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How I Purged 91% of Our Stuff

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Guest post from Sara of Traveling PhoBlog WriPher:

If there were a competition for de-cluttering, I’d be the winner. I picture a Biggest Loser-style competition. Confetti would fall onto my smiling face immediately after they shouted “Sara Bell, you got rid of 91% of your personal belongings. You are the biggest de-clutter-er!”

No, really. I got rid of 91% of my personal belongings.

My husband and I love to travel, so we decided to move into a trailer and travel all over the U.S and Canada. At the time, we lived in a two-bedroom condo with a garage so we knew we’d have a lot to get rid of. We just had no idea just how much!

Here’s how we did it…

1. Get rid of multiples.

Do we really need two TVs when only one of us actually watches TV? No. Then do we really need two DVD players? No. Since our laptop plays DVDs and our Xbox is always hooked up to the TV, do we need a DVD player at all? No.

Do we really need a desktop computer when we are usually just on the laptop? No. Do we really need two bookshelves when neither is completely full and one is a little rickety? No. Do I really need five of the same-sized sauce pan when there are only four burners on my stove any ways? NO.

Once you’ve done that, congratulate yourself!

2. Get rid of the things you don’t/won’t use.

That vase was a gift but I think it’s ugly. I have hated every book I’ve attempted to read by that author, yet I still have three more of his/her books on my shelf. That dress hasn’t fit me since I was in high school. I don’t know whose that is, but I’m pretty sure it’s not even mine.

All of it has to go!

3. Get over it.

Yes this part is the hardest part, especially for me since I am a very sentimental person. I was crying during half of my de-cluttering process because I felt guilty for getting rid of things someone gave me.

I had movie ticket stubs dating back to 2002. I had sweaters I’d hated from the moment I’d unwrapped them, many with the tag still intact. I had colorful scribbles drawn by kids whose last names I couldn’t even remember. I had 24 notes from my little sister-in-law, even though they all say the exact same three sentences on them.

When I couldn’t bring myself to throw something away, I’d tell my husband. Some of the things he’d look at and say “See if your parents will store it.” Some he’d look at and say, “Just keep that.” Some he’d look at and say “You’re joking, right? Throw that away right now.”

If you can’t throw a lot of it away, have a friend or family member do that with you. They don’t have the strange emotional ties to the object that you do, so they’ll be able to logically see if it’s something you’ll regret throwing away or if it’s garbage.

4. Sell that junk!

We gave our friends and family members a lot of things — especially our furniture. We put many of pricier items up on Craigslist… and we had a big garage sale. Anything we couldn’t sell we either gave to Goodwill or threw away.

We didn’t bring anything back into our house once it was out in that driveway.

5. Don’t buy more.

Now I’ve trained myself not to buy things I don’t need. 91% of my belongings were things I didn’t really care about getting rid of. 91% of the things I’d spent money on were things I didn’t mind throwing away.

I don’t buy clutter anymore, so I have more money to experience life with. I don’t have a ton of clutter all over my tiny little trailer, so I don’t have much tidying up to do and I don’t really feel any stress in that area. I de-clutter again on the first of every month… but I have to tell you, I de-clutter less and less every month and I think you will too.

Sara Bell is a 20-something currently residing in Prescott, Arizona. When she isn’t bargain-shopping or cooking, she loves reading, writing, knitting, and photography. She and her husband recently moved into a trailer so they can travel the U.S. in it. You can read about their adventures on her blog, The Traveling PhoBlogWriPher.

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137 Comments

  • Love you last point! We can purge and purge and purge, but if we keep bringing stuff *in* there will always be more to get rid of.

    Contentment and gratitude for what we do have is so much for freeing that chasing after the latest and greatest new toy!

    • Cynthia says:

      I need to purge but my house is huge. It is my husband’s homestead so there are items stored away because… I don’t know! With my own belongings, an idea regarding cards, letters, or anything else you just to save would be to photograph it & make a file on your laptop.

  • Cotton says:

    Way to go! It has been a struggle that I am still not done with. The best part for me is that I becoming more ruthless in my de-cluttering efforts and it is beginning to feel very freeing. PS We are practically neighbors since we don’t live too far from you. Enjoy your freedom!

  • Lisa-panaMOM says:

    LOVE LOVE LOVE this!! I’ve beein doing my purge since Jan 1, but this has TOTALLY motivated me to hit it harder. LOVE it!!!

  • Gretchen says:

    I love it. All very good points especially the part about less tidying up and “I don’t buy clutter anymore, so I have more money to experience life with.” Such a great idea even if you aren’t traveling across the US.

  • I like what you said about the multiple DVD players. We have (2) DVD players plus an XBox. It never occured to me that that is one too many. No one will be utilizing all of them at the same time. I think it’s time to get rid of one of these! Thanks for the idea 🙂

  • M says:

    LOVE this post!!! About a year ago, my husband and I found out we were going to move. We had been living in our house for about 5 years, and he had lived in it for about 4 years before we were married. So, between us and our 3 kids, we had about 9 years worth of stuff in that house. I honestly didn’t think it was that much, because I’ve always been a “purger” and a “clutter-nazi”, but my husband…not so much. When we started packing, I figured it wouldn’t be that much work, but once we got further and further along, I was really frustrated with how much JUNK we were still hanging onto. And THEN! We hit the basement. You know, you kinda forget what you have when you aren’t reminded of it all the time…man…I was so disgusted with myself and with how much JUNK JUNK JUNK we were storing! It took SOOOO long to get rid of everything and sort stuff down there. It pretty much depressed me. Now that we are in our new house, I’m a million times more diligent about what stays and what goes. I never want that to happen again!! You may think you’re a minimalist, but start some organizing project and you may realize something else, like I did! lol!

  • Cindy says:

    Yippee for you! Thank you for sharing this. I am in the middle of an organizing challenge that Laura over at orgjunkie.com is running. I’m making good progress. The sentimental things are hard. I’m good at getting rid of things I don’t like. But the sentimental stuff is another story. Right now I’m battling over which set of china to keep. I have two full sets. I love them both. They are both from very close relatives. But I know 1 has to go. Thank you for the encouragement.

    • Kate says:

      Pick the china you like the most and keep it, but give the other set to a relative on the side of the family that the china came from. That way you know it will still be loved and valued and kept in the family. My aunt sold a set of china that came from way back in the family and even though I didn’t know the family member it came from, it still hurts to know I don’t have that bit of family history that my ancestors treasured.

    • Dee says:

      sold my wedding China and crystal, to Replacements LTD. com, they offered the best price at that time, then bought two sets of $20.00 dishes at the dollar store. Best thing I every did, removed a lot of stress, put money in my budget.

  • Candace says:

    Ouch! I have a hard time with letting go of things, wondering “what if”. Such as, what if one of our VCR or DVD players broke? If I kept the other one, we wouldn’t have to buy another – which would cost more than what we could sell the current one for. (Just an example since we prefer the children to watch Bible related videos over television most of the time.)

    I had someone come over a few years ago to help me clean one day, and I’ll admit that her words have stuck with me and I’ve thrown more than a thing or two away because I can see and hear her still. 🙂

    Thanks for the motivation! We’re trying to pay off an unexpected HVAC replacement, and selling a few things would help get it out of the way.

    • M says:

      My husband has much of the same way of thinking as you in the way you say you want to keep multiples of things in case one breaks/gets lost/etc… I’m of the mindset that I’d rather have less of something, and if that something breaks (or whatever) then we just learn to deal without it until something affordable (or free!!!) comes along to replace it. Example: We used to have Dish Network several years ago, but it was getting so expensive we cut out the service. We went a few years with no TV, not even local channels. We learned to live without it and we actually liked it! (At least I did…hehe) And then recently, a relative of ours gave us a subscription to Dish Network again…(I have mixed feelings about having TV in the house again, I’m very grateful for the gift, but TV is…well..you know…TV…) Just an example of how you can just let something go and learn to live without it. It might come back into your life later, or it might not. Either way, I think learning to live with less is better in the long run. 🙂

      • Candace says:

        I agree. 🙂 I can’t believe the time that I used to waste watching television years ago. We just have old fashioned rabbit ears, so there’s not much temptation to watch the few channels we pick up! I couldn’t imagine the time lost (not to mention money) if we had cable or satellite.

        We try to keep even just movies limited – but they sure were good to have on hand as I just was pregnant with our 5th, and during that newborn stage. Our oldest is 7, so there were times it was hard to keep the little ones occupied when Mommy needed to rest.

      • Marisa says:

        We did the same thing. When my husband and I were in college, we had free cable TV. Then we moved across country and one of the first things we did was sign up for cable. After a day or two, we realized we really couldn’t afford it. It was hard for me to give up, but even harder for my husband :-). Fortunately the cable company let us have our money back. It’s been 4 1/2 years now and neither of us have regretted that decision once. In fact, we are SO happy not to have TV channels. It’s really just a lot of junk anyway. I guess it took not having it to realize it wasn’t worth it. Hopefully I can apply this thinking to the stuff I keep holding on to :-).

    • Katherine says:

      Hi Candace,

      Do you mind revealing her words that stuck with you, if it isn’t too personal, please? I need all the help I can get, and sometimes a strong message sticks new concepts into my brain. I spent fifteen years in and out of comas following a stroke when I was 29. By a huge miracle I’m still here, playing catch-up with myself to organise my space now that I can handle it a bit better. My excuse for not streamlining is valid; I’m in continuous pain and frequent fatigue, so I tackle projects in short bursts. I drop electrolytes frequently to dangerous levels, so my frustration in progressing in tiny bits is paramount.

      I need ALLLL the wisdom I can get. Sorry for oversharing; this whole concept is exciting to me!!! GOD BLESS. xo

      • Rhonda says:

        Candace that is amazing that you are even able to clean out. Makes me feel like my sickness is nothing compared to your life. I am in the process of keeping only what I love around me. I have spent days on bed rest and failed surgeries. Just want to be happy on days I am stuck there.

      • Anna says:

        Check out flylady.net. If you want daily enouragement/inspiration to work towards a more peaceful environment while taking care of yourself, Flylady is a great place to go! Just read the e-mails (there are a lot of them, but they are worth the couple minutes it takes to read them all) at first, and I know after a few weeks you’ll be inspired to take more babysteps toward your goals.

      • Leah says:

        I’m almost sure her Christian friend’s encouraging words about not saving something ‘in case the other breaks’ is that we should not hoard just in case. We should trust that if we should need something in the future, that God will provide. It’s really a trust issue. And like Joyce Meyer says, when she keeps something just in case she needs it, then even IF she ever needs it, she probably wouldn’t be able to find it, anyway. It’s a hoarding mentality. Trust that God would provide should yours break.
        Good Luck.
        Leah

  • Tasha says:

    We are moving in a few months and I have known for over a yr that we were going to be moving sometime lol. I have gotten rid of so much stuff but it seems to be seeping out of the walls because there is always more! No I dont buy new things just some of the stuff I kept the first time becomes less important to have at the new house! This so works! I’d say we got rid of atleast 85% and theres more to go!

  • Kelly A says:

    Lisa, I am so glad to hear that I am not the only one that has been trying to tackle this exact thing since January. I never imagined it could take so long.

  • Diana says:

    Wow! You have inspired me to get working on getting rid of the clutter! I can’t imagine the freeing feeling of only having what we use, love, and need in our home.

  • Sally says:

    I’d love to know how the author came up with the percentage. Keeping track of all the stuff I declutter is very difficult.

    • sherri says:

      Maybe their trailer is only 9% the size of their old house so 91% had to go. That was my thinking 😉

    • Sarabell says:

      We inventoried EVERYTHING just for our own curiosity. But keep in mind, a trailer has all of its furniture built in so it includes big items like furniture, exercise equipment, musical instruments, etc.

  • Katie says:

    I want to start purging my house of clutter, and I told my husband that I’m on a mission to declutter our house. He didn’t buy me the Hallmark blooming expressions flower that I ooohed and ahhhed over for Valentine’s Day because he told me it would just sit on a shelf or our 2 year old would just break it. He had a good point. The one thing I’m struggling with is keeping all of my daughter’s infant-2T clothes that she’s outgrown. I’m the first in my family (of 5 kids) to have a child and we’d like to have another one, so I feel that I should keep the clothes to hand down to my siblings and for if we ever have another one (we’ve been trying for almost a year). Is it okay for me to hang on to those baby/toddler items? My sister bought my daughter more items than I did, so I would feel really guilty about getting rid of them.

    • Dawn says:

      I have three kids, and I’ve dealt with this issue. What I did: keep it all for future children. That meant tons of Rubbermaid totes taking up valuable closet space. We know that our family is complete now, and I’ll be having a HUGE garage sale to sell all of our baby/toddler clothes this summer. I can’t wait to reclaim our closet space!

      What I wish I’d done: choose my favorite 5 – 6 outfits, 2 pairs of jammies, and a few onesies in each size, making sure that it all fits in one Rubbermaid tote. This is enough, considering you’ll likely get some clothing as baby gifts when your next child is born. Relatives often give clothing for birthday gifts, too, so you’ll likely end up with enough…without having your house stuffed.

      (Your sibings will likely get plenty of baby clothes when their little ones are born, too, so if you’re able to share a few favorites, that’s better than giving them loads of clothing to clutter their house.)

      • Jessica says:

        Thank you for this. After my daughter was born, I saved all her clothes in bins, bins and more bins. And more bins. Lo and behold, my next successful pregnancy was a baby boy. While a few things were neutral and he could wear… I passed on the rest to a charity and to friends. I currently have 2 bins of maternity and 3 bins of neutral clothes but I’m thinking of letting a lot of the clothes go. The clutter in my basement is getting to me and I know the clothes could do some families good. I take the nicer items to a maternity resource center and Freecycle other stuff.

    • Momof5 says:

      Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between “useful” and clutter, but unless you’re really fashion-focused, I can’t imagine getting rid of clothes that will be hand-me-downs. In that case, the challenge is how to store it so that you can find it when you need it. We label tubs with size and gender and stack them in order – but we have a house with actually more closets than we can use, even with 7 of us living here.

      When I put my littlest in a dress that her two older sisters wore, and that we got from a neighbor whose daughter had it handed down from a cousin, or when I put one of those well-loved items in the bag to go to my friend at church with one daughter among her 3 sons and 7 nephews, I’m reminded how right it is to hold on to these things. Some of this stuff is more than 20 years old – true, the really dated pants we’ve taken to Goodwill over the years, but tshirts, pajamas, and sun dresses don’t change much. It’s clutter if you won’t put future children in the clothes, but it’s careful stockpiling if you will. Imagine the expense if I’d bought all of those things new! Imagine the waste!

      Good luck with your next child 🙂

    • sherri says:

      I keep my favorites & even excellent condition items that I didn’t love. We always end up with too many clothes because of grandparents giving. I say only save it if it doesn’t stress you out….like if you actually have room to store it. I would worry about season & gender not being right so I would be cautious about how much you keep.

      Maybe if you start with other sections of the house, you will be able to part with more of it by the time you get to the clothing. I keep some special toys & baby gear that I could see myself re-using or re-buying if I didn’t keep it. 🙂

    • Nancy Snyder says:

      If you find that you have children/baby/toddler clothes that you feel may be of use later, get those space bage. A LOT less storage room taken for those. Put a 8 x 11 paper with –example: size 3 girl on it..put in bag and put all of the seasons in it..summer/winter/etc. Shrink away and stack. when you need them just pull the bag, unzip and you have clean clothes to share. I have a bunch of them stacked in shed for ‘grow into’ by the next set of grandkids coming up. great when 1 is 4 and the next one is only in a 2…and hardly any room taken up. You can also shove them under beds..the dust bunnies don’t mind sharing their space

      • KC says:

        I have considered getting those space bags (I have a lot of clothes to grow into for my children) but they are so expensive. And just one set won’t do. Are you using certain sites to get a good deal on the bags? Until I find a good deal, I’ll keep the clothes in the bins in our storage. We have the space for it.

        • Nancy Snyder says:

          KC try amazon.com and actually they are not that expensive since you can use them more than once. I have used the ones I store my blankets in for 3 years now…winter blankets out..summer in..and on and on.

        • Tea says:

          You can use kitchen or other trash bags. Just put the clothes in the bag and use the hose of the vacuum cleaner to suckered the extra air out & secure.

    • KC says:

      I’d say, don’t get rid of the clothes. If necessary, part with things that were/are less appealing but once you have another one you will be very happy to go through the bins and pick out what you need without having to hike from one garage sale to another. Baby clothes are a bit “iffy” to lend because of all sorts of accidents from spit ups that won’t come out or diaper explosions.

    • Sarabell says:

      I don’t have any children, but so this might not be an accurate answer, but I’d hang on to it all. Once your family is done growing I think there is nothing wrong with keeping a few tiny baby items for sentimentality and giving the rest away/selling it in a garage sale.

      • mallory says:

        I agree. I didnt know it, but my mom saved a few of my baby clothes. Then when I had my baby, she gave me a little blue dress that I wore as a baby. My little 4 month old daughter wore it today, which I think it is super sweet 🙂

  • Kimberly says:

    Sometimes having no other choice is just the motivator we need to get rid of all that stuff that we hang onto for no reason. And think of how much lighter your load is traveling across the country! Not just for the stuff itself but also the emotional burden that stuff brings.

    I have been decluttering now for a while. Just doing one area in my house a week (even if it’s that one drawer that I was putting off). I have just about finished now but I have a closet that I am desperately trying to avoid. The craft closet. I sew, quilt, knit, do machine embroidery, as well as lots and lots of other crafting. I also store our wrapping supplies in this closet.

    I dread doing any of the hobbies I once enjoyed (or wrapping a gift) because as soon as I open the door an avalanche of stuff falls out. I tried to organize it all last summer and it looked wonderful, for about a month. I think it is finally time to purge 91% of all my crafting and sewing inventory. Thank you for the inspiration I needed today!

    • Sarabell says:

      You go girl! If you aren’t even interested in your hobbies anymore because of all that clutter it’s definitely time to purge! You’ll feel so much less stress when you’re done!! =]

  • Tammy says:

    Great post! I absolutely believe that anyone can do this! We are a family of 5. Last summer we sold/donated everything we owned that didn’t fit into our cars and moved across the country. (Really, NO moving van!) We went from a 4 bdrm house to a 2 bdrm apt. so that my husband could take a great job opportunity in a new city. We replaced needed furniture, but don’t even remember most of what we gave up!

  • Leah says:

    I LOVE THIS!!! We go camping every summer for about 2-3 weeks (depending) with our 3 kids and now 2 dogs. We pull a camper and I make a menu, pack what we need and we have so much fun. We use very little because we are out exploring.

    I tell my husband all the time we should sell everything and live in the camper…. except all we have we like…so that won’t happen any time soon. If we do ever live in the camper, it will be until a shop goes up on property, then we’d live in the shop until we could build our “dream barn house”.

    For us it is wonderful to get away in the summer for those few weeks. I love living simply, but the reality is that our lives are very complicated and we need most of the crap (nice crap) we have!

  • Carrie says:

    This was a great post. I’m in the process of weeding out also. As I’m sorting out, I ask myself, “does this bless or stress?” It really makes the decision easy. For example I had a few pieces of my childhood tea set. They were cracked, covered in dust (which I’m allergic to) and a pain to clean. I threw them out. I went through my old files. I still had my old report cards…I really don’t think I will need my K-12 report cards for anything…threw them out.

  • You are my hero!!! I am not a hoarder, and am always getting rid of stuff, but somehow there is always more stuff around that is cluttring my life and it is stressful to me. When I’m cleaning and clearing out I do often think of uses for stuff that I have and decide to keep it when I should probably get rid of it. Last night as I was praying, I was thinking about how I am so busy with three kids, homeschooling, and basic housework that I’m having such a hard time getting my house de-cluttered. I just need the peace that comes with a clean home, and one that’s easy to clean. And the first thought that came into my head was to ask myself if each item is a blessing or a curse. So many things we have are just taking away time, money, and peace from our lives. it just isn’t worth it. Finding this post on my facebook page was just an encouragement bonus! I’m now hunting boxes to clear out! :0)

  • Amy f;) says:

    Thank-you so much for sharing!!!

  • Decluttering can be a totally painful *process*, but a great feeling after it’s accomplished! It’s like a diet for your house. : )

  • Anna says:

    So what do you do when your mother-in-law keeps wanting to unload her clutter on you? Each item comes with a story of how meaningful it is to their side of the family/has sentimental value to the great grandparents, etc. She has saved so much of my husband’s things too and now wants to pass them onto our family.

    • Sarabell says:

      Ooh, that’s a tough one. I am fortunate enough to be able to say “I live in a 31-foot travel trailer. I have no room…” but not everyone gets to use that as an excuse! I feel like honesty is your best and only option. Just explain that you’re trying to de-clutter and ask for help. “It’s a habit I’m working very hard to break and I would love it if you could help support me by not offering me some of these things.” Or, even better, after being honest about not wanting to keep everything specifically point out which things you definitely want and which things you don’t. Sometimes someone feels sentimental about an item so assumes other people will too.

    • Anita says:

      If your mother-in-law is getting rid of it, it cannot be that important to “the family”, or she would NOT be getting rid of it. I had put up with many years of “gifting” and when I finally stopped accepting the gifts it was such a relief. Only accept items that you truly do want.

    • Annie says:

      My husband and I play “good cop, bad cop” with one of us “reminding” the other one – in front of the in-laws – that we are on a “getting-stuff freeze” until our house is completely decluttered (which is a never-ending process!)

  • Enjoyed your post, Sara! I too have gotten a bit weepy when trying to declutter–I am more emotional than I thought when it comes to “stuff”, especially things I’ve received from people I love! I have to keep telling myself, “It’s just stuff, it’s not a person.” 🙂

    I also loved your last point about keeping stuff out once you’ve purged. It seems like each time we’ve moved into a bigger place, more things magically appear. It’s okay to have empty closets!! 🙂

  • Maria says:

    We can either be people who Have Things or people who Do Things.
    Which would you rather be?
    Which way would you like to be remembered?

  • Emilie says:

    I have heard that you are supposed to take pictures of sentimental items and then have one photo album of “memories”…easy to store and clean. You can then tell the story of the item too and it is easier to pass on to friends and relatives. Make duplicate prints and pass them on. Then you give or sell item away depending on it’s monetary value.

    I have done this with some of my grandmothers dishes that we always used…I included a picture of the bowl and the recipe for plum pudding that is in her handwriting. (light bulb moment: I should enlarge some as art work in my dining room. Hmmm, new project).

    I do this for my childrens projects/papers from school. I take photos and make a scrapbook page(s) for each grade. I include their school picture, the report card and photographs of any projects/activities. Who wants to look at broken noodles in 20 years on a faded piece of construction paper?

    I also plan to take pictures and label all of my jewelry so my children will know what pieces are special and why. A friend of mine passed away and I wish I knew the sotry behind some of her things.

  • Debbie says:

    This is timely for me. My kids and I are going to my parents for the weekend while my husband does some painting at home. While at my folks, I’m going to be spending several hours sorting and purging my stuff that’s still in their crawl space. I haven’t lived there since 1998 so it’s time. I plan to get rid of most of it and want to bring home very few things. I’m sentimental so this will be a challenge but I’m determined to only bring in my house those things we will use or my kids will use or have great sentimental value. I’m in purge mode with our stuff here, too. I don’t want to live my life surrounded by stuff; it just boggs you down physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

    • Marisa says:

      My husband and I jut looked through our stuff that’s in his parent’s basement. We didn’t do a very good job, though of getting rid of things. I found a box of old dolls and stuffed animals and it brought back so many memories, I just couldn’t get rid of it. When I got back home, I realized how silly it was that I couldn’t get rid of those things when I had completely forgotten about them for 4 1/2 years and had been happy without them! It was a good lesson :-).

  • KC says:

    It’s amazing how quickly things start piling up. We moved last year – it was a pain to declutter and pack with two little ones, one a few months old and maintain your sanity. I thought I had been ruthless (decluttering part, sanity is still questionable.) And now here I am with some fresh clutter taking up my valuable space in my brand new home. I don’t know how it happened.

  • Paula says:

    I am a saver, so it’s really hard for me to purge. But I have been trying!! One of the things I’ve been doing is scanning or taking photos of items (children’s schoolwork/artwork) and keeping those digital images. Sure, I still save some of them, but not nearly as many as I used to!

    And since my family lost our home in a fire when I was in high school, and lost most of the treasures my mom had saved of my childhood days, it’s very reassuring to me to have those digital images than I can look at–and store in a very small space!!

  • I used to have a hard time getting rid of stuff too. But since hubby is in the military and we’ve had to move soooo many times, I’ve been forced on many occassions to get rid of stuff. With each time I’ve had to do it its gotten easier and easier. Now I have no problem with it at all. If a family member who gave me something objects to it I don’t even feel bad about telling them to get over it (maybe that’s too harsh, lol).

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Sarabell says:

      He he, I think that’s my biggest issue! I can’t say no, even still. The day after Christmas I had no problem donating several of my brand new gifts but I still can’t seem to say no if a person is standing right there in front of me.

      • It is pretty hard at first. Even now I sometimes have a hard time getting rid of something when the person who gave it to me is standing right there, depending on who the person is. If they just gave me something for the holidays then I definitely wouldn’t chuck it right then and there. But if I’ve had it for a while and never used it or if I knew for a fact I wouldn’t use it anyway I’d usually wait until the coast was clear and then give it away.

        There have been times when a family member has asked me about something they gave me after I had already given it away or threw it out and that’s when I’m ok with just telling them I had to get rid of it. If it is my mother, however I have to be a lot nicer about it than anyone else because she takes offense to that kind of thing. Thankfully she hardly ever notices when I get rid of something she’s given me ;-P

  • Great work! We’ve lived in 6 places in 6 years, and every time we move we purge more of our stuff. We are a family of 4, and the last move was from Maryland to California. It feels great to get rid of so much unnecessary excess!

  • Jennifer says:

    How did you deal with pictures/photos?

    • Sarabell says:

      I had to get rid of all of my picture frames, partly because we didn’t have the room and partly because they wouldn’t be a good idea while traveling. I do still have a few small photo frames to set out, but all of the rest of our photos are in photo albums. I don’t have any children though, so I probably have far fewer photos than most people.

  • We live in a travel trailer too! Only we don’t travel in it. To see a picture tour go here:
    http://purposelyfrugal.com/2011/03/23/small-space-living-tour-my-little-home/#.TzxNXMAxBMk

    • Sarabell says:

      The fact that you even shared your link tells me you’re just like me, love to see other people’s trailers! It’s such a small piece of space, it’s always great to see how other people have maximized that space. I’m so impressed by your use space!! I got a few ideas from you. =]

  • Andrea says:

    I haven’t read through all of the comments, but I wanted to add…TAKE A PICTURE! If you love something but don’t find a use for it or can’t display it, take a picture and find someone who will love it =)

  • Katy says:

    We did this too when we were in our late 20s. Sold all our wedding gifts and furniture from our cute first year of marriage cottage. It was so much fun driving down the road with everything we owned on our back!

  • Nicole says:

    My mom lives in Prescott, AZ Very cool.

  • Elizabeth says:

    I have found that a great way to deal with getting rid of things that are sentimental to you is to take a picture of it and put it in a scrapbook.

    Kid’s big bulky art projects, loved toys, and anything that makes you sad to think about getting rid of because of the memories associated with it, is a lot easier to toss or donate when you know it will forever have a treasured spot in your photo album. Even better if you can get the picture with the item being used and/or with the person who it belonged to.

    • Mother Lydia says:

      Doesn’t work so well for heirloom furniture.

      My son is sleeping in the bed his dad grew up in, and his grandfather. It (along with the matching dresser) was built by his great-great-great-great grandfather. It doesn’t matter how big it is or how awkward to cart around, I can’t get rid of it 🙁

  • Angela says:

    I haven’t done so well at purging, but I have stopped getting clutter. Great approach.

  • So true! In a recent move for a new job, my husband and I plus 2 kids downsized from a 1300 sq. ft. ranch home with full basement and 2 car garage to a duplex with less than half the space and a 1 car garage.

    It can be done and it feels so good when you do! 🙂 Great post!

  • Jenn says:

    LOVE this post! I have been in a declutter mood and need to jump back on the wagon! Another great tip (I am so horrible at this) When you buy something to replace another object, get rid of the object it is replacing! A year or more ago I had to buy a new can opener b/c mine had broken. Last week my can opener was not working…. I realized I had kept (in my already to crowded drawer of kitchen utensils) my old broken can opened!

  • Sandy K says:

    In Nov I started to De-clutter. So far over 45 boxes of STUFF have left
    the house. No where near 91 % but a lot less STUFF. Not finished yet still have my sewing room to go.

  • Dana says:

    talk about purging, how about 12 (TWELVE) people in an RV. 🙂 Dad and mom and 10 kids, sold their house, now living and traveling in an RV (for the past 3 years) while they travel the country…
    http://ticknortribe.blogspot.com/

  • Wonderful!
    I wrote a post on my blog about purging, as well.
    it’s so worth it. I still have more to get rid of, but I’m working on it. I’d rather spend the time with my family & enjoy other things than to spend my time cleaning all the clutter collection.
    Thanks for the post.
    Thanks for sharing.

  • Jen says:

    One easy way to combat the sentimental aspect of it. Take pictures of the item that brings you good memories. Then you still have a picture of the item to jog that memory. But not the actual item cluttering your house.

  • Lisa Ann says:

    Love this! This is something I do on a monthly basis. I love to shop , but what I trained myself to do is to look at things and think ” is this something I love enough that if I had to move 3000 miles away would I want to bring it with me.” Thank you for sharing your experience with clutter 🙂

  • Tara says:

    You are so encouraging! My personal issue with decluttering is feeling SO guilty about wasting the money that was spent on the items that I should toss. I’m a stay at home mom & I know the hubby busts his rump every day at work so I feel tremendous guilt for junking a sweater I wore once but don’t really like, or those million to-go cups that I just know I’ll find that darn lid someday or just like the Tupperware Avalanche I experience when opening a cupboard! Clutter is unhealthy. Period. The wonderful hubby I have pointed out that the stress & anxiety our unused crap is causing isn’t more enjoyable than open space & a few less dollars. He also said that we wasted that money when we bought it. The lightbulb went off when I realized that not discarding these things is just as wasteful since they’re not being used so there’s really no difference. It can be exhausting to organize & declutter but the payoff is so rewarding!

  • Leah says:

    A couple of months ago, we too were looking to downsize from a 4 bedroom home to an RV. It was amazing to me how my line of sight changed when it came to decluttering big, inherited pieces of furniture. I decluttered/purged through my office, and literally kept like 5% of the stuff. An RV was so refreshing because you’d be surrounded with all your favorite things. The challenge was amazing. Then, my husband got cold feet, and I lost that magical motivation. I wish there was some trick to get it back. Oh, the things I was willing to let go of….

  • Valerie says:

    How do you get rid of baby clothes? My son was very blessed to have been given LOSTS of clothes. I want to try and get some money for them. I need to buy new clothes for my son. What is your best ideas to get rid of baby clothes cutter HELP! Thanks..

  • Julie says:

    We are military and purging is fun. Its like Christmas. I love the freedom of living with less. With that being said. My parents are retired military and no longer move. They have become semi Horders. I drive the three day drive once a year to help clean out the house. Its hard when both grew up with nothing and now can afford to live life with comfort. I have to remind them that neither my brother and I are big on Stuff. We rather travel or take the kids out. How do you deal with the emotional side when its not your stuff you are purging?

  • Amy says:

    I have been working hard to declutter our home over the past year-and-a-half, but we’ve lived here for 22 years, and our family has grown from 4 to 9 in that time, so we have so much stuff! Also, my daughter passed away last year, and I am really struggling with knowing what to do with her things. I appreciate all the comments here, and look forward to reading people’s suggestions.

    • Jacqui Francis says:

      Hi Amy,
      First of all I would like to say ” I’m very sorry for your loss”
      From someone that has lost a very dear friend. I lost a very close friend that was a little younger than me and my biggest regret is that I have absolutely nothing of hers to remember her by. Nothing at all except my memories. My suggestion with your daughters things, may I suggest that you contact her friends and ask them to visit. They have the option of taking items that belonged to your daughter. Perhaps things that might remind them of her with places they visited or something she wore to a party they held. I am sure that your daughter would love to think that her things went to people that loved her and that she also treasured.
      If only my friends family had thought of this, I would feel so much happier because of it.

      Kindest Regards
      Jacqui Francis

    • Dee M. says:

      Condolences on your loss. I would keep a few things that had her writing on it, something that was her favorite( movie, book, bracelet.) Good luck and live, love, laugh.

    • Dawn says:

      I lost my teenage son 12 years ago. I kept EVERYTHING at the time because the hole in our lives was so huge. Every year, I’ve let more things go and allowed myself enough time to judge what is important enough to keep and what needs to go. I don’t regret this more gradual approach, and feel that each person has to do what causes them the least pain. Bless you in this journey.

      • G says:

        I agree with the gradual process plan for your daughters things. This is what I did with my mothers things. It took me a years to get all her clothes cleared out of a spare closet I was keeping them in. Her clothes smelled like her! What truly got me through it was the Magic of tidying up audio book. She teaches you to thank each item for the purpose it served. That really helped me honor the things she enjoyed but that I had no use for. I ended up keeping only one clothing item, a jacket that is tied to a strong memory of her for me. I only wear it at home on occasion when I’m alone and want to watch a favorite movie of hers, laugh, cry and just reflect on my time with her. Take your time and God bless.

        • Cheryl says:

          I can totally relate to the clothing smelling like your mother. The same is true of my mom’s clothing. I kept most of hers just as you did, in a spare closet. Finally able to start letting go after 5 years. It is really hard, but I’ve kept her things that are more worn and that she wore a lot. My sister and I will be using those to make each of us a small lap blanket; a memory quilt if you will. I do agree with those who say to take time and don’t rush through the process. My mother was also my life long best friend and losing her was like losing two of the most important people in my life. Blessings to all and especially those suffering the loss of those closest to you.

          • Cathy Mesimer says:

            I also lost my Mom who was my Mother and best friend. What a void that leaves in your life! I too had a hard time with what to do with her belongings. In the end we kept some family antiques, old pictures,yearbooks and what nots. I carry a little silver mirror and some pretty little fingernail clippers in my purse at all times. She had long hair that she kept pinned up….I have two of those I keep in my makeup bag. Other than that it’s the wonderful memories that I will always have in my heart!

    • Elizabeth says:

      Make a scrapbook of all memories with pictures of the things…the favorite clothes, toys, etc. Then treasure the scrapbook and everything else can go.

    • Wendy Will says:

      Grief… Is something so very personal. It will NEVER go away, it will never stop hurting, you simply learn to live with it because you realize that life must go on. Take all the time that you need. Decluttering is great and it feels wonderful to have a clean simplistic home (if I could ever keep it like that! Lol!) but you don’t have to feel rushed to part with her things “YET”. It’s very recent. Maybe somethings you could give to family or a friend with girls that size. I make custom children’s clothing & one thing that I often make is a keepsake with all of the mom’s favorite pieces of clothing from that child and make a blanket/quilt out of it. Just a thought. You could also put them in totes & deal with them when you feel ready.
      http://www.facebook.com/sparkleandtrim
      This is my page invade you wish to make a blanket. I pray that God wraps His arms around your heart & give you peace & comfort (to get through this pain)that can only come from Him.

      • Nora Gómez says:

        What a LOVELY comment. I could feel your sincerity in your words… And they help my heart and soul at this time… It’s almost mother’s day, and my Mom passed away two months ago… IT hurts a lot…at this time I WOULD have been choosing her gift.
        So I’m keeping your words and your prayer… Thanks! ???

    • Miranda says:

      Honestly i am very sorry with your loss keep somethings let her sisters or cousins go through her clothes or donate them if you need the furniture keep it but pictures or anything that she made in school or her fave outfit even just something that when you have a hard time you know shes right there looking over you and saying everything will be okay that is what i would do if i lost someone

    • Marie says:

      Finally we where able to decluter our home thanks to the Mari Kondo Method to get organized. Her approach is totally different, sort by category.
      After writing her book “The Live Changing Magic of Tyding Up”, Mari Kondo is by know very famous .You don’t even have to buy her book, on YouTube you can hear the audiobook.
      No mess and most important NO RELAPSE!!!!!
      Bravo for the KONDMARI method!!!!

    • Sandy Atkinson says:

      I bought a photo album and took pictures before I let the items go. Now I can still look at them if I wish. God Bless You during this hard time of letting go.

    • Jen says:

      I divided all of my daughters belongings into three categories, donate,treasure and sell. I gave myself 3 boxes originally to treasure and the items I sold I used the money to go towards her bench at her grave site.
      I go through her items every now and again and am now down to one small box.
      It’s overwhelming at first, every item is bittersweet but remember and treasure the items that make you feel happiest! The memories that are clear, the items that can be repurposed (a shirt that can be cut up to add a heart appliqué on sunshine’s/ rainbows pillowcase) use a special occasion dress for grand kids & rainbows. Hang in there, some days are harder than others but all you are responsible to do is just chip away and make it through

    • Kelly says:

      Make several shadow boxes of different themes. You can make some for family or close friends. Whatever else is left, u can donate to your church,or a woman’s shelter. ?

  • Debby Walker says:

    I just moved from a basically 4 bed, two bath, two car garage that I lived in for 20 years, four kids, 9 grand babies and lots of memories and clutter, into a 1 bedroom with a large laundry room. 1 bath, 1 garage that a corner was assigned to me….(I moved in with my son and daughter in awe, yes awe) to be a granny nanny, and work full time also. I love it by the way. Anyhow, I had to downsize and for a person that gets emotionally attached to items, full of memories, this was tough. But what I did, is when I opened a box of items, that I only thought about once I saw it, and the flood of memories come back and then I can’t seem to part with the items…..I took pictures of the item and let it go……what a help this was. I still have the memory and I can look at it and remember when. I did this with my grand babies pictures, ( kept a few)…..bowling patches from when I was a kid myself, pins from work I earned, (I don’t even work there anymore) to cards people gave me…..put them all in a row or however to fit them in to my camera frame….. and snap and let go…….I actually did this many years ago with my kids stuffed animals too……with 4 kids that got a stuffed animal for b’days, Christmas, illness, etc….that adds up. We were moving across country and I wasn’t going to pay for them to be shipped……I put the stuffed animals, all of them…….on the couch, set my kids in front holding their favorite, took a picture, had them pick out their top 5 and gave away the rest. Boys sports trophies….same thing….put them on table, boys held their medals, or wore them, took picture……they picked top 4 each..gave the rest away……GREAT idea……so this moved, did the same, it worked great.

    • Lynn says:

      This is such a good idea I wish I’d known sooner

    • AJ says:

      That’s a brilliant approach for those of us not wanting to let go! I’ve been putting off going through all my stuff in the garage but this sounds like a great plan. Perhaps I will put the photos into an album so I can take them out and remember – an album takes up a lot less space than a whole garage!

      • theresa says:

        My husband and I moved into a one bedroom apartment while we prepared for retirement. We got rid of a lot of stuff. Wasnt quite as hard as I thought it would be. We decided if it wasnt used or looked at in a certain time period it was not of any use to us. We rid ourselves of a lot of fyrniture clothes knick knacks needless paperwork. Other stuff of no use. We lost our oldest daughter almost 3 months ago. It’s by far the hardest thing I will ever have to go through. I am not prepared to let go of anything I have of hers. I probably will sooner or later. I have a box with her and her sisters paperwork from Kindergarten. I am lamenating each piece of paper and craft to put into a book to keep. I am making one for all four grandchildren so they will have a book each to cherish of their mothers. I love the idea of taking her things and making a quilt out of her clothes. I am going to do that for sure. Maybe a small one for her two children. She has a lot of clothes. Haha! Anyways I want to thank you for your ideas Ladies. I will use a lot of the ideas for sure. Thanks again.

      • Roxana says:

        I carry my baby girls Angelica stuff, she died from SIDS and for 20 years I couldnt depart from a box. Until I followed the Mary Kondo method, it was emotional and freeing experience. It was time to let go. Now I try not to get attached to material things that are a burden more than a blessing.
        It will take time, but dont let much time pass. I hope my experience help you a bit

    • R David says:

      Love this idea! I have been trying to convince my husband we need to de-clutter but he is a tough one. For example I suggested we scan all our photos and get rid of the actual paper pictures. He agreed to scanning pics but said we still need to keep the actual picture! Agh! What good is that! Any suggestions?

      • Rachael says:

        Hubby might be worried scanned items could be accidentally deleted. Back them up on the Internet like Dropbox and you can create photobooks of the best pics which can be both printed and saved, then if he still wants originals, take them out of all packaging and just keep in one labelled box in storage. After a while enjoying photobooks he may agree to let them go.

      • jaykay says:

        Heartfelt condolences to all those who have lost their loved ones…I faced the pain of letting go of my moms clothes..i still have a few which i have held on… About saving the pictures in a soft format, I would prefer the hard copy too just because as we grow older and our hands and brains move slower, we would be more comfortable going through hard copy albums in our chair, than bend over a computer or ipad with shaky hands and fingers to browse the computerised pictures..loved the suggestions of all….God bless.

        • L W says:

          I am still fairly young but also prefer a hard copy picture. It’s more enjoyable to me to sit and look through a book when desired. My kiddo loves to sit with me and look through baby books. I think it is a personal preference thing. Sometimes it’s a balance between de cluttering and being mindful of other important people in your life and home.

  • Deborah Steed says:

    “Live simply, so you can simply live.” One of the most rewarding events my husband and I have ever done was getting rid of most of the possessions we had spent years collecting. Of course, that is definitely a journey and not arriving at a destination.
    Currently, we are on the very last of it and I am totally enjoying scanning all of my photos, journals, and precious papers into digital form, before passing many originals on to posterity…or trash. We are only keeping one file drawer each of our most special original papers and pictures; the rest can be accessed on line from disk or exterior hard drives.
    After doing this process most of our married lives one of our favorite quotes is…
    “Take a picture it lasts longer!”

    • Cindy Coats says:

      I applaud your efforts and I too am working on simplifying my life by decluttering. I felt the need however to mention, as you said you put your photos, journals, and precious papers into digital form, please make sure you store them in more than one digital format since even external hard drives can crash, also be very careful what you store online since it could potentially get into the wrong hands or more literally be seen by the wrong eyes.

      • Deborah says:

        Save copies on flash drives and give them to trusted family members, keep at work or I am safety deposit box. We are 99% PAPERLESS. We only get ebooks or use the library. Amazing the weight of books and paper.

  • Ashley says:

    I love this! This is my goal too, well I’m starting with 50% this year! Here’s where I started, 200 Things To Throw Away right now. http://embracinghomemaking.net/2015/04/200-things-to-throw-away/

  • Lise says:

    I find if it is an object or a card from someone you love you can take a picture of it and create your own photo album or flash drive full of sentimental things’. It takes up a lot less space and you still have honored the memory!

  • Ann says:

    I started the process 18 months ago in preparation for the move and was still downsizing as we packed the truck!
    I basically started with a quick sweep of the house, then went closet by closet and corner by corner. I was really cluttered. Then I did it over and over and over again. I still can’t believe how much stuff I had crammed into that house.

    Now that I moved without it, I can find things and I just feel lighter. And I really don’t miss any of it. There’s been one or two things that I think that oh that would be handy to still have but its not worth all that crap and emotional weight for a ‘just in case’.

    • Rachel says:

      Donella, First of all, best wishes in your mission endeavors! Secondly, how is the RV life going? My husband and I have talked of changing to this lifestyle soon. Our son graduates HS in 2 months and will be going to college 3 months later. Our teen daughter wants to stay in our house until she graduates also, so I have some time, but I’m curious how you accomplished this transaction. We currently live in a 4 bedroom house with 2 baths and 2 garages. We moved here 3 years ago when my mother-in-law passed and my husband inherited the house/property. We were renting and housing costs were cut in half, so it made sense, but the house was Very FULL. We moved from a 3 bedroom, 1 garage, 1 bath and our stuff was put in storage for a whole YEAR; a wasted $1200! I made my husband and kids help me bring it all home to sort, but never seem to get to it and if i even go down to the basement I feel completely overwhelmed and sometimes depressed. How did you start? How long did it take? I’m trying to wrap my head around this crazy project, but just don’t know what is realistic to expect. Any ideas or advice is MUCH appreciated!

      • Liz says:

        Rachel, I would suggest trying setting a timer for 15 minutes and just sorting through something you feel you can tackle (old newspapers, books you know you don’t want, cutlery, or something). If you aren’t sure about something, leave it and move onto something you know what to do with. When the 15 mins is up, put the rubbish in the bin, the recycling in it’s bin, the things for donating wherever you store those (your car?), and the things you want away where you want them. If you can face another 15 mins, have a coffee and do it again. If you can’t face another 15 mins, pat yourself on the back, and go and do something else. It may seem trite and not much, but 15 minutes a day is better than nothing, and it is amazing what you can get done in 15 mins of concentrated effort. Also, dealing with your mother-in-laws stuff will get easier over time. When my mum died, I didn’t want to get rid of anything, because the grief was too raw. Over time, as I have worked through the grief, I have gained much more clarity about what is really special, and what is not. Work with your husband as to what you are both ready to part with and deal with that first. Clearing the decks a bit will help you see more clearly what is important, and what you can part with. Hope this helps. Blessings as you find your life!

      • NaDell says:

        If you have a great friend who likes to organize, ask for help in return for visiting and lunch. (I’m that organizer/doer/encourager for one of my best friends and when she’s overwhelmed, we set up a day in a week and go through her house room by room.)

  • Donella says:

    Thank you so much. My family ( husband, myself, and a teenager daughter) is preparing to move from our 3 bedroom, 2 bath, 2 car carport into a bunkhouse RV to be able to travel and do mission work. We are very excited but decluttering is hard for a sentimental. It’s funny how God can change your “Want Need” idea. Thank you for all your suggestions.

  • Debbie D says:

    Oh my goodness It was meant for me to find you ….My mom passed and I can’t seem to let anything go I even have her hair that fell out in a bag .I think the photo ideal just might help me . Please pray that I can start somewhere .This winter has been long and the more I stay inside the more I realize I have to purge this house . Thank all of you for your comments and suggestions .

  • Crystal says:

    This is helpful. I will be downsizing eventually. I am finding that collecting experiences rather than things makes the transition easier. Plus I’d rather make memories than have lots of stuff to store and clean and insure etc.

  • Lisa says:

    How did you determine that you declutteres exactly 91%? ? I think that’s fun but curious how you got to that number.

  • Paula says:

    Amy, Losing a loved one is about the hardest. My husband passed away, and for months, I felt immobilized when it came to letting go of even his clothes. Every time I went to dispose of something, I would remember him wearing it! So I would walk away from doing the task.
    About a year after my hubby passed, my mom died. Dad was smarter than I was about letting things go. He asked my sisters and me to go through all of her belongings: clothes, jewelry, (most of it was costume), hats, all of it. We took what we wanted, and donated the rest. At Mom’s wake, (it was held at Dad’s house), we put out any jewelry, gloves, small items the grandkids, nieces or even nephews might want. The rest we donated. Doing my own undaunting task was easier after helping my dad.
    The idea that Jacqui Francis had of having your daughter’s friends come over on a given day to retrieve some of her things would be great. You could have a kind of ‘celebrate my daughter’s Life’ experience. You could have pizza and salads or something like that. You could take pics and even post them on a social network. I hope you might have already done something like this…but, just in case.
    Celebrating Life with someone when they are here is easier than when they leave, for most of us. You’ll find your way to celebrate her daily. There will be tears, but there will be joy too.
    God bless and have a wonderful Spring! Your daughter would want that for you!!

    • KP says:

      Just a suggestion about parting with your old favourite, or a loved ones clothes-you could cut a piece from each of your memorable articles and either make or have someone make a small quilt or pillow cover to have a special keepsake. This can be done for your children’s outgrown clothes that were favorites as well.

  • Anna says:

    My mom died three years ago, and I was given many of her things. Just this, year I’ve decided to declutter. I can still hear my mom’s words, “if you don’t want it get rid of it, I don’t care who gave it to
    you “. So I’ve done that, I given nice things to friends, donated things, or just thrown it out. I have a long way to go, but I’ll get there.

  • Hannah Mathes says:

    I totally understand! Every time I pick something up to throw it away, a rush of memories come back and I can’t bring myself to get rid of it.
    However, I have found that taking pictures of stuff does the same exact thing! That way, I can still have those memories, but not the space that it takes up.

  • mandy cat says:

    It is truly amazing how “stuff” accumulates. I grew up in a military family. When you move every two years, you don’t collect many extraneous belongings. And you don’t get emotionally attached to what you do own, given the way Uncle Sam’s low bid movers are likely to treat it. (Hint: not well.)

    Still, when my husband and I sold a house after 15 years, the Vietnam Veterans donation truck driver and I were on a first name basis before things were finally cleared out. That was six years ago and I am in the middle of a mini-purge right now to make sure we don’t find ourselves back in THAT trap again.

  • Brandi says:

    We lost most of our belongings and our home, as a result of the flood water released after hurricane Harvey 8.5 months ago. A switch flipped and our outlook on “stuff” definitely changed. It’s all such a burden. We’ve moved twice, and will be moving a final time. I’m much more selective about what i buy. I have regret for the effort we put towards stuff we kept. Don’t let your “stuff” define you. It moments, it can all he taken away.

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