How Much Should I Keep?

This is a very personal question and only you can answer it completely, but I’d like to write down what makes me and my family most happy. Sometimes I forget and hold on to too much and it makes us miserable.  I’m so excited to have a permanent record to come back and read to remind myself it’s okay to let go.

Anti-Hoarding Rule:  Keep only what I can use within a reasonable amount of time, and what I have a place for.

A reasonable amount of time depends on the item.  For food, it’s about 6 months worth.  For gifts and cards, I keep what I will use in a year.  For clothing that I’m saving for the next child–I allow a wait time of about 3 years.  I no longer have any baby girl clothes, even though I hope more babies are in my future.  My youngest girl is 7 years old and if I saved her clothing for a future baby, it would be collecting dust.  I feel better passing the clothing on to someone who can use it now and trust the Lord for the good deal to come along when I need it. 

I used to save maternity clothes too.  The first time I was expecting was through the winter.   The next 4 babies came during the summer and my winter clothes were worthless, but I saved them anyway.  With this 6th baby, I was pregnant through the winter again and the 11 year old clothes that I had saved were out of style and way too big.  How sad that someone else couldn’t have used them while they were still in fashion. 

A place for everything has new meaning for me.  The place needs to be attractive, easy to access, and not overstuffed.  If I don’t have a place for the item, I have to ask myself how much I want it or need it.  Just because it has value or is a useful thing, doesn’t mean I have to keep it.  Instead of imagining how I would use it, I imagine how I would feel if it were gone.  Would I think about it or miss it?  Would I need to go out and buy a replacement?  If not, then I feel okay with letting it go. 

This has been so freeing!  I have let go of an entire bookshelf of books, knowing if I changed my mind I could get them at the library.  I can’t even tell you what they were and I’ve never gone to look for one of them since.  I paired down my homeschool materials to only what I am using right now.  I had so many helps and extra activities, that I felt guilty that I wasn’t doing more with the children.  They certainly weren’t asking for more work!  I’m also going through my old letters and papers.  I haven’t thought about them since I received them and went from a huge bag full to just 3 very special pieces.

I’ve discovered the only holiday I decorate for is Christmas.  So I let all of my other decorations go–and I paired down my Christmas items to the ones that make me most happy.  It all fits in 2 tubs. 

The hardest part about letting go of things, is when other’s question my wisdom.  It’s already hard for me to part, and when someone else confirms my uncertainty I waver between keeping the item, and snapping back in frustration.  When I know an item will cause that response, I pack it in a cardboard box and drive it to a thrift store far far away (so I don’t accidentally shop there with that person and they find it!)  I’d never get away with putting it in a yard sale–or someone might cry out in disbelief and be hurt that I could let it go.  But when it’s gone, they just appreciate the cleanliness and never think of it again.  Even though I feel guilty on the drive home, it really is for the best.

I still have a long way to go.  Even though I’ve gotten rid of 4 huge storage tubs of fabric, I still have too much–and I have more sewing patterns than I could sew up in a life time.    Baby steps :). 

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13 Comments

  1. Lorelei
    Posted April 14, 2011 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    Boy, that’s a tough one for me too! Especially since I also sew and craft. I can see so much potential in that fabric, or I might use that horde of trims I’ve had for ten years, or I could cut that T-shirt down into a baby dress; when with a 17 month old and another baby due in October and not much storage space I really need to unload it! Thanks for the post, it’s nice to know I’m not alone in my suffering!LOL

  2. Jennifer
    Posted April 14, 2011 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    How do you declutter books? Seriously which ones to you get rid off? Which ones to keep?
    And baby stuff. My guys are all 3 years apart but it seems to be that this next one will be a little farther. Do I declutter my strollers or hold on to them?

  3. Tammy
    Posted April 14, 2011 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    I love reversing the question to “how would I feel if it’s gone?” The timing of this post is perfect. I know of 2 more charity garage sales coming up (just sent 6 small bags to a 3rd), the used curriculum sale (I must be brutal!), and a friend’s garage sale for items I’d prefer to get a little money out of.

  4. Angela
    Posted April 14, 2011 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    Jennifer, I got rid of some fantastic books. I only kept the ones that I knew I couldn’t get at the library and that I wanted to look at over and over again. I only kept the basic curriculum that I plan to use this year. I’ve stopped buying ahead because I often change my mind about what I’d like to do in the next year.

    I kept my strollers because I was still using them at 3 years old, but I got rid of my carseat, baby bath, boppy pillow and everything else that was newborn related. Usually my babies are close (20 months apart or so.) but these last two are 3.5 years apart. The nice thing was, a friend loaned us a carseat for this one, the person I gave my bath and boppy to sent them back. And I found just the right clothes yesterday at a garage sale for $.50 plus the ones my friend shared with me since she is having a girl and I a boy.

    It’s a little ironic that I’m selling all my strollers right now, because I’d rather have a sit and stand for our family dynamic. I’m not sorry I saved them though since I used them as recently as 2 weeks ago :).

  5. Angela
    Posted April 14, 2011 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    Loreli, We think a lot alike. I still have way too much craft stuff and will go through a second purge in June right before my mom’s garage sale. My goal is to get everything up off the floor and onto the storage shelves. I can keep only what will fit on the shelves my husband lovingly built for me. It’s hard for me to purge super deep all at once, but I can get rid of about half at a time and then do it again later.

  6. Angela
    Posted April 14, 2011 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    Tammy, I love this question. How will I feel if it’s gone? (Usually I ask, what will my mother think of me when it’s gone? lol) She often comes to my rescue with her stash of fabric etc. And I’m grateful for it. But I have to remember that I have a lot more people at my house, with less storage space.

  7. Jennifer
    Posted April 14, 2011 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    Angela, try to borrow a sit and stand before you buy, they are a beast to steer. I have a Peg Perego P3 that has a step on back for a toddler that may need a ride. Check your craigslist. It is is a great stroller. there are other ones in their line that also have steps.

    Off to tackle my beast of a room while I contemplate selling strollers and books. Along with donating books. What holds me back is we live in the country and our books at our house are a library as we rarely get to the library.

  8. Liz
    Posted April 14, 2011 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    Oh, Angela, THANK YOU! This post is so timely. It’s garage sale season and it’s so easy to collect things because they a “good deal” and not necessarily because I need them. When I have too much stuff I find hard to think and when I don’t have so much stuff I am forced to be creative which is fun and good for my brain. I do sometimes buy things because it seems better to take a chance a couple of times and still get it really inexpensviely, but the key is that I can’t hang on to it after it doesn’t work hoping that I will someday use it. You are right about the curriculum and the clothes. (When I used to get rid of things, but was unsure I would say a little prayer that if I really needed it again God would send it my way again. I have missed very little of what I gave away.) What you said about the books was true too. We live out of town and so the library is not a good option. However we have hoards of books that don’t get read. I think there are too many to choose from. What I can do is get rid of some and then if they want more pick them up at garage sales for a dime. God bless you and I hope all goes well with the baby, Liz (a new reader)

  9. Liz
    Posted April 14, 2011 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    p.s. I know it doesn’t sound like it, but I think getting rid of stuff probably saves money in the end, don’t you think. You often have things that will work, but you don’t know it because of the other stuff in the way. A few years ago I got rid of an awful lot of fabric and come to think of it…I don’t miss it a bit!

  10. Andrea
    Posted April 15, 2011 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    This is such a good series on homemaking, cleaning and organizing. I like what you said about Maternity clothes, our first 3 were spring babies, but this one is due this fall, a lot of my clothes are for winter, but I was able to make some cute tops with a maternity pattern I had and skirts with the Florinda skirt pattern. ( any expectant moms out there… Angela’s Florinda skirt pattern is easy to follow, comfortable to wear and feels beautiful, if you are looking for something nice then this is the pattern for you, I own a lot of patterns, but this is my favorite.)

  11. Sarah
    Posted April 19, 2011 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    I think I hit the nesting instinct after my third baby this time. Usually it is before the baby but i was tired adn crazy busy before this one and did not feel up to it. I am making up for it now!! I have this closet that since I was pregnant and tired I stuffed everything into I am organizing into bins and my hubby brought home a filing cabinet which is so nice for scrapbook paper, bills and lots of things. I do have a hard time with garage sales, we live in the country no one would see a sign or venture that far off the highway, but I think I will try one at my moms or just donate to our free store.Thansk for the inspiration!

  12. Emily
    Posted April 21, 2011 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

    I used to be a hoarder. I kept every card every given me. Ever. I kept odds and ends. Tons of tiny stuff. Things from camp in 4th grade. Things that were torn or broken. Blah. The first time I saw my husband read a card and immediately throw it away, my jaw dropped. It was the worst thing ever to me!! But that was over 6 years ago. 3 kids and 2 houses later, my husband is asking me to STOP throwing stuff out. I’ve been tempted to get rid of furniture before just to free up floor space and feel less crowded.

  13. Diane Ward
    Posted April 25, 2011 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    Emily and others: My name is Diane and I AM a hoarder. LOL
    Okay, not the kind that has stuff piled to the ceiling in every room, but the kind that definitely needs some re-working. I’m wondering for my self if I need to ask, “How will GOD feel if it’s gone?” My stuff keeps me from spending time with him because I spend so much time looking for things, cleaning my STUFF, rearranging my STUFF and being frustrated about the whole thing. I’m trying to get to this place of motivation that you are all at or getting to… Good posts!