Sunday, June 3, 2012

Keepin' it Real...Simple

I love it when something I don't normally pay attention to gives me a life-altering sign.

A few months ago my friend Jackie gave me some magazines she'd finished reading (such a great recycler, that Jackie). One was a copy of the April 2012 Real Simple, which I always see in the checkout line but have never bought, or read. So I took it to work to read during my lunch break.

One article in it was a profile on a lady named  Kim Sava, "who lives by an uncommon philosophy: Keep only what you use."

I was hooked. I didn't need to read any further (although I eventually did, a month later). Seriously. It was so simple (duh, hence why it made that magazine) yet made so much sense. That enlarged and italicized line on the page slapped me just enough to knock loose some cobwebs in my brain. I couldn't wait to get home and put that philosophy to use.

My guest room closet. Not so simple.
Despite a few items held onto for sentimental reasons, I'm not one of those people who keeps everything, nor am I an OCD neat freak. I like order and I get satisfaction from organizing. But despite that, I knew I still had boxes and closets of random stuff that wasn't essential or sentimental, and probably hadn't been used in a few years. But I kept this stuff because "I might use it," or because it had been a gift that I felt obligated to keep.

But not anymore. I started going through my closets, keeping my new rule in mind: Keep Only What We Use.

It was almost magically easy.  Old-timey-looking telephone that hasn't been plugged in since '05? Donated. Outdated college textbooks? Trash. Five lampshades for a chandelier I no longer own got mailed to friend who can use them. I had more extra pillows than I had room for bodies on beds. Gone.

Very shortly I had three bags full of perfectly good items ready for the Salvation Army, a few things for the trash, and a few more for give-aways. And I've only just begun.

For a long time I held on to the "good" stuff in the hopes I'd be able to sell it for profit at a garage sale (which I'm not even allowed to have in my neighborhood). But knowing that my husband and I hope to move out of state within the next year, I'd rather do a major purge now without the added burden of ohmygod-I'm-moving-in-two-weeks-and-have-to-pack-this-whole-house stress.

My grandparents, who moved something like 43 times in their 62-year-marriage, were experts on keeping only what they used, but were still able to hold onto sentimental items. Upon my grandmother's death we found a boxful of all their congratulatory wedding cards, her wedding gown, and my mother's baby shoes. So living simply doesn't mean living like a pauper or giving up memories. It just means taking a definitive look at what is necessary.

Now I enjoy opening my closets and admiring the extra room (I will NOT buy more stuff, I will NOT buy more stuff...). Clearing the clutter is both freeing and calming for me. Without getting too philosophical, it's just a good way to live your life...unencumbered by extraneous bulk. Holding on to things we don't use is a burden. It can keep us from moving forward, literally and figuratively.

The more you have, the more you are occupied. The less you have, the more free you are.
                           --Mother Teresa


  1. Awesome work!! I think I have also moved so many times that I edit my stuff really well. But it is a very freeing feeling to have only what you need and some of what you love. But never so much it becomes a burden:) Cheers!!

  2. Never i had that. Consider it as a fortune to your lives.

  3. I love that quote from Mother Teresa. I struggle with this so much. I hold onto all my kids' stuff - old clothes thinking I'll cut them up and make a pajama quilt, etc. It's psychological, I'm sure. I don't know why I hold onto so much. Fascinating subject to me, Rachel. Where are you guys moving!?!

    1. @Jennifer: If all goes as planned...Seattle. Husband is finishing up some intensive training in his field which we hope will lead to a better job outlook for him in WA.

    2. Oh, and I've been saying for YEARS that I'm going to make a quilt out of my old cheerleading t-shirts (from 1985-87...).

  4. HeyRay,
    Did you by chance change your email address? I sent an email to the flconfetti address listed on your profile and it bounced back to me...

    1. Chloe: My apologies, the FLConfetti was an IM account that was so bombarded with spam requests that I stopped opening it (but forgot it was listed on my profile). I have removed it from my profile and added a functioning and checked-daily email address. You may email me at

      I tried contacting you via your site but was able to get the contact page to open.

  5. I love Real Simple! It's the one magazine to which I kept a subscription even after it became completely unnecessary, in this age of technology. Though I never read this article, there were a few before which touted a similar dogma.

    Long ago, in a homestead far, far away (well really only 30 or so miles) I put this knowledge into practice. I was eventually able to open the guest room closet without the need for protective gear. Eventually, when we moved, I was again able to discard even more unnecessary stuff.

    Sadly though, every hero has an antagonist; mine just happens to be my hubby. For every one of my victories removing pointless paraphernalia, he somehow unearths twice what was just evacuated (I'm still researching the locations of all this aforementioned crap).

    I applaud your efforts, and I truly hope that your hunny appreciates them as well, and does not undo your mini coups ;)

    1. V-- Our hubbies are cut from the same cloth. For every old broken telephone I throw out, HE has an empty box he simply must save. Every old sweatshirt be-gone'd has an opposing hole-y and never-worn NASCAR t-shirt that is kept because "it was a gift." But still I plow on. In his defense, I did see him throw out an entire folder full of papers the other day. Baby steps.