Five Good Reasons to Downsize Your Stuff

Jan 8, 2016 | 1 comment

Clutter in ShedYou don’t have to be old or dying to downsize. When you’ve lived in the same place for a decade or two or three, stuff accumulates. We get attached to pieces of clothing, books, knickknacks, photographs, papers, all sorts of objects.

It’s a challenge to embrace simplicity. Not many reach the level of hoarding, where your possessions crowd out the opportunity to live a normal life or entertain guests in your home. That’s living dangerously. Don’t be like that.

Here are five good reasons to reduce the amount of stuff you have in your home.

Less stuff is liberating.

In 1990, I moved from the Washington, D.C. area to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Only the possessions that fit into my Honda hatchback came along for the ride. I rented a furnished apartment and for two years used those items brought West in the car. It’s amazing how little you need to live well.

Two years later, I bought a house. A moving van delivered the multiple boxes of belongings and furniture retrieved from their hibernation in the folks’ basement. Pulling out all those long-hidden possessions, it was like Christmas! Over more than 20 years, many of those objects remain treasured, while some have been donated, sold, or trashed and new gear has come into the house.

We may move many times in our lives. With each move, reconsider which possessions to take. As the phases of our lives progress, our needs and our clothing sizes change. You are given gifts by well-meaning friends, but perhaps those objects don’t resonate. Only keep the things you truly love, use, and can fit into.

A cluttered space = a cluttered mind.

Clearing your space helps clear your mind. Clutter invites confusion. Open space invites opportunities into your life. It may sound “woo-woo,” but many people swear by the magic of fung shui, the Chinese art/science of placement. Eliminating clutter is an important first step to allow good energy to flow through your surroundings.

Attachment to stuff causes suffering.

Buddha meditatingThe Buddha observed that attachments are at the root of all suffering. Americans are really good at acquiring. We’re not very good at letting go. We become anxious and stressed trying to hold on to people and products in a constantly changing world.

Our stuff represents our history, an accumulation that marks who we think we are. When we recognize change is constant, that all we really have is the present moment, we can learn to let go of our attachments to objects representing the past. We can distance ourselves from the discontentment and dissatisfaction the stuff we don’t love fosters.

Cats can make a mess.

Curious CatWhen you adopt kittens, prepare to clear your clutter. Young cats are curious and amazingly agile. They will climb onto – and into – places you wouldn’t believe. They will knock your knickknacks over. They will mess with the mail, magazines, and newspapers. The less stuff you have, the less kitty mayhem they can inflict.

Getting dogs can also prompt a pare-down of possessions. If the dog is big enough to wag its tail over the coffee table, at least keep that area clear.

You’re a grown-up – admit it.

When you were a child, your parents probably admonished you to pick up your toys and clean up your room. When you became a teenager, their efforts to get you to clean your room may have been abandoned. Perhaps the prompts were to wash your dishes, or at least put them in the dishwasher.

Organization and cleanliness is a hallmark of appreciation for your role in the environment. Respect yourself and show consideration for others who share your living space by tidying up and paring down your stuff.

Full FilesIf your parents are still alive, as a grown-up child, the tables are turned. Parents have accumulated decades of stuff, including things that their parents passed on to them. You – and your siblings, if you have them – will have to go through generations of photos, knickknacks, papers, and household goods after your parents die.

Purging possessions, old documents and useless files before there’s a death in the family will reduce confusion for the estate executor. If you dread the thought of going through your own files, imagine the increased peril of facing your parent’s office files.

Tune in later for another post about organizing for end-of-life issues!

Gail Rubin, funeral expert and Celebrant

Gail Rubin, CT, The Doyenne of Death®

Gail Rubin, CT, is a pioneering death educator who uses humor and funny films to teach about end-of-life issues. The author of the award-winning book A Good Goodbye: Funeral Planning for Those Who Don’t Plan to Die, her newest book is Hail and Farewell: Cremation Ceremonies, Templates and Tips. She “knocked ’em dead” at TEDxABQ in 2015 – watch the video!

Download a free planning form from

A Good Goodbye