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How to Live Without Stuff and Why You Should

Updated on October 29, 2014

Recycling, throwing out and gifting stuff

I have a huge problem with accumulating stuff.

You'd think that being a penniless artist would make it better but no.

Everyone knows I recycle fabric and allsorts of junk in my art and craft work so I get given A LOT of stuff and I find it hard not taking stuff when I know that often it's me or some landfill site somewhere.

I barely have any of my own money but I always have the things I need and more somehow. This is a blessing but it can also be a curse. Don't get me wrong, if I did have my own money I would be bringing home all sorts of junk all the time and I'd be even more miserable than I am right now surrounded by *STUFF*

What about you?

The Story of Stuff

99% of everything we buy ends up in the trash 6 months later.

Story of Stuff


Guilt is the number one reason why we hold onto a lot of the stuff we don't need.

I suffer from guilt a lot - especially when it comes to money I've spent on stuff in the past.

I've never had so much money as I did when I had a student loan and I was also pretty miserable at university. I'd go into town and buy stuff to make myself feel better - ridiculous stuff and I still have a lot of it hanging around now.

My main waste of money was books. I love books but not all books are made equal!

I've had to learn that I can borrow books from the library - it's not imperative that I own them all. If I really enjoy a library book, maybe I'll buy it so I can enjoy it again and if I do buy a book it doesn't mean I have to hang onto it - I can give them away to charity shops or to friends.

The guilt comes in when I consider how much money I've spent on one particular item.

I hang on to these things I don't want because I spent so much money on them. So I keep them around and every time I look at them I resent them more and feel even more guilty for not enjoying them.

But you know what?

As soon as you get rid of said item (sending it to a charity shop is quick and easy) the guilt just disappears - you're not confronted with that mistake or waste of money any more.

The Guilt Poll!

Have you bought something that you now feel hugely guilty about?

See results

The Lure of Shopping

Top Tips for Avoiding Shopping!

Like most people I used to go shopping every weekend.

I noticed that if I came away from town without having bought something I'd get really miserable and feel like I'd wasted my day. Now I look back at those days and think about how crazy that was.

I felt bad if I didn't buy something but then if I did buy something I felt tremendously guilty for spending the money. Where is the fun in that?

I didn't have any major revelation, I carried on like that for years, but when I left university, went back to my Dad's house to live and had no money I learnt that I couldn't buy anything no matter how badly I wanted it. Sounds pretty miserable, right? Well it was pretty miserable and it took me a long time to realise that I didn't need anything and what I did want was just rubbish anyway.

I get the same sense of excitement about making something as I used to about shopping. However making things doesn't come with any guilt, doesn't have to cost you a penny and you're constantly learning and have the satisfaction of a new skill.

Be a producer, not a consumer.

Time Spent on Making Stuff

If you make things then you can end up with a lot of space hogging experiments/bits that went wrong/projects you find ugly.

I find it harder to let go of stuff I've made than letting go of stuff I've bought.

I know the ridiculous amount of time it's taken me to make something. Usually with my projects I end up making something that in terms of time is worth far more than the price I put on it on my website.

And what makes it worse is that often I will make a decision about getting rid of something and then as soon as I tell someone that's what I'm going to do they say something along the lines of "You can't possibly do that! Think of all that time and effort you spent".

How to Let Go of Stuff You've Made

1. RAK someone.

If someone mentions that they really liked a piece that you want to get rid of then how about giving it to them in a Random Act of Kindness?

Don't think about how much time you spent on it, don't think about the money you spent on craft supplies, think about how that piece will make the recipient happy. Don't think about them "owing you one". They did you a massive favour by getting it out of your house.

My mother has a lot of my textiles pieces in her house where visitors often admire them - who knows maybe you will get some interest and "free advertising" by giving your made objects away.

2. Shove it in a bag for the charity shop quick and hope your heart doesn't break.

I've got rid of a few of my knitted items and textiles projects this way.

Think about sewing or gluing a label with your web address on the piece - maybe someone will come across your website this way - you may benefit in the long run.

3. Offer the piece up as a prize on your blog.

This is something I'm thinking of doing eventually - as well as sending one of your pieces to someone who wants it, you might ramp up interest in your blog and work.

4. Consider it an experiment.

If you get rid of something you've made it's not the end of the world.

You haven't wasted time and energy. You needed to experiment with your craft to get better and better.

Make sure you take photos of whatever you're getting rid of so you can refer back to it.

5. Take it apart.

If the piece you've made isn't good enough to keep can you reuse parts of it? I've often taken apart failed attempts to make something new and just consider it an experiment. I tried to make something, it didn't work and now I can make something new.

Are You Holding onto Something that You Hate because You Made it?

See results

Mapping Out What You Own

Do you even know what you own?

I didn't until I started pulling boxes out from the cupboards and under the bed.

Most of us probably don't give any thought to the clutter around our homes, we just shift it about or shove it up in the attic or the spare room.

I'm trying to make an effort to go through everything so I know exactly what I have.

I think it's important to know what you own so that you don't end up buying 2 of everything and wasting more money, time and space.

You would not believe the amount of craft supplies that I forget I have - it's usually a nice surprise but it's annoying when I think of a project which really could have used something I only just found.

Everything I have - By Simon Evans.

Artist Simon Evans mapped out everything he owns in an appealing way in the art piece linked to below.

I have a bad feeling that if I did this I need 5 times as much paper!

What about you?


Hoarding is something that I have to deal with as a craftsperson - it's hard to throw things out or give them away if there's a possibility that you might use them one day to make "something fabulous".

These days I try to think really hard about what I definitely will use in the future and what I definitely won't!

If you have friends who are craftspeople too then you can often find someone who can use the stuff you won't.

You can also try listing items on freecycle to see if anyone else wants them.

If you have craft supplies that children can use then consider giving them away to local playgroups and schools.

I've also had to deal with living with someone else's hoarding in the past - not even useful hoarding - I'm talking about hoarding boxes of junk mail from the 80s, 90s and 00s.

It's all junk!

Compulsive Hoarding


Recently we went through all our cupboards and drawers, tugging out all the clothes that make us feel uncomfortable or ugly. We also found a heap of stuff that we haven't even worn in about 2 years and I was also surprised by the sheer amount of duplicates we had - t-shirts that look exactly the same etc.

We had two enormous bin bags full of clothes for the charity shop and there's still more I could get rid of.

I found clothing relatively simple to go through as I'm not really big on dressing up or trying to look "fancy" but I imagine it's a tough challenge for a lot of people.

Little Brown Dress

Alex Martin's Little Brown Dress Project is one of the most enjoyable things I've found recently.

Alex spent a year wearing the same dress (made herself) as a rejection of consumerism and fashion trends.

And yes, she did wash it!

She spent the following year wearing clothing that she'd made from recycled fabrics and clothes and you can check that out at the Little Brown Dress link too.

Below I've also included the Uniform Project - which is about wearing the same dress with different accessories and the Grey Sweatsuit Revolution which was also a stand against fashion.

Make Do and Mend

What about when your clothes get worn out?

What about holes in socks and stains on clothes?

Mending Holey Clothes

How to Darn a Sock

As I'm learning to knit socks and evetually only want to wear my own creations, I thought it was important to learn about darning.

Invasion of the Plastic People

One of my greatest fears about becoming a parent was the slow invasion of plastic toys.

I can remember my own childhood - having a bedroom that was about a foot deep in toys and books that I rarely ever played with.

My ideal for children would be to have a few toys and books - mostly educational stuff - and things like a nature table where we could collect fossils and shells etc.

I don't want my children to end up having to buy stuff to be "happy".

The Horror of Christmas

If you're going to give someone a gift then really think about what they would want.

I wish I didn't have to say this but it's true.

Christmas has become a nightmare.

If it was a day about just sharing with your loved ones and spending time together it would be great but it seems like it's become another day to judge and create ill feeling and spend money we don't have.

Christmas has become a day where we feel forced to get gifts for people to keep up appearances and it's ridiculous because most of us have more than we need - more than we can cope with, even.

It makes me feel miserable that people have spent money on stuff for me that I have no use for. I want my friends and loved ones to pay off their debt and be free and happy. I don't want to contribute to their misery and I also don't want to have to keep all this stuff around me just because it was a gift.

I don't have the money to spend on gifts myself - I like to make things because it feels like the time and effort I'm putting into something is so special - as if I'm putting all the love I have for that person into an object. I love it when someone truly appreciates something I've made or when I get something that someone has made just for me - that's special - that's something that could become an heirloom. That's why Random Acts of Kindness are better for everyone - there's no need to rush to get everything done for this one day in the year.

I know not everyone can make things and not everyone likes handmade stuff - for some reason some people think that you're somehow insulting them - as if buying some sort of plastic junk from a third world country, made with slave labour is worthier. I just think we all need to really think about what someone wants or needs and really listen to them to make Christmas a special time of year again.

Share Your Thoughts - Reader Feedback.

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    • homestead lady profile image

      homestead lady 6 years ago

      Great lens!

    • homestead lady profile image

      homestead lady 6 years ago

      Great lens!

    • serenity4me lm profile image

      serenity4me lm 6 years ago

      Interesting lens, I enjoyed all the questions you've put out there. Nice job!

    • gypsyman27 lm profile image

      gypsyman27 lm 6 years ago

      I have a problem with keeping things too long. Mostly documentation, I am paranoid that I'll need that 5 year old receipt someday. This lens has given me some perspective on that situation. See you around the galaxy...

    • TolovajWordsmith profile image

      Tolovaj Publishing House 6 years ago from Ljubljana

      Great lens.Thumbs up!

    • Rachel Field profile image

      Rachel Field 7 years ago

      @Wednesday-Elf: Hooray! I hope it goes well! :D

    • Wednesday-Elf profile image

      Wednesday-Elf 7 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

      Now after reading 3 of your 'decluttering' stories, I'm getting off the computer and getting to work on my first 'declutter' project. Thanks for all the ideas and hints and best of luck in keeping your 'stuff' under control. :)

    • Rachel Field profile image

      Rachel Field 7 years ago

      @KarenTBTEN: Thanks so much :D

    • KarenTBTEN profile image

      KarenTBTEN 7 years ago

      Returning to give this great lens a SquidAngel blessing.

    • Rachel Field profile image

      Rachel Field 7 years ago

      @NarrowPathPubli: Thanks so much for visiting and your comments! :D

      I need to read this again myself - the clutter is slowly creeping back in!

    • NarrowPathPubli profile image

      NarrowPathPubli 7 years ago

      Great lens! Gavi and I are somehwat packratish and need a wakeup call. I have a closet full of clothes I don't wear; whatever I can't give to her I need to give away.

    • profile image

      ArizonaHydroFuel 7 years ago

      Great Lens, Rachel! You've opened up our (Pandora's) boxes of "stuff" so brilliantly. Yes, I have several hoards that need clearing up -- maybe tomorrow? OUCH! Anyway, you've poked me in several of the right places -- thanks!

    • Rachel Field profile image

      Rachel Field 7 years ago

      @MagpieNest: Thanks so much! :D I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    • MagpieNest profile image

      MagpieNest 7 years ago

      I really enjoyed this, one of my favourite lenses so far. I've been doing a lot of thinking on this subject recently and it has really changed my behaviour. I don't need more stuff. Lensrolled.

    • Rachel Field profile image

      Rachel Field 7 years ago

      @LadyelenaUK: Haha - like the gifting idea! :D

      It certainly does take a fire lit under you, I think - if I lived in a bigger place and had loads of disposable cash I'd be a monster hoarder!

    • LadyelenaUK profile image

      LadyelenaUK 7 years ago

      Great Read - Lots of us are guilty of Hoarding. I certainly am. On reflection, the only time I've let go of things is when I'm moving home and nothing else can fit in my car. lol. So, I have no choice but to throw them away or leave it as a "gift" to the new tenant.

    • Rachel Field profile image

      Rachel Field 7 years ago

      @devilsworkshopc: Thank you for your awesome comments!

      I really wish I'd kept a list of stuff I'd gotten rid of - that's an sweome idea - when I'm down to my ideal Apartan level of belongings I'll keep a list then - that way I know exactly what I have. I have this wonderful vision of owning no more than a wardrobe's worth of belongings - not sure I'll ever get there.

      Well done on your decluttering!

    • devilsworkshopc profile image

      devilsworkshopc 7 years ago

      I've been trying to motivate myself to declutter by keeping a list and updating it each time I sell, toss, or donate an item to charity. I've gotten rid of over 100 things since moving into our new apartment in February, my goal is to hit 365 by the 1 year mark.

    • Rachel Field profile image

      Rachel Field 7 years ago

      @Peregrina LM: Thanks for visiting!

      I find the same thing when I go on holiday - when you get back you realise there's so much you don't need - but if it's there with you all the time you think it's more important than it is.

    • Peregrina LM profile image

      Peregrina LM 7 years ago

      I've been living for two years without half my stuff (it's all in boxes at my parents' place, which isn't anywhere near where I live). I haven't missed most of it, though some has sentimental value and sometimes I want to re-read some of the books.

      This is a great lens with some wonderful ideas!

    • Rachel Field profile image

      Rachel Field 7 years ago

      @indigoj: Thanks so much :D

    • profile image

      kimmanleyort 7 years ago

      Yes, this is a very thoughtful lens on why we have too much stuff. That hug-e-gram was unbelievable. I just heard about a pregnant woman who was having 4 showers and, at one shower, one person gave her 30 outfits for the baby. HUH? Lensrolled to responsible purchasing.

    • indigoj profile image

      Indigo Janson 7 years ago from UK

      This is fantastic and *~*~ Angel Blessed ~*~* of course! Thanks to ecolicious for sending me here via Squidoo Lens Reviews. Now I'm off to read some of those links you posted here. :)

    • Rachel Field profile image

      Rachel Field 8 years ago

      @Virginia Allain: Thanks so much :D

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 8 years ago from Central Florida

      I'm lensrolling this to my HELP, My Desk is Buried and to Throw Out 50 Things lenses. You are right, letting go of things is both guilt-producing and freeing.

    • Rachel Field profile image

      Rachel Field 8 years ago

      @Parleo: That sounds wondergful - I think sometimes we need some big change in our lives like that to help us sort out which bits of stuff are important! Thanks for visiting!

    • Parleo profile image

      Parleo 8 years ago

      I got rid of most of my "stuff" when I emigrated. It was a liberating feeling arriving in a new country with just a one suitcase.

    • Rachel Field profile image

      Rachel Field 8 years ago

      @Qualitee: Thanks for visiting! Wonderful that you feel so much better :D

    • profile image

      Qualitee 8 years ago

      Thank you for this great lens. I have now let go of quite a bit of 'stuff' and feel so much better for it. Great lens. 5*

    • Rachel Field profile image

      Rachel Field 8 years ago

      @Gloriousconfusion: Well done!! It is tough but it's great knowing that it's going to someone who can use it rather than chucking it out. Thanks for visiting :D

    • Gloriousconfusion profile image

      Diana Grant 8 years ago from United Kingdom

      In order to rebuild my shed, my son forced a shed clear-out on me. Throwing out old pots, plastic bags, a disused barbeque, a rusty storage rack and boxes was like ripping my heart out, but I did it, Freecycling things to grateful receivers despite the cynicism of family who said "nobody could possibly want your rubbish" (but they did). It certainly made me feel better in the end, but the psychological pain was terrible!

    • Rachel Field profile image

      Rachel Field 8 years ago

      @myraggededge: Thank you :D

    • profile image

      myraggededge 8 years ago

      Popped back to bestow a blessing on this wonderful and thought-provoking lens :-)

    • Rachel Field profile image

      Rachel Field 8 years ago

      @KarenTBTEN: Thanks :D Good luck with your stuff - I still have a way to go myself!

    • KarenTBTEN profile image

      KarenTBTEN 8 years ago

      Oh, yes, I have a bunch of stuff, for some of the reasons outlined in the opening. i might make something out of this... etc. Congratulations on a thoughtful well-done lens and a urple star.

    • Rachel Field profile image

      Rachel Field 8 years ago

      @marsha32: So true! Thank you for visiting :D

    • Rachel Field profile image

      Rachel Field 8 years ago

      @vanidiana24: Thanks for visiting :D I have the same problem - yesterday I found a whole heap of stuff in a cupboard, taking up space and i bet there's a whole load more in here - sometimes it's difficult to notice things!

    • profile image

      marsha32 8 years ago

      Less is definitely more! and easier to clean up too lol

      congrats on the purple star!

    • vanidiana24 profile image

      vanidiana24 8 years ago

      Your writing really reminds that I should have thrown / given away some stuffs that I no longer use. They're all stacked in my cupboards, bedrooms, kitchen, everywhere. Thanks for writing this lens!

    • Rachel Field profile image

      Rachel Field 8 years ago

      @Heather426: Thanks - that's the best way to be I think :) I'd like to be free enough of stuff that I could just leave at a drop of a hat.

    • Rachel Field profile image

      Rachel Field 8 years ago

      @LizMac60: Thanks Mum! ;)

    • LizMac60 profile image

      Liz Mackay 8 years ago from United Kingdom

      Well done for getting a purple star my awesome daughter.

    • Heather426 profile image

      Heather Burns 8 years ago from Wexford, Ireland

      Awesome lens! I'm not really a hoarder because I've been a nomad my whole life. Great questions you asked!

    • Rachel Field profile image

      Rachel Field 8 years ago

      @AuthorNormaBudden: Thanks for visiting and the offer! Will head over now :D

    • AuthorNormaBudden profile image

      AuthorNormaBudden 8 years ago

      I've bookmarked your lens and will definitely be back.

      Right now, I'm on the prowl for purple star lenses to add to my directory of the best lenses on Squidoo. I would love for you to submit your purple star lenses at

    • Rachel Field profile image

      Rachel Field 8 years ago

      @myraggededge: Thanks for visiting :D

      I'm dreading the plastic hell if I ever have kids! That's why I'm trying to sort my life now - my Dad is a terrible hoarder and I've been pretty bad - I don't want to pass the habit on to anymore generations!

      Well done on the Realcycle group - I just had a quick look at the website. I'm British too - so I'll keep it in mind for the next load of stuff.

    • Rachel Field profile image

      Rachel Field 8 years ago

      @myraggededge: Thanks for visiting :D

      I'm dreading the plastic hell if I ever have kids! That's why I'm trying to sort my life now - my Dad is a terrible hoarder and I've been pretty bad - I don't want to pass the habit on to anymore generations!

      Well done on the Realcycle group - I just had a quick look at the website. I'm British too - so I'll keep it in mind for the next load of stuff.

    • profile image

      myraggededge 8 years ago

      Excellent way of turning the spotlight on what is really a disease of society. Having kids turns Christmas into a plastic hell. And after all that my two only want to write, draw and play with Lego (I'll concede that Lego is a great invention).

      I love to get rid of stuff - I run a Realcycle group - like Freecycle but British. It's a great way to unload the unwanteds.

    • Rachel Field profile image

      Rachel Field 8 years ago

      @Ecolicious LM: Thanks so much :D

    • Ecolicious LM profile image

      Penny Pincher G 8 years ago

      What a great lens! I can relate. This is a lens so many people need to look at. Blessed


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