Beliefnet
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There is something comforting about having a lot of stuff. If our homes are full of things – whether those things are valuable or not – we feel like we are successful. After all, we could afford all that! However, the problem with owning too many things is that they create a lot of clutter and prevent us from enjoying serenity in our homes.

Now I am not advocating that you completely get rid of your belongings. I would never suggest that you throw out gadgets that still work, or that you get rid of your Christmas ornaments simply because they only get used once a year. But we don’t need to fill our homes with items that we rarely use. For instance, there is no sense in keeping clothes that we haven’t worn in years, when they could benefit someone else. So why not give things away, let other people use our stuff, and have tidier, more pleasant homes in the process?

So how do we pare down? Well, one way is simply to go through our belongings, determine what we actually use, and get rid of the rest. You would be amazed at how few things you actually use, even once a year. I’ve been giving away my clothes recently, and my closet looks quite spare (my lack of footwear would make Imelda Marcos weep big, salty tears). But what is left behind is what I actually wear.

The more challenging issue is that we need to stop defining our success by what we own. That is hard to do in a consumer culture. Worse yet, in the U.S. discount stores like Costco, Target, DSW, Marshalls and TJ Maxx sell a lot of stuff at very inexpensive prices.   So we can fill our homes to the brim and not break the bank. And then we look rich! But we also look like a mess because we just can’t manage all that stuff.

So we have to shift how we spend our money. When I was a teenager, I worked and paid for my own clothes. I was very careful with how I spent my hard earned money. As a result, I didn’t have twenty sweaters – I had two or three, and each was picked out carefully! Sometimes we are better at spending money when we have less of it. Then we only purchase things that we truly love because there isn’t money for extras. Perhaps that is why many of us look at our full closets (myself included) and lament, “I have nothing to wear!” We actually have quite a lot to wear, we’ve just bought nonsense instead of choosing what we buy with care.

Being careful with how we spend our money goes to other household items as well. Take for example what we have in the kitchen. Right now my husband and I are living in a house with a small kitchen that has limited cupboard space. That forces us to have exactly what we need to cook with and not one item more. We have one set of everything. And it works! Our meals are terrific, I bake all the time, and there is nothing that we can’t prepare.

The same holds true for our household linens. Our linen closet is small, so we have the exact number of towels and sheets that we need for ourselves and for hosting guests – nothing more. We don’t have seasonal sheets, or Christmas themed hand towels, or any of the other knickknacks which fill up people’s closets.

The amazing thing is that when you have just the right amount of stuff, there is something very calming about your home. I used to have friends from Canada who moved to the U.S. and lived nearby me. There was something different about their house, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Then one day I said, “Cathie, you have the perfect amount of stuff in your house. There isn’t one item that is too much. It all makes sense!” It was true. They had a beautiful home which wasn’t cluttered, but it wasn’t stark either. They had the perfect amount of stuff. Every time you entered their home, it just felt so civilized.

And that is really the key to how to live with stuff. Ideally we don’t want to have too much or too little, and what we have should be only what we either use or that has special meaning. In that way, we create homes that are beautiful, peaceful and a reflection of who we are.

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