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Beauty in What Remains

After I talked to my friend Nina about her year of living in a bus with her family of six, I was inspired to store all but five each of our plates, bowls, drinking glasses, coffee mugs, and silverware. We don’t have much of that to begin with, but I still felt like we were washing more dishes than seemed necessary for our family of five.

So after setting aside five of everything, I stored the rest in the cabinet above our fridge—out of sight, but within reach when company comes over. So far, this little mind trick has worked like a charm.

Not much changed, really—we only have eight plates and bowls total (of each size), and about a dozen drinking glasses. But psychologically, it’s changed how I see my kitchen. If there are only three dishes on the shelf and it’s dinnertime, someone needs to wash a couple. But it only takes a few minutes now because we’re using only what we need, right in the moment.

A few weeks ago, I also got rid of over half my clothes, and it was more freeing than I ever imagined. I’m back to liking everything in my closet. The excess is gone, leaving nothing but abundance, even though I technically have fewer items.

I think this applies to other parts of life, too. When I step down from all commitments except the ones that enrich my family or myself, I actually look forward to jumping feet-first in the ones we commit to. When I shun the faux junk chocolate-flavored candy-attempting-to-be-chocolate, the authentic, delectable honest-to-goodness chocolate all but melts in my mouth.

Living with less gives way to a richer life: more freedom to live in the moment, a deeper love for fewer things, more energy to invest in commitments where I’m really dedicated—a savoring of the truly delectable.

There’s a legit benefit to getting rid of stuff you don’t need or want—less to clean, manage, and maintain. But perhaps my favorite reason to declutter my life is this:

Everything that remains is beautiful.

Reading Time:

2 minutes





  1. Harmony

    Those shelves are perfection. Simple, clean and neat.

  2. jill britz

    yes & yes! i never believed less would truly be more until i tasted it for myself. now, with 4 kids under 10, we have 60% less than what we used to, &, like nina, we’re stripping down to the bones to move into a bus.

    savoring. i’ve never done so much savoring (even with a toddler!) in my life.

    • Promised Heart

      THIS IS FABULOUS! I want to do this so badly, but stuff handed down in the family and a hoarding husband are keeping my dream of a simple life from becoming a reality. I am so encouraged. Maybe we will get there some day soon…

      • Kathleen

        I feel your pain, Promised Heart! Last week I took 5 big boxes to the donation center, and then on Easter I came home with almost as many gifts to replace it all. So frustrating, but even more motivation to get rid of as much as possible and to start making my stop-giving-us-so-many-gifts hints a little less subtle. 🙂 I so long for simplicity, but it’s so hard to make others get on board with that vision – especially those that don’t have to live in your clutter!

  3. Magalie Linda

    That is wonderful. I have already simplified my kitchen cabinets, but this prodded me to reflect. I can do a little more.

    I was about to do the same for my clothes. Having already gotten rid of items, I was wondering though… I am single, no children. I hardly do as much laundry as you. If I get rid of the clothes, won’t that leave me with a feeling of “i have nothing to wear”? I mean by the time my laundry stacks up for it to be another load to be washed, a few days has passed. It’s hard to find a balance in that.

    • sunny

      I have a core group of clothing items I wear all the time..and so I can’t let the laundry pile up until it’s all in the hamper. Like last night, I had six items in the hamper and wanted to wear one of them today, so I did a small load of laundry and hung the items up to dry (I simply use hangers and hang them on my shower curtain rod over the bathtub. If I do this in the early evening, the clothes are dry by morning.) I wash smaller loads a couple times a week, with a couple loads of towels/linens as well. Feels like I’m doing less laundry now.

      • sunny

        PS: I meant to say I too am single with no children.

  4. KittysMum

    Couldn’t agree with you more, Tsh. Having only what you really need makes you appreciate it more and look after it better. I also find it mentally soothing somehow to have less around me. xx

  5. Leanne

    I feel like this post perfectly captures the point of simple living: “Living with less gives birth to a wealthier life: more freedom to live in the moment, more love for fewer things, more energy to invest in the commitments where I’m truly dedicated, more savoring of the truly delectable.” That paragraph gave me an “a-ha!” moment, where I put together many of the ideas I’ve read in this blog, and the preferences I have for simplicity, and finally understood how great the gains can be. Thanks, Tsh! As a bonus, I’m doing a series on beauty on my blog this month, and will link to this post later this week when I’m writing about beauty in the home.

  6. Shawna Cevraini

    The simpler life has been a journey well worth it – still going down that road. I’ve noticed similar things. The most significant for us: having fewer clothes in the closet and drawers actually means less laundry. It’s never piled high because we always have to keep up on it or someone runs out of underwear. It’s made us focus on the things we truly love (which we discovered isn’t many “things”; it’s the moments)

    I agree with the focusing on better food too. I may spend a little more on something I really love, but I spend less on junk that doesn’t fill us up nutritionally. I spend less on groceries overall now, even though the things I buy are a little more.

    We pared down our dishes too when we discovered how much we love staying in vacation property where there are minimal dishes. Dishes were always kept up and there was room to breathe. We implemented the same thing at home in our kitchen.

    Thanks for sharing these thoughts! 🙂

  7. Sharon

    Sigh. This post is so beautiful. It is my heart on “paper” (or a screen, I suppose). Love love the ideals you inspire!

  8. jessica

    We are constantly trying to pare down the things that we own. This post is a wonderful reminder to always look for the excess, even when its hiding in your cabinets. I just pulled a bunch of things out to take to the basement and when I don’t use them for a few months off to Goodwill they will go. Thanks and have a great day!

  9. Kimberley Allan Mulla

    Yes! I recently started decluttering. Clearing out the boxes of stuff that were filling the spaces in my home. First, under beds. My bed is clear underneath. Not only am I now able to keep it dust free but the lack of clutter surrounding my sleep space has made for a calmer environment. The kids clothes- boxes and boxes of baby stuff I wasn’t letting go of. Why? We aren’t having more. But I was hanging on to the feeling of having babies. I needed to move past and accept we don’t have babies anymore. We don’t need ALL those momentos. And finally, my clothes. Clothes mostly from before babies. I don’t fit them. But I was hanging on to who I was before. A city girl with suits and heels and time to do my hair every morning. That’s not my life now and I needed to be okay with letting go. It felt good to donate beautiful high quality clothing that may help other women feel their best. And I traded my heels for a new pair of hiking boots. Your image of your closet inspired me to achieve the same freedom. I was looking in my closet and most of what I saw made me feel bad about myself. Thank you for inspiring me!

  10. Sarah

    Thanks for this! I’ve really been paring down our stuff over the last few years, and every now and then you need to hear something that reaffirms what you’re working toward. I’ve really been on a mission to declutter and have less stuff, not just a lot of organized stuff. I completely know what you mean about your closet. I’ve lost 40 pounds and have just a few clothes because I pretty much had to start over with my wardrobe, except for socks 😉 I love that I like everything in my closet now, even if it means wearing the same things pretty frequently. Let’s face it, even with a full closet we still wear our favorites over and over.

  11. VAL

    I believe in what you are saying. However, I just did the opposite, and it also feels good. We bought a house double in size of our last house. We have four children. The larger size of the house helps our family to function better. Also, we love to entertain. I think one of our gifts is to gather people together and create a closer sense of community. A larger house is helping us to fufull our love of entertaining. I love my big screen t.v. because we have fun parties when people come over to watch the “big game.” I love my big kitchen aid mixer because it makes it easier to bake for funerals (which we volunteer to do.) It’s nice to pare down, but it also feels good to have nice things and use them wisely.

    • Sharon Holbrook

      This is a fine point – we too moved recently to a bigger house. We also entertain a lot and are seeking to fill the house not just with “stuff”, but things that serve a purposeful life.

      • Kelsi

        It is lovely to have a house that is not-too-small, not-too-big, but just-right. My family of 4 lived in a 600 square foot house for 5 months during the coldest winter I can remember and it was so hard. Now, we are in a 1,700 square foot house and I love every uncluttered inch of it. The “right” size for a house is one that fits your needs.

  12. Sher

    This reminds me of how say if the mantle is FULL and cluttered with object…and you clear away and only keep what you LOVE…the empty space around the remaining objects allows you to SEE and appreciate those items you chose to keep!

  13. cecilia

    I just don’t know how to get rid of half of my clothes. Please help! I don’t buy many clothes so it’s hard for me to get rid of them. ack! I don’t dress up. I just wear jeans and hoodies and tshirts. The just in case I attend a wedding, just in case I attend this event, etc. It’s hard to get rid of the dressy clothes I wear once a year (black dress from Lands End). But I want that feeling. I want that peace. I have been getting rid of 150 items a month since January so “Yay!” me. I still have more. I want that simple life.

    • Sharon Holbrook

      Start with the everyday clothes, perhaps? I bet you know which you really love, which are too ratty, and which flatter you. Don’t worry so much about the special occasion items, some of which we all need to have on hand.

    • Aubrey

      cecelia! I found myself overwhelmed by the amount of clothing in my daughter’s closet and drawers (we are lucky to have several sources of hand-me-downs). I made a list of the types and respective quantities of clothing she might need in a given week. For example, 8 t-shirts, 5 tank tops, 6 pairs of shorts, 4 sun dresses, etc. Then I culled the “extra” items – it made a huge difference. I had so much left over could clothe another child!

      I would think a similar strategy might work for you. Think about the types of events you are likely to attend within the next two years – weddings, funerals, etc. Make a list of how many outfits you might need; then find your favorites and donate the others.

      Good luck!

  14. Archer

    Are you still only doing 7 outfits per kid? If not, how many “outfits” are you allowing for your kids, including all seasons? Curious!

  15. Yanic A.

    We are in the process now : I’m donating to family our second set of dishes (a huge 8 service set compete with serving dishes, platters and bowls) and got rid of half our utensils. It’s a small step, but on none the less. I need to go through my closet again, need to go through the kids playroom. Every week, I revisit a problem area. Every week I think I’m getting rid of everything I possibly could… and then the next week, I find more stuff.

    • Sarah

      Dishes! Thank you for the revelation. Having recently combined households, we currently have service for 16 in our cabinets. There are 2 of us. While we might occasionally have people over, we don’t have space to seat 16 people. We could easily give half away and never miss them.

  16. Sharon Holbrook

    I’ve been decluttering for years, but I’m still far from being left only with the beautiful. This is inspiration. Well said.

  17. Tracy | Pale Yellow

    Going down to 5 dishes is impressive; especially considering my sink of dirty dishes from one person. These posts are inspiring! Even though I just moved and thought I did a decent job de-cluttering, I’ve went around to each room in my apartment and purposefully & thoughtfully got rid of five things from each room!

  18. Alicen

    My kids dressers need cleaning out. Their drawers are full yet they run to the laundry room to put on their favourites every morning, so why do I feel like they need to keep the shirts they never choose to wear…. it’s not them… it’s me. I know. I feel like people spent their money to give my children these things as gifts and I owe those people the chance to maybe possibly if all the stars align, see my children wearing the items they purchased.
    Sounds like my Saturday morning plan will be to attack the dressers and pass on items they’re not wearing…. and it is time to swap winter for spring/summer too!
    Thank You for the push 🙂

    • Kelsi

      This is so my kids! My daughter is always wearing only her favorite dresses. Maybe it’s time to get rid of the others.!

  19. Gretchen

    I definitely need to declutter. One of my problems is that I feel I will always find some use for something I have (or actually reuse) so I don’t throw it away. Some friends of mine did something a few years ago which I thought was really neat. Instead of buying each other Christmas presents, they swapped things. One may have given another a painting she’d had and enjoyed for awhile which another might have gotten a pretty bowl or vase. Granted this doesn’t actually get rid of anything, but it saves on buying things and maybe it’s easier to give something up knowing that a friend will enjoy it.

  20. toni

    would love to be a subscriber but can only do it by email. I shall try to come visit now that I have found you. I believe in your philosophy but have trouble following it. I want to do better.

  21. Jaime

    Where are your plates from? I love them!

  22. naomi

    We have been purging (and purging and purging) in order to sell the house and this is so perfectly right and true. That which remains, after the goodwill drops is what really matters. And it is beautiful.

  23. hopeinbrazil

    I don’t have a problem with physical clutter, but my schedule is often stressfully overloaded. Thank you for this wonderful reminder that choosing the best activities restores your joy in them. I’m working toward that goal.

  24. Greer Oharah

    These words are perfectly timed for my season of life. We are downsizing this summer from 1600 square feet to 700. I’m looking forward (with only a little fear) to the decluttering that will happen. Thanks for the insight.

  25. Dianne

    I’m there in my thought pattern, just catching up in my actual physical life. The amount of time it is taking with a family of 7 is huge. It feels like I am paddling upstream. Not everyone is on board, but I am encouraging and we have cleaned out our garage storage area. Yea for baby steps.

  26. Maggie

    I get energized to clear out more clutter when I read these posts. Alas, it seems like such an ongoing battle. And there’s always another stash of items making their way into our home. Thanks for the inspiration!

  27. Jennifer Campbell

    A-to-the-men. I am by no means “there” in terms of decluttering. But I’ve done two 40 bags in 40 days challenges, and I’m currently leading a group on FB, helping others discover the freedom of owning less. Our decluttering goal is to be able to downsize our family of 6 from a 1900-square foot house to a tiny house (not sure how tiny yet, it’s still in the dream phase).

  28. T.Margarone

    I love the plate idea. I told my son who’s roommate is always leaving dirty dishes in the sink. He purged the cupboard (setting for 8) and left 2. Now, his roommate can’t stack up the dishes. So Simple, SoPriceless!

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