Since we’ve been back from our spring-long road trip, I’ve been getting rid of a lot of stuff. I mean, a LOT.
Partly this has to do with our family’s upcoming Big Trip, which is rapidly approaching, but it’s also because I was reminded of something valuable while we were on the road for two months—something I’ve known for ages, wrote a book about, and even continue to preach whenever it deems necessary:
You really, really don’t need a lot of stuff.
I know this idea backwards and forwards. And yet we’ve lived here in our town for not quite three years now, and we’ve found ourselves slowly amassing things that—well, we just don’t need. Probably not a ton compared to average American standards, but it’s definitely more than we ever meant to accumulate.
So these past few weeks we’ve been rolling up our sleeves and making multiple trips to the donation station at our favorite thrift store, tossing out broken or worn out items, and continually unearthing more. And so we repeat the process—more thrift store runs, more tossings, more head shaking in wonder.
And while I do enjoy a good decluttering session, these hours have reminded me of a truth I can’t escape right now, try as I might:
Living with less trumps organizing because organizing is temporary.
Let me explain.
Organizing might feel good… for awhile. Your ducks are in a row, your kids’ toys are nicely labeled in their bins, and your socks are huddled in their respective nooks in the appropriate drawer. You’ve cleaned out the kitchen cabinets, then restocked them with its contents in a logical fashion. Your craft supplies are organized ROY G BIV-ly.
But it’s temporary. If you live with other humans, like me, you’ve had the experience of watching your hard work slowly crumble over time. And there’s the rub with organizing—you’ve got to keep it up. Or at least dedicate a few weekends per year to the task.
Decluttering—or, just getting rid of stuff, is permanent. It leaves your four walls, and immediately you have more visual and physical space. Your shoulders feel lighter, you know where everything is, and you truly love everything left. And you love your home just a little bit more.
Have you ever taken several loads to a thrift store and later thought, “Nuts—I wish I had all that stuff again.” Rarely. The majority of us love the look of empty spaces and clean lines. (There’s a reason people stage their homes this way before selling them—we’re naturally attracted to clutter-free.)
And then there’s the beautiful aftermath that follows decluttering. You find yourself happy to own less, so if you consciously keep stuff from entering your door again, you start owning this habit. You genuinely don’t want to shop because then you’d have to do something with the new stuff.
Your money starts acting more like the responsible tool it can be.
You have more free time because you don’t have to clean so much, and taken full-on, you don’t even have to work as much because you’re content with a smaller budget.
You somehow tend to sleep better, eat better, and take better care of yourself because of said extra time.
And perhaps best of all, you pass this on to your kids through modeling and through intentional choices. You’re not buying stuff for fun.
Our kids were genuinely content without their toys for two months—they’d play with whatever they could find, activating their imaginations on overdrive. And since we’ve been back, they’ve barely touched more than a few loved playthings.
The five of us were perfectly fine with just a few shirts, bottoms, and shoes, and oddly enough, we continue to mostly wear what we had on our trip (that’s because of the 80/20 principle—we all tend to wear 20 percent of our clothes 80 percent of the time).
Living with less trumps organizing because it truly begets freedom. Freedom to live with more clarity, freedom to pursue work and hobbies we truly love, freedom to spend more time with people instead of taking care of our things.
It’s risky, yes. It’s often scary making that first run to the donation station. But you’ll get braver and braver, and nine times out of ten, you’ll never regret parting with those things you stopped loving or finding useful.
And then you’ll find this purging a little addictive, and before you know it, you’ve become a full-fledged, card-carrying minimalist. I know I’m ready to get back to that pursuit. Because all this stuff around me? I’m kinda ‘meh.’ But seeing the world? Yes, please.
What do you prefer—organizing or decluttering?