day the benefit of a simplier life.
    Thanks for this beautiful article !

    • Anko, I wrote my reply below before reading this. We sound like kindred spirits, both cleaning our attics at the same time!

  3. A simple living is not easy. Something improve us. To love ourself life~
    thanks for share.

  4. I love my stuff, too! We are in the middle of an attic clean out, and I can say that the biggest mistake we have made in raising our children is buying them too much stuff; the stuff becomes treasured and hard to part with. I have a small box of stuff from my childhood and it is precious to me; I can see that I didn’t give that gift to my children because there is just too much of their stuff. We are working to pare some of it down.

    Having said that, I have the space to keep what is special and I plan to do that for my children and their children. My daughter, 14, is excited that she won’t have to buy things for her kids ;). She plans to use what we already have.

    I went off topic from your post a bit. I also have the treasured things from both grandmothers and things collected over the years. I love it all. I have also made my share of trips to Goodwill with bags and bags of stuff. To me, it is a balancing act.

  5. William Burrell says:

    Great article. I have often said that my compulsion to unclutter is just the flip side of the horder compulsion. Your article points to a better path. A path between consumerism and asceticism. I’ve always believed in a middle way. Thanks for your writing.

  6. I love this. so very true and poignant. I think the things we keep when we simplify should be things we LOVE, the connection is why they are still in your home when many other things are gone! thank you for this post.

  7. Oh, I love this! I too love my stuff. Thousands of books, my teapot and teacup and saucer collection (some were my Grandma’s), my numerous serving dishes (some were my other Grandma’s). I love them and the memories they embody. I use them regularly and smile and feel so connected and grounded. Yes, I love my stuff, despite the fact that I follow several minimalism blogs. I’m keeping the things that bring joy.

  8. Angelique says:

    Minimalism isn’t about the number of things in your home as much as it is about clearing out the clutter and distractions in your life to make room for what enriches. I think if you have a 4,000 square foot home filled to the rafters with christmas stuff because you love the holiday that is not minimalism, but neither is forcing yourself to live with one lone santa candle because you think you need to follow someone else’s 100 things rule. It’s about intentionally and mindfully finding your happy place, and that is an ongoing process – a lifestyle, a mindset.

  9. I have thought the same thing many times Sarah. This year we moved from a small condo into a large 1922 Craftsman home. Our things were packed up for several months and we were down to the bare minimum. I was not completely comfortable until we were able to move in and unpack even though my wife and I lead a very simple, quiet life. Books, movies, music, personal things we’ve picked up over the years, and a guitar collection.

    I can’t tell you how many times I said, “I miss my stuff.” We just value relationships more than our stuff.

  10. Sarah, as we simplify and declutter in our home/life, I always think the same things. My motto is “story not stuff,” so I’m going to keep that teapot like you describe. And I bet so many other people feel the same way. Beautiful, beautiful post!

    • Hi, Katie! So fun to see you around the web, you are truly a story lady! I am still enjoying my “Become” journal I bought from your site!

  11. Sarah Bessey, I just love you. Your heart, your command of language, your buying of two of my favorite book people because those old editions somehow mean more. I’ve spent a long time thinking I need to be rid of so much but truthfully, to get rid of some things just for the sake of saying I’m purging does me no good if I feel I’ve rid something soothing from my soul. Beautiful observations and many blessings to you.

  12. I am the same way, at age 60 it is easy to see the collections that surround me in this place we call our home. We do have many things that could leave, but we also have many things I cannot yet, part with. The label is called Sentimental messy. I find peace and contentment in some of the ‘collections’.
    Clean smooth non messy places are wonderful to visit but I am not sure that my ‘creative’ self would feel comfortable in a totally ‘purged’ home.
    At least not yet.

  13. All so true and so close to what I’ve been discovering. For me, it has been interesting to see how stepping out of the consumer mindset has become connected to my desire to grow deeper in faith. It seems that the more I connect with God, the less I need the trappings of the secular world. Guess it makes sense–I really want to focus on WWJD (what would Jesus do) instead of WWBD (what would Beyoncé do). Though I think the concept of WWBD is hilarious. (And, for the record, I thought Konmari’s book was ridiculous, but I’m sure it has made her very rich.)

  14. Good words.

    For the longest time I felt like to be “simple”, you had to be minimal with modern lines, etc as you mentioned. I just can’t do modern. I like cozy and having nothing around is the opposite of cozy for me…it’s sterile. My Type A personality would love to leap over the learning aspect of the process but the truth is I’m finding it’s an ongoing journey of figuring out what is right for you and what isn’t. Candles, lamps and rugs required for this girl. 🙂

  15. I have gone through this process in my own faith, too. As a child, I was raised methodist but got really into Evangelicalism as a teen. As an adult, I have taken the step back and realized I really do agree most with how I was raised.

    Too, I saw it play out in the physical world, as well as the spiritual one, for me. I do love some things that are new. But I also took the effort to upload all my old photos, etc, to a cloud. And I love the few things my family has given me. I have moved around the country 4 times (we’re a Military family) and each time, there are just a few items that I care about and want to know are ok, as soon as we arrive. The rest is interchangeable. Many of my friends have had their homes destroyed by fire (there was a terrible forest fire in my family’s neighborhood). Insurance replaces furniture, etc. But it can’t replace the china my Grandma handpainted. And it can’t replace the silver music box from my other Grandma.

    Refiner’s fire similarly reminds what we should really value.

  16. Thank you for this!! I’m so tired of feeling guilty because my house has clutter and my wardrobe is more than 33 pieces! It’s ok to love our stuff!

  17. Kirsten Fox says:

    Thank-you, this is beautiful and a lovely reminder. I can relate to all of it. I love the sense of honor, balance, and beauty. I too love my things. The memories and feelings they give me.

  18. Sarah, your article has really put into words what I’ve been mulling over the past few months. I have read Kondo’s book (and love it!) and read a lot about minimalism, but I have no desire to live with just 100 things! I love my books and I like you, I have a few things from my grandparents that I love having in the house: the drop-leaf table that fits our family of two so well, the Christmas ornaments that remind me of my grandmothers every year, the scrapbooks that my mother has lovingly made-these are beautiful and worth keeping!
    Thanks for writing such a thoughtful post~

  19. Joan Kaderli says:

    So glad to hear you say you love your stuff. I read all these things about de -cluttering and living simply and I think I should get rid of my things so our kids don’t have to deal with all our stuff after we die. But in reality We don’t really have that much stuff and what I have is very meaningful to me. So Im just going to enjoy it all and keep what I love and try not to be influenced by minimalists. 😜

  20. I love this! As a minimalist I see how often I feel bad for really loving/liking something that I own and how often others talk about how bad that is. This is a different take on it. I love my bike, my Lems Shoes, my bed, my desk and a bunch of other things. For me, it’s about keeping what you love and tossing the stuff that you don’t love or even like. Thanks Sarah!

  21. Wendy mcleod macknight says:

    You had me at the L.M. Montgomery books! Wonderful post! I love my things, too!

  22. Linda Sand says:

    “I’m not the type of person who can live as a minimalist, not really.” You are absolutely a minimalist! Minimalism is about getting rid of the clutter so we can enjoy those things which give us pleasure. So you go right on enjoying your teapot, etc. while calling yourself a minimalist. You are a perfect example of one.

  23. I appreciate this. I have been reading about minimalism on blogs I stumble across and it mostly seems reactive to an extreme on the other end. I have lived long enough (67) to see that somewhere in the middle of two extremes is often a good place to land. (its been starting to feel like some sort of judgement if one has more than absolutely necessary for survival. )

  24. I love this So Much. Thank you. I needed to hear that I am not a horrible person for hanging on to beautiful meaningful things! Sometimes you just get that feeling, and the Feeling is what needs to go! 🙂

  25. How right you are! I’ve become increasingly disenchanted with
    so many simple living blogs that make me feel guilty for
    cherishing meaningful things in my life. I got rid of almost
    everything I owned in my late twenties to travel and lived
    out of a backpack for 2 years and since then I’ve valued
    everything I own. I don’t want to live in some minimalist
    paradise that looks like show home – I want to be
    surrounded by what means a lot to me.

  26. Linda Sand says:

    I am a minimalist. No doubt about it. Yet my husband’s college photography final hangs in our living room, a lovely vase that was a thank you gift for being there for family sits on my kitchen table, a sand castle sculpture from our daughter sits on my desk, and paintings made by our mothers hang on bedroom walls. I have five throw pillows and a cuddly lap rug by my chair. The outfit our daughter wore home from the hospital as a newborn, my husband’s teddy bear he let me keep when he went away to college, high school yearbooks, and photo albums are all right here with us ready to bring back good memories at any time. You do NOT have to give away your precious things to be a minimalist. You just have to get rid of the clutter that doesn’t bring you joy. Like the ugly sweater someone gave to you that you thought you had to keep just because it was a present. Sorry for the rant but the 100 thing challenge is NOT the only way to be a minimalist so implying otherwise pushes my buttons.

  27. I think it’s super INFJ to love your THINGS, even as you admire minimalism. This really resonated with me because there have been many times that drastic de-cluttering has appealed to my anti-consumerist mindset, but I just love my sentimentalism, my cozy space, and my bunches of things that evoke memories. I realized that I will never have a home full of only the “necessary” items because it’s just not in my personality to let go of all the other STUFF that I love so much. (But you’re absolutely right, you can still believe in and practice simple living!)

  28. I cannot count the number of books I regret I don’t have anymore. Even my set of hard cover American Heritage magazines.

  29. Well said. I’ve had such a hard time with Kon Mari and minimalism that is rampant these days. I love living clutter-free but, like you, appreciate the sentimental value of many objects in my home that I’m not about to get rid of simply because they aren’t the most efficient or most useful. Consumerism bothers me to no end, but I think we can still love the things we have without a constant need to fill our lives with more.

  30. Hi Sarah

    Thanks for this. This is something ii completely wrestle with in my mind, especially living in a country like South Africa – what exactly does simple mean? When some live in mansions and others in shacks but when our apartment would feel like a mansion to those living in a shack. i like the idea of keeping memories and stories while still trying to live simply and i guess each one of us makes peace with God on this stuff rather than conforming to some kind of global list of ‘this is where it is at’ and this is something we need to keep asking as we walk…

    But ja, really helpful to hear a different perspective on this
    Keep on – you rock
    love brett fish

  31. As someone who loves to read decluttering books more than actually going through the work of decluttering, I know I still have a lot of work ahead of me to get where I would like our home to be…. I get attached to items because of the stories and memories that are associated with the item. I have read the KonMari book and loved it. I’ve started the process of going through things. I’m learning to sort through items keeping those that give me joy and letting go of the ones that just provide clutter. Your words resonated with me. It’s okay to keep those things that are meaningful! :0) There is a happy place somewhere in the middle! Thank you!!

  32. Lana Thrasher says:

    Beautifully stated! Thank you for your honesty and perspective it’s a gentle reminder that loving the “things” in our lives is totally ok and should be celebrated.

    Blessings to you

  33. Thank you. Just… thank you. I needed this message. I am unhappy with the amount of stuff in my home, and yet I have a hard time sending things on their way. I think I’m afraid to lose the quality when I lose the quantity. Perhaps it’s a matter of curating.

    For example, I’m finding that as I am more intentional about the clothing purchases I make – investing in pieces that I really do love and enjoy – it’s so much easier to let go of the quantity of lesser loved items. I’m going to think on this and see how I can apply it in other parts of my home.

  34. Yes! I, too, love my stuff. As you say, not so much the stuff itself, but rather what it represents to me. The memories that are attached. The comfort such memories bring.
    I have too much stuff and it drives me bonkers. I need to purge, and have been doing so slowly. But some things I just cannot let go. And so, I hang on to those and let others go.
    It is a process, and one during which I remind myself to be kind to me. 🙂
    Thank you for sharing. As often happens, this writing of yours resonates deeply with me.

  35. So beautifully said…

  36. Aaaah, so true! I was shocked and pleased when I read “Life Changing Magic,” but inside of me, I still thought, “what about those of us who are… sentimental? This woman is not like me!” I have to live with what brings me true joy. And sometimes that is a box of old children’s clothes, just tucked into the attic for those times of reminiscing. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said STORYTELLER. Amen. There is so much to be learned in the telling of stories, and our lives tell and retell their stories… with 3-D illustrations.

  37. This is so good! I enjoy your writing a whole bunch!

  38. i’m like you where the minimalist movement appeals to me but i do still need things around me that are just there because i love them and they make me happy. i saw this quote years ago and it has stuck with me and become my motto for bringing things into my home. “have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” william morris

  39. Hilda Looyenga says:

    For some time I have been feeling like a workhorse, grunt at work at the same time fighting with my faith and some of the people in my church who have hurt me badly. When today the pastors did a joint sermon about consumerism and giving more to the community. I do a lot for others but the way they spoke they made me feel like a schmuck grunt for spending the money on my hobbies(scrapbooking, baking, cooking, crocheting), that I should give it all up. That these funds do not belong to me but should be given totally to those in need. I consistently do help out with the community and do a lot of things behind the scenes. But yet they kept harping about faith, faith, faith, do to others always first, take no pleasure at all for ones self. Then I ran across this link from you from a cousin. You have so helped me with my faith and told me that it was okay to take joy in some things. Yes, get rid of some things that clutter my house and life which is a job in itself, but it’s okay to keep some things that give me joy to do or gives me wonderful memories of times with being with special people. Thank you so very much. Keep up the good work.

  40. I so enjoyed reading this eloquent post and this is exactly where I am at, “My soul craves and finds rest in handmade over commercial, slow over fast, quiet over loud, old over new, cozy over modern, tidy over messy, clean over clutter, comfortable over stylish.”

  41. I love this post and definitely think it aligns more than you think with Kondo’s principle of holding onto that which brings you joy. Isn’t joy such a beautiful guidepost for *everything* in our lives?!

  42. This was a nice read. I am trying to live with less “stuff” right now. I will be moving at the end of the year and want to take just the things that really serve me. It has been difficult but I am slowly able to really think about what items I own may be better off serving others. Thank you for this. I don’t feel so bad anymore.

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