I recently read the NYTimes article “Living with Less” by Graham Hill and it struck such a chord with me.  It’s crazy how easy it is to accumulate so much stuff, not all of it necessary, so much of it soon to be crap. I don’t consider myself a big spender and by that I mean I rarely, if ever buy big ticket items, designer stuff etc. However, I am a sucker for a good deal. Unfortunately, it’s really easy how quickly you can have too much of a deal. Even the 99cents store can become a thing.

So that’s me on one hand. On the other hand, I hate abhor clutter and things. I hate being surrounded by too many things, especially in NYC which feels tight and a battle for space all the time. In our homes, offices, on the street, in trains, buses, so on and so forth. I try to do little things like clothing swaps, give up things I may have once loved, the semi-annual Salvation army run.

Which brings me to this. There seem to be 2 schools if I had to simplify. Those who keep everything (hoarders and I don’t mean at the level of the TV show). Their reasons are many and well meaning and include everything from: “I might need it; Someone else down the road may find it useful; I don’t like waste; I paid so much for it, so I should keep it; there’s sentimental value and I can’t let go etc etc…) Then there’s the other group (the purgers): they usually don’t like clutter, they get bored and tired quick of things, they like change and new shiny stuff, they tell themselves I’ve enjoyed it enough, it’s all good as long as they got a buck for it when they sold it on Ebay (yeah but you paid $50), or someone at Salvation was able to benefit from it.

The challenge for both groups, is finding that balance between wanting, buying, and keeping STUFF.  Constantly doing math about free space under one’s bed, purchasing space bags, storing stuff at mum’s  might be an indication of too much stuff. Always purging, swapping and stoop sales, might also be an indication of too much.

I guess I’m not really offering solutions or saying I figured it all out. I’m just pointing out that I know there are areas of my life where I could be better and I have to make an effort. I have 10 pairs of jeans but I only really wear 2. I love books and used to read all the time, so I bought so many books from bargain bookstores (patting myself on the back cos they were under $1) and filled up my bookshelves. It made me feel happy and good. And now I sit here staring at them. cos while they make for OK decor, I don’t know the last time I cracked open any of them, with Kindles and iPads, I don’t even know when next I would. Should I purge myself of them too? Am I just filling up space?

I’m not one to tell people to limit themselves to only what they NEED. Needs are always a first but I think its really important, especially if you’ve done your numbers, to get things you love and to make room for them. Be it that guitar, that bag, that perfume, that table, upgrading that old sofa, those things bring what I call little “happies“. That shouldn’t be considered shallow or materialistic. But when you’re surrounded by so much noise, by so many things, can you really appreciate any of them. I thought I wanted the other 8 pairs of jeans, but I am in reality living without them, I just have them taking up space. I might purge and get new ones OR I might store them in a space bag.

All I got right now are tricks. I’ve tried tricks like waiting for weeks to see if I still want something; I have weekly, monthly shopping freezes (I cheat); I resell when possible; I ask myself if this wasn’t on clearance, would I buy it? Those little tricks help but definitely aren’t a solution.  Cos as the saying goes, prevention is better than cure.

So, I’m asking you guys: How do you make sure (tricks included), that you only purchase what matters, what gives you real “happies”, so that you don’t end up with JUST MORE STUFF?

Also read below some interesting excerpts from the article:

“Our fondness for stuff affects almost every aspect of our lives. Housing size, for example, has ballooned in the last 60 years. The average size of a new American home in 1950 was 983 square feet; by 2011, the average new home was 2,480 square feet. And those figures don’t provide a full picture. In 1950, an average of 3.37 people lived in each American home; in 2011, that number had shrunk to 2.6 people. This means that we take up more than three times the amount of space per capita than we did 60 years ago.”

“I like material things as much as anyone. I studied product design in school. I’m into gadgets, clothing and all kinds of things. But my experiences show that after a certain point, material objects have a tendency to crowd out the emotional needs they are meant to support.”



  1. Tidy-Up Gal

    March 20, 2013 at 8:27 pm Reply

    Late, but right up my alley. I was JUST thinking this morning about how I needed a bigger house with a bigger bathroom because I didn't have space to put two additional bottles of shea moisture products. And then I thought no, I don't need more space, I need less things! My current theory is to live within the means of the space I currently have. If I can do that, then I can survive. Of course that's a journey, one of purging, buying, purging again. I guess the real question is, why buy in the first place?

    1. Tidy-Up Gal

      March 20, 2013 at 8:45 pm Reply

      This post inspired me to pen my thoughts from this morning. Thanks!

  2. meglek

    March 17, 2013 at 5:48 pm Reply

    talk about accumulating unnecessary stuff, it has hardly been a problem to me. i hardly do window shopping. i go for shopping when i have need for a specific thing (always with a list). before leaving my home, i have an idea of what i want and even when i come across attractive things, i do not easily get distracted from my initial goal. i may probably replace a dress for a suit if all i need is somethig decent to go out. do not get me wrong. sometimes instead of buying one thing, i may get two, but never exaggerating. this is because our purchases in cameroon are mostly on cash basis. therefore even if you meet some interesting items, you may say you will check that later but after leaving the scene, other priorities may pup up, like paying school fees, or aiding a family member or friend, etc. moreover, when less privileged friends or family members show up, it becomes an opportunity to reduce some of my stuff in my closet, no matter how attached i feel towards them. the smile i often get from such gestures more than compensate for letting something go. we in Cameroon often than none, have some persons working in some homes, especially homes of middle and upper class families. you might have to hand over some of your extra stuff to such persons. personally, i hate to have a disorderly closet. consequently, arranging my closet always exposes things that i need to let go if i have not used them for at least a year. in view of this, almost all my clothes and shoes are hanging in my walk in closet shared with my husband. my boxes are mainly for travelling. if you may know, this is "simply cyn's" mum.

    1. Tidy-Up Gal

      March 20, 2013 at 8:27 pm Reply

      Aww! Hello, Simply Cyn's mum!

  3. Onome

    March 15, 2013 at 1:55 am Reply

    the good thing about being in college is having to move or at least re-pack you things every year. When I realize how much crap I manage to accumulate in 12 months and its mind boggling. I graduate this spring, and start working in September, and I'm definitely going to have to force myself to repack and rearrange my apartment yearly to cut down on hoarding (I get it from my dad who refuses to through anything away…including decades old newspapers from Nigeria lol)

  4. Koi

    March 13, 2013 at 1:09 pm Reply

    It's funny that you posted about this because I recently have been staring at my closet trying to figure out why even though it is stuffed to the gills, I feel like it's the same ol', same ol'. I believe I am in a situation where I cannot see the forrest through the trees so to speak. I am surrounded by so much stuff that I have lost sight of the items that really inspire me. Due to this realization, I have began shopping fasts where I give myself a week where I can't buy anything unless I feel it would be a staple or I absolutely need it. This suprisingly has helped me curb my shopping habits where every purchase is wrought with the question "Does my closet need this and how would this fit into my personal style?" it's a continuing struggle though.


  5. dajewel1982

    March 12, 2013 at 10:25 pm Reply

    I have learned to take periodic inventory though out the year. This usually helps because you rediscover things and you realize you already have enough, and that usually means your not going to shop anytime soon. I actually got rid of 3/4 of my wardrobe (including shoes) a couple months ago, and couldn't be happier. Some tricks that help me when shopping is I ask myself do I already have this or something very similar to this in my wardrobe, and am I buying just to say I have it or to enhance my experience. I have realized that buying the stuff wasn't enough; I care more to pay for the experiences in life….travel, philanthropy, investment, going out to eat at awesome restaurants once in a while.

  6. TJ

    March 12, 2013 at 10:12 pm Reply

    Over the years I've become a purger. I'm just waiting for my husband to join me. Here are a couple of the rules that I use: If I haven't a clothing item it in about a year (with the exception of special occasion, rare pieces), I usually donate it. I have yet to miss anything I've given away. I apply the "love" and one-day rules: I try not to buy clothes/shoes that I don't love, and If something is over my budget, I leave it in the store. If I'm still thinking about the item the next day, I'll usually go back if the price is within reason.

  7. Brittany

    March 12, 2013 at 8:50 pm Reply

    Hey Cyn. As a fellow purger, I can completely relate to the need to streamline ONLY to acquire tons of things later. It is quite the vicious cycle. The purges allow me to forget exactly how much stuff I purchased over the years. Thanks for the timely reminder to work to prevent the purging "cure".

  8. Christina Marie Kellogg

    March 12, 2013 at 8:45 pm Reply

    So…are you giving away those other 8 pairs? Or not? Ha! Only kidding.

    Sometimes I feel like "Sandford & Son".
    I have "junk". Not anything excessive, just too much for my liking. It's all neatly tucked away in closets & under the bed. I know I don't need that stuff. I often think about clearing it all out. Swiftly. Just throwing everything away. Because, if I sift through it…I know want to keep it.

    Great post! I think about this often. Another good site is bemorewithless.com

  9. vetty

    March 12, 2013 at 6:53 pm Reply

    I am definitely a hoarder. But, as of late I've been doing lots of "spring" cleaning throughout every season. With regards to buying, I think if I really need it but allow myself a pass every few months to buy one thing I really want. I do have to work harder on letting go of things I haven't used & stop justifying keeping them.

  10. Shen Dove

    March 12, 2013 at 6:03 pm Reply

    It's definitely a challenge to balance treating yourself sometimes to accumulating stuff that takes up space. Moving to a smaller place has forced me to really think about what stuff I need. I'm also more motivated by looking at the cost of stuff and its long term affected on my bank account. I don't literally want to be the old woman that lives in a shoe…

  11. chai

    March 12, 2013 at 5:59 pm Reply

    I've been on a mission to downsize my life for the past year or so…best decision ever! I had a friend come over to help, which made parting with the unnecessary so much easier. Sometimes you need that extra mental toughness from an objective person. I really have to fall in favor of something to purchase and bring into my home. It has to fit, and I can't second guess myself. If that ends up happening, I try to part with and give to a friend/family member who would truly appreciate.

  12. Dom

    March 12, 2013 at 5:34 pm Reply

    I totally agree! Even living in the suburb with space, you can still have too much clutter if you don't curb on amassing things. On that note what did you do with the maxi dresses?

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