I’m currently engaged in what can only be described as a battle with our basement. When we moved to our homestead last May, we established a mentality and practice of minimalism in our home. Mr. Frugalwoods and I eliminated just about every object that we don’t actively use on a daily basis. As we unpacked, we only removed things from boxes that we find ourselves in need of regularly. And I wish–fervently, in fact–that I could take my own advice and establish a practice of minimalism throughout my entire house (ahem, including the basement… ), but that has yet to come to fruition.

Having Only What We Need

Throw pillows in our Cambridge home

What didn’t we unpack? Here’s an example: throw pillows. Back in Cambridge, I had this elaborate array of throw pillows on our bed that I had to take off every night and reapply every morning after waking. What a waste of time! Mr. Frugalwoods and I made the unanimous decision when we moved that we’d no longer be slaves to such worthless time sucks.

No one even saw these pillows except for Mr. FW and me and we both thought of them as a chore. How dumb is that? We first wasted money buying those pillows, we then had to purchase a bin to store them in while we slept, we had to clean them periodically, and ultimately, they came to represent a dreaded daily chore. All because I thought we should have throw pillows. Because on Instagram people’s beds have throw pillows. And on HGTV, everyone waxes about their lovely throw pillows. But I didn’t want throw pillows. Mr. FW certainly didn’t want throw pillows. They evolved into nothing more than a pointless waste of time, money, and energy. And so? Our bed is now happily sans throw pillows.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with throw pillows. In fact, you might love your throw pillows! For me, however, I came to realize that I only had throw pillows because I thought I should have them, not because they brought me lasting joy. I’d become a servant to my material possessions and I was owned by my stuff.

Our current bed: no throw

As we unpacked our moving boxes last year, I realized we have TONS of possessions that represent this loss of time, energy, and money that we’d previously surrounded ourselves with. Decorative vases and candles that must be dusted and cleaned, table cloths that must be washed and ironed… the list of futile home decor items goes on. In an effort and a desire to simplify our lives–and give ourselves back hours of time each week–we decided not to unpack these things. We streamlined. I still have vases of flowers and candles strewn about, but in a greatly reduced iteration.

I love our minimilized home. It’s comfortable, it’s beautiful (in my opinion), and most crucially, it’s functional. It serves OUR needs. We are no longer servants to our stuff, we no longer feel hemmed in by clutter, and we have everything we need easily accessible. It’s also true that our home is largely toddler-ized. In light of the fact that we have a curious, inventive, creative, exploratory 20-month-old in our household, things like precarious end tables with glass bird figurines balanced on top are nothing more than a death wish. I’m a firm practitioner of leaning into the phase of life you find yourself in.

Since our phase of life is currently “parenting a toddler,” we’ve structured our home environment to match. We don’t have to follow Babywoods around from room to room in a panic that she might pull some artifact or piece of furniture down on top of herself. Rather, we’re relaxed in the knowledge that our furniture is secured to the wall, breakables are beyond her tiny grasp, and she has plenty of books and toys to examine down at her level. There’s no joy or pleasure in militating against your present condition. Wherever you find yourself on your life journey, sinking deeply–and gratefully–into that phase will yield the greatest level of contentment and ease.

If Only I Followed My Own Advice…

She can’t reach that stuff on top of the buffet… yet

That’s the good part. You may now be thinking that I–like some frugal sage–then gave away all of this unneeded extra stuff. Right? I just took it all to Goodwill and never thought about it again. RIGHT?! Wrong. So very wrong.

Beholden to an unrepentant packrat gene that courses through my blood, I ferreted it all away in our basement, following in the footsteps of my grandfather and my parents before me who both had basements of towering, mountainous junk. Mr. FW and I piled box after box of stuff that we decided we didn’t need (on a regular basis) down in the depths of our basement. Why oh why didn’t I just get rid of it all?!

After a year of allowing these partially unpacked boxes to languish in our concrete basement, I’m organizing them. I’m tackling the colossal, perilous piles of rifled-through moving boxes that made walking through our basement reminiscent of an obstacle course. There were so many boxes down there (many of which contained roughly one or two items… ) that stepping off the staircase was becoming a problematic proposition of where to place one’s foot. That’s just embarrassing.

But now, I’m sorting through the contents of each box, and at long last, setting aside things to give away. Why is it so hard for us to let go of material possessions? I know that for me, a large component is my desire not to buy things again. It’s something of a sunk cost fallacy.

I’ll never be a true minimalist for exceedingly practical reasons: we might need it someday. I have sets of sheets we received as wedding presents nine years ago that I’ve never taken out of their packages. I keep them because I know that one day, our current set of sheets will wear out and we’ll need another. To me, this is practical frugality. But what about all the candles and vases? Why can’t I just let them go? When we own things, we tend to imbue them with a greater sense of importance because we feel invested in their ownership. Letting them go, however, is a form of liberation and a means of cutting our shackles to ultimately meaningless material possessions. However, I counter this with my pragmatic frugality–it makes no economic sense to get rid of bed sheets that we’ll use in a few years’ time.

Stop Doing

Our streamlined family room

What I’ve discovered during this past year of living with less stuff is that I’ve embraced an ethos of own less, do less, buy less, and as a result, live more. Just as I’ve stopped wasting my time tending to clutter in my home, I’ve also stopped doing quite a few activities I used to do that ultimately brought me stress.

There’s an exhaustive list of things we’re all apparently “supposed” to do everyday, but that we may or may not enjoy or even require for our survival. There are some things we should do even if we don’t particularly enjoy them (brushing our teeth, exercising), but then there are things we can let go of. That we can simply choose to stop doing.

I stopped shopping. Clothes and home decor were my two worst offenders in the shopping category and I used to spend an unbelievable amount of time, energy, and money in pursuit of these things. I’d cruise through thrift stores in search of yet another dress or yet another funky vase for the kitchen table. I had no need for this stuff and I didn’t particularly enjoy shopping–but it was an activity I’d always done and always assumed I would do.

Three years ago, I stopped. I didn’t do anything fancy or wild, I simply stopped shopping. And I became happier. I was less stressed because I wasn’t always on the hunt for something. I became less anxious because I wasn’t constantly surrounded by things I didn’t own and that I thought were better than what I did own. I spent less money (my initial goal) and I became more content with the things I do own. I never realized the stress and anxiety that regular shopping caused me until I let it go.

Frugality Takes Less Time

Through my shopping cessation, I came to realize that in many instances, frugality actually takes less time than non-frugality. There’s a myth that a life of frugality is more time consuming than a life of consumption and in some specific instances, I’d say that’s true. But my experience is that, on the whole, frugality takes less time. Why? Because there is so much less to do and to worry about and less to militate against. Much of my frugality pertains to simplicity and how I can streamline my life in order to make it more efficient.

Take, for example, the fact that I do not buy clothing and haven’t for over three years (with the exception of a pair of winter boots, chronicled here).

This saves me:

1) Time.

Me strolling the streets of Portland, ME last month, wearing a dress that’s at least 7+ years old.

I’m not dashing in and out of thrift stores trying on clothes with a toddler in tow, I’m not cruising the internet shopping for dresses on Amazon, I’m not even wasting time thinking about buying clothes or what I might need/want next. It’s just not part of my life. When–and if–I truly need an article of clothing (as happened with those winter boots last year), I buy it. But I don’t spiral into a frenzy of buying an entirely new wardrobe just because I need one item.

2) Stress.

I don’t panic about whether or not I have fabulously fashionable clothing for every single social event of the year. I wear what I own and I focus on wearing things that are comfortable and that I enjoy. I really don’t care if I’m in style or not. I think I look nice and I’m happy with how I dress.

If other people care, that’s entirely their problem–not mine. I no longer internalize the belief that I must define myself by how I dress. I define myself by my actions. By what I DO with my time, not by some articles of cloth that I use to keep warm and stay on this side of decency laws.

I’d much rather people judge me by what I say and what I do than by something so arbitrary as what I wear. And you know what? They do. Once I let go of defining myself by my outward appearance, I was able to connect with people in a more genuine way. I became confident, which in turn breeds happiness, which in turn spills over onto the people you meet.

3) Money.

Babywoods and me at a wedding in April

This is the obvious one and it was the reason I stopped buying clothes in the first place. But it quickly became the least important attribute and benefit for me of not shopping.

There are countless other examples of how frugality saves us time: home haircuts take 15 minutes as opposed to the embodied time and cost of driving/walking/biking to a salon, waiting in line, getting your hair cut, and then driving/walking/biking back home. Cooking in your own kitchen takes far less time than driving to–and waiting at–a restaurant, and the list goes on. But the biggest time savers are the things that Mr. FW and I’ve simply stopped doing and stopped needing as a result of our frugality.

Think through your typical week and write down everything that sucks up your time. What on this list can you simply let go of? What can you simply stop doing? No major crises need happen, no transformative seismic shifts, just the simple acceptance that you no longer need to do it. Anything that felt like a hassle and that didn’t bring us fulfillment we let go of.

Simplification: An Ongoing Effort

This process of simplifying my stuff and my actions is ongoing. I struggle to strike the right balance between keeping things stashed away in my basement for future needs and my desire for organized, streamlined efficiency in our home operations. When we lived in a one-bedroom apartment in Cambridge, MA, it was mandatory that we didn’t own more than could fit in our two closets. We gave stuff away like it was our job and were ruthless about what objects we allowed to enter our home.

I’d rather do this than go shopping, and so, I do.

Now, however, we enjoy the blessing and curse of ample storage space in our basement and barn. Almost everything we own is a hand-me-down or a supremely cheap garage sale or thrift store purchase, so it’s not a question of actual sunk costs. It is, however, a question of the fact that since I’ve stopped shopping, I now loathe the experience. I will do just about anything to not have to enter a store, including saving things for future usage. For now, I’m content with my process of sifting through everything we own and making a considered decision to either keep it or give it away. I’m proud of the massive pile of give-aways I’ve amassed and I’m equally proud of my organized, labeled storage boxes.

It’s easier for me to give up actions. To stop doing activities that aren’t fulfilling. I find liberation and freedom every time I identify some worthless use of my time that I can cease. The temptation to employ efficient use of my time is a powerful motivator for me and the fact that stopping these activities usually saves me money is a tertiary benefit. The most precious resource of all is our time–it’s what allows us to create a life we enjoy, build healthy bodies, experience our families, pursue our passions, and figure out the impact we want to have on our world. I refuse to fritter away my time–or my money–on anything that doesn’t facilitate an authentic, well-lived life.

What are you doing that’s expensive, time-consuming, stressful, and not fulfilling? What have you stopped doing?

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  1. This article is very applicable to us right now! We moved from a 650 sq. ft. one bedroom in CA to our house here in MI last year. The sudden expansion of space certainly led to a less cramped lifestyle, but abled us to pile up items we did not use in extra closets and in the garage (similar to your basement). While there is still room for improvement, we ruthlessly cut through much of the clutter both before moving and after settling in, hauling away excess and suppressing our tendency to say “we can still use this, right?”.

    The result is wonderful. Our furniture consists only of the pieces we use, our house is also toddler friendly for our newly minted 2 year old (birthday this week!) and we have fewer “piles” forming around the house (of what? I have no idea… but we used to have lots of “piles” prior to simplifying). Our shopping is focused on our bigger needs or desires like saving for a tractor to help maintain our land or looking for a used canoe (found it!)… and beyond that, we just don’t bother looking. I have even removed the need to go to a store by using several grocery delivery services. With both Mr. Adventure Rich and I working full time, our time is precious and I do not want to spend my evenings and weekends battling crowds or being bombarded by potential impulse buys in the grocery store, so the cost is well worth it to me. It is a newfound freedom that we savor every day as we have more time to embark on spontaneous evening beach trips, stroll our fields, or watch the sunset.

    In a large part, this simplification has been inspired by your story and your encouragement to take the path less followed, embrace frugality and find the true joy life has to offer. Thank you! 🙂

    1. Very well said! You make a great point about maximizing your time by minimizing your stuff and your shopping. Well done on staying so organized :). Makes such a huge difference with a toddler!!

      1. We don’t use throw pillows either! I think I’m the only one I know and sometimes I feel a little sad because our bedroom doesn’t look as luxurious as some of my friends’ bedrooms but hubby and I both hate taking them off and putting them on exactly as you said! Plus trying to keep them clean / off the floor! Ugh! I think I’m stuck on trying to find more ways to beautify while still being simple / streamlined. I came across your website because I was googling “frugal minimalist.” I always see pictures of gorgeous and luxurious minimalist homes, but I want to be inspired by something more affordable. Thank you for being that for us 🙂

  2. My wife and I have been decluttering ever sense her mom passed away. Having to go through and throw out so much junk from her mothers house taught us that we didn’t want the same experience for our children. It took over a year to clean out all my mother in laws stuff. So now we try to only keep stuff that we use on a daily basis. It’s saved us a ton of time and we’re much happier.

    1. Yes! When my grandparents passed it occurred to me how much “stuff” they owned. Much of it, they’d planned to pass down but the truth is a lot of what they had was miscellaneous stuff no one needed (like a can opener or toaster) and, of the things that could be passed down 90% of it wasn’t anyone’s style or people had no room for. Their intentions were good but it occurred to me that they couldn’t take any of their material possessions with them. Aside from a few sentimental pieces, whatever enjoyment they got from these things was gone and now everyone else had to deal with paring it all down. I swore my kids would not have to deal with the headache.

    2. This! It is a *nightmare* heaped with emotion for family of those who have passed. I do not want my family to have to deal with a lot of stuff after I’m gone. This is a long-term motivator for me. I’m relatively young, and so the short-term motivators for decluttering are just what the FWs and commenters have in mind–more space, literally and figuratively, for the things that really matter.

    3. Agree 110%! When my father in law passed away suddenly my husband and I had to go clean out his home to prepare it for market. Although it wasn’t QUITE a “hoarder” status case, it was close. (Example, we opened a linen closet to find shoebox after shoebox after shoebox neatly stacked and filled with…. wait for it…. cancelled checks going back to 1967!!!) CRAZY! We swore to one another that we would never leave this type burden to our children!

    4. Funny enough my grandmother is the same way. She had a whole bunch of stuff spread out in her apartment taking up space.

      She got this from buying items on shopping channels like QVC, thinking that she needs the item.

      She mixes up her needs and her wants, infact I think she probably believes they are the same thing. I’ve seen this happen with tons of people too.

      They don’t realize how much money they are wasting everyday buying items they want instead of items they need.

  3. I’d love to see a picture of your basement. Posting it can serve as motivation to get it cleaned out.

  4. We have lived in our home for 3 years, and most of the walls are bare of decoration. I am not one to want to spend money on decor, as I typically see it as frivolous spending. I’d rather paint something myself or go without.
    Packing things up and holding onto them is such an easy thing to do, but I usually just do a huge inventory every 3-6 months and get rid of most things we don’t use. Our kids are the biggest culprits, as family buys lots for them on birthdays and such. It’s a constant battle to keep our house from being overrun after any birthdays or holidays. No matter our minimalist mindset, we can’t seem to get the family to understand.
    Living with less is something that makes us so much happier, but totally confuses our family. Thanks for making us feel less weird! 🙂

  5. Last year, we downsized from a 2,100 square foot house with an oversize 2-car garage to a 1,150 apartment in downtown Philly.

    From the start, Mrs. Freaky Frugal found it really easy to get rid of stuff. Me not so much. I started by getting rid of my precious (but never used) books. It was a little painful.

    But then a strange thing happened – the more books I got rid of the easier it got. I started downright enjoying getting rid of stuff. It created a feeling of freedom! Now I’m as good at downsizing as Mrs. Freaky Frugal.

  6. I have never seen the benefit of throw pillows and have never bought them. I know they can make our bed look pretty, but only Mr. FAF and I can see them every day. We hardly EVER have any guest in our bedroom. I’m glad we are on the same page! 🙂

  7. I am, and have always been a minimalist. I’ve never really owned much, but, have all l need. I’m grateful for what l do have and that’s enough for me:)

  8. I downsized from an 1,100 sq ft apartment to a 250ish sq ft studio apartment. I had to be ruthless and pare down tons of stuff. I almost cried when sorting out my DVD cases to donate to a friend who has a small recording side business. Note that I didn’t give away the movies- just the cases. I used to line a shelf with them and people would come over and say wow! you have quite the collection and I’d be proud. Now that I have very little shelf space I need it for things like books and containers of craft supplies. It’s so ridiculous how attached we get to “stuff”! Great article! I’m inspired to go through the mountain of stuff I left in the attic now 🙂

  9. I’m in the camp that a true minimalist really can’t be frugal in the sense that they have to buy items in single amounts at a higher price so as to not have to keep extras in storage (ie, can’t buy gigantic packs of toilet paper at discount store). For a single person, that’s fine, but once you get into a family dynamic, you go through TP like nobody’s business and buying only 2-4 rolls at a time can add up a lot of extra costs!

    I definitely agree with you that having items like throw pillows which serve no actual purpose is silly and a waste of time and money, but I also believe like you, that some things you keep in case you need them one day. I always have a ton of electrical cords I’ve bought over the years that are still good. At one point after we bought our house, I was like, I don’t need these, I need to give away. But I somehow hung on to them for whatever reason, and since we have rearranged our bedroom, living, and dining/office rooms, it turns out I needed some of those cords for the new arrangement, so I am happy I didn’t toss! So perhaps the idea is to save utilitarian things (within reason), but be willing to part with the frivolous. But it’s also important to go over your inventory and realize that while yes, these electrical cords are useful, I only need XX amount at a time so any extra are a waste.

    Also I LOVE candles, but I burn them. I am always puzzled by people who keep unburned candles in their house as decoration. Wax really attracts dust and is hard to clean so it’s not an easy-to-clean idea of decor. I’m more a wall-art type–easier to clean but still adds panache. Anything that needs to be on a shelf attracts dust and curious toddler fingers in our house so we don’t go that route.

  10. I, personally, had already downsized when I bought my house. However, my mother died, and I had to go through all of her stuff. My problem is our family pictures. I now have been given my uncle and great uncle’s pictures also. I am talking about half a bedroom full of pictures. Luckily, I have four kids, and I am dividing the pictures and sending them on their way. I do think it is important from a family genealogy aspect, to keep the originals (yes, I know I could put the pics on a computer), and it is certainly “our” history. But, the collection of photos, including wedding albums of my uncle, needs to be divided, labeled, and sent on. I actually have pictures of my great great grandfather and grandmother.

    1. I started downsizing about a year ago, and honestly it has felt so freeing. I started my minimalism journey for the money saving side of things, but it has been good for my health as well.
      Have you considered saving the pictures digitally? You could scan them and save a copy on your computer and a backup USB drive. It could help save the physical space of photos.

  11. Thank you for this inspiring essay. It made me think about the boxes holding antique china and other family treasures that are lined up in our basement (the dining room cupboards hold the lovely things we use regularly). Just how many heirlooms do I need? Once gardening season is over and the fall is upon us, I’ll undertake the project to re-circulate those objects that others can use and love. As holiday and birthday gifts perhaps . . .

  12. Oh my gosh, I am guilty of the throw pillows! Mr. Picky Pincher absolutely hates our throw pillows, but I have them on every couch and bed. Oops! And you’re right–I have to reapply and fluff them each day. It’s annoying, but I do like the way it makes the house look. For now I’m not ready to get rid of them … yet…

  13. I read the best decluttering advice. It’s from Pam Young, who wrote “From Pigpen to Paradise” with her sister, Peggy Jones, back in the 1980s. Pam says, ask one question: “Would I buy this if I saw it at Goodwill?” Only keep the item if the answer is “Yes.” I used the question the other day when I was planning to get a blouse tailored. The answer was “Probably not,” so the blouse is now in the pile to be donated to the local thrift store.
    Pam also says, “Get organized enough to please you.” There is no objective standard of frugality/organization/decluttering that needs to be met. I think that is very important.

  14. I love cushions. On beds and sofas. They are comfortable for reading or watching my iPad in bed. I rest on the beds in our spare room so the cushions there get used too. They’re practical for me, but they also make me happier to look at them. I change my soft furnishings during the year, lighter colours in spring, oranges and reds in the fall etc.
    I do need to get rid of stuff and streamline more but for me things like cushions and curtains mean a great deal. It may sound silly to change things during the year, but actually it means that I don’t get sick of things so quickly because by the time next season rolls around I’m excited to see the orange cushions that I haven’t seen for nine months. So they’re frivolous in a first world problems type way, but they’re not the devil.
    I get twitchy looking at photos of some minimalist houses because I want to paint them, and add things. I really want you to have cushions! Each to their own I guess. I am spoilt by our current storage though and do need to clear more stuff as we’ll probably have to downsize next year.
    One of the this I struggle with, as currently in rented and don’t have a ‘forever’ home, is keeping stuff in case it fits the next house. I have three appliances in the garage!

    1. So the key is to find what works for you. Everyone has to identify their own approach to home decor (and life in general!), which is why I mention that there’s nothing inherently wrong with throw pillows–they were just wrong for me :)! Successful, joyful, longterm frugality (and minimalism) incorporates what matters most to you personally. It’s all about finding your own approach and letting others do the same in their lives.

  15. We adopted a sibling group of 3 kids and had a baby a year later. Our home and lives were totally overwhelmed. We finally decided to go minimal with the kids toys. We gave 50% away and now they rotate through 3 at a time. It saves me nearly an hour a day because they can actually clenched up all thier own toys. I have hardly touched a toy in 2 years! They love it too! Apparently, cleaning up toys wasn’t their favorite way to spend 30 minutes each night either. 🙂

  16. Oh my, I feel ya in this struggle! We recently moved into a much larger home and are fighting the temptation to fill the space with stuff. We upsized the home to have more space for the kids to run around and burn off energy, but we already have older family members trying to give us furniture and knick knacks they can’t keep (because they need to downsize homes!). We will have to be ruthless in not taking any items we don’t truly want or need. The thing that bothers me is our keeping of several sets of antique dishes from both sides of the family. We don’t feel we should let them go, but we don’t really want a big china hutch in which to display them. So the other option is keeping them boxed…and what is the point of that? Oh well…We will figure it out! I definitely love the energy and time you get back by not shopping for stuff, cleaning our stuff, displaying our stuff, etc.

    1. Could you possibly mount a few dishes as a small wall arrangement? I have a few dishes left from my grandmother and love the memories of visiting her in the summer (she lived in Germany) but have a small older home with no room for a china hutch. I got a few plate hangers and am planning on hanging the ~6-7 plates as wall art. Maybe you could pick a few of the nicer china dishes that hold memories for you and do something decorative without displaying the entire collection??

      1. That’s what I did. I actually bought one place setting because my mom had sold hers years before. But I had to have them because even though they were cheap “gas station” dishes, the picture on them is exactly the house I ended up buying! It’s no wonder I fell in love with our house upon walking through the front door, because I had looked at the living room at every meal for 18 years! But now I have a small shelf that holds the pieces; the memory is there, which I enjoy immensely, but I’m not dealing with an entire set of dishes.

  17. Weirdly enough, what is (sometimes) stressing me out and is time-consuming, but a very frugal activity is my blog and making videos for it. It actually keeps me from spending money because I’m sitting at my computer a lot on the weekends. I’m still trying to reconcile how to have a life outside of full-time work, but at the same time building up this side business if you will. Any advice since I know you’ve been there? It does bring me joy but man does it ever take a lot of time and I do miss seeing friends sometimes.

  18. Candles! Omg, let’s all get rid of all the candles! hahaha, I just threw a bunch of almost-ten-year-old candles that were gifts from various bridal showers and becoming half-melted in my hall closet. I have 3 young kids and haven’t lit candles in years… but keep holding on to them, just in case we have a power failure or something. But do I need ALL these candles?! Nah. I kept the 12-pack of tea lights and 2 glass-jar candles for those emergencies and junked the rest. Ahhhhhhh, sweet candle freedom!

    Throw pillows and candles. Baby steps 🙂

    1. We need a candle-owners-anonymous club!!! I am the WORST. I still have the candles we used on the altar at our wedding… and haven’t used since…

  19. I just finished reading The Long Haul by Finn Murphy. He has worked as a long haul furniture mover for many years and after reading this book, it makes me realize how much stuff we have and how we really don’t need what we think we need. I try to think of the early pioneers that moved everything they had in one covered wagon compared the vast amount of stuff we have today. I just watched a neighbor move and she had three loads that filled the biggest U-Haul.

  20. We, too, have a basement. I love home décor too, but stopped buying it as I simply love how my home is decorated (or, I should say, I simply stopped giving myself a budget for home décor, so I don’t even browse at my favorite internet stores). I do throw pillows and table cloths, they make me happy when I look at them, despite added work.

    As for the basement, we downsized about a year plus ago and there are so many boxes yet. When the kids are at school in a few more weeks, I am going to spend a bit more time tackling this basement once and for all. I have been chomping at the bit. Plus, I want to sell some expensive stuff we got at our wedding (note: we didn’t do a registry but my MIL felt compelled to create one for us, sigh) to make money for Xmas.

    Great article!

      1. We give wedding presents as wedding presents. Last Sunday I asked a friend whose getting married in September if she had good knives. No. She’ll be getting the set of steel-handled Cuisinart knives that have been lurking in the cupboard. Alas, she is not a carnivore (nor are we) so the carving set is still unclaimed.

  21. I too, stress out over the thought of “needing” things like throw pillows and decor items that people don’t really notice, that I have to clean and/or dust frequently particularly with two, shedding cats. I’d rather not have them at all and use my time and of course my money more wisely. I have stopped purchasing a lot of clothing/accessory items that I thought I HAD to have, again, nobody notices but me! Like you said, if they do, well, that’s their problem. I’d rather focus on my faith, family, and friends!

  22. I had to empty out my mother’s house and later her apartment. I did not take any furniture from there, but I’ve got a bunch of Hummel figurines and a few things like bowls that were my grandmother’s that I’ve kept. They’re in an enclosed hutch, so the dusting is no big deal, but I’ve been thinking of where to donate at least the Hummels.

    Thank goodness my sister-in-law dealt with hubby’s parents’ home, but I’ve still got a few things from there that he brought home and doesn’t want to let go of. Anyone want a set of glasses and a cake plate that say 25th Anniversary on them?

    I recently got rid of a bunch of candles. I didn’t buy any of them, they were all gifts, and my husband seems to be allergic to them (when burned or used with a candle warmer) so that was no big deal. I do find it interesting that the Danes (heard of Hygge?) buy more candles than anyone else in the world, but not scented ones. Also, when you have cats, you don’t burn candles often, since you need to keep them in sight.

    I totally understand hanging onto the sheets. You KNOW you’ll use them, but it is harder with other things you’ve accumulated or been gifted. There’s also the question of how much to keep. When we were first married (now 43 years ago), we had a queen-sized bed, and my mother-in-law gave me a beautiful set of sheets for it as a shower present, and I received others as well. A few years later we got a king, and the queen moved to the guest room, eventually to our daughter’s room, who now lives in another city. For years those sheets saw little service – though we’ve still got them and still use them., though they’re becoming transparent and are likely moving on to some other use. I think I’m going to cut them in strips and make mats out of them.

    And for those thinking they’re passing stuff down to their children –

  23. I had a similar struggle when I downsized two years ago so, occasionally, when I found myself with an irrational attachment to something I never used, I would spend a few minutes writing in a journal about it. For example, I found myself hanging on to a serving bowl I never used but that had been a wedding gift. While writing, I realized how much I missed the person who gave it to me- she lives across the country and we’d lost touch. So I found her on Facebook, rekindled the friendship and got rid of the bowl.

    Perhaps there’s more to what’s holding you to these objects?

    1. Oooooo, great idea, Bridget! I love how you uncovered the root of your attachments. I’ll have to try that! But for my sheets, it’s definitely the practicality ;)!

  24. Here’s a trick to make you a certified minimalist: join the Peace Corps. It forced me to store my stuff in a storage facility when I sold my town home. I later moved into a 500 sq foot apartment. You can imagine how downsizing can instill a need for reduced clutter and an aversion to STUFF. Nice post MFW- we can relate!

  25. I really need to go through boxes of stuff. Not just in the basement either… in the guest bedroom, in the master bedroom closet. I’ll be there someday.

  26. I have a copy of an old book, “Guide to Easier Living” by Russell Wright (the designer) that talks about making your house do part of the housework for you by its design, having a clutter-free, streamlined home and using storage wisely. I immediately thought of it when I read this great post.
    I just pared down my closet, and it feels great. I try to have a clean out of any one area at least once a year. Sometimes it hurts to think of all the money wasted on things I end up donating, but the lack of clutter feels good. I don’t have a minimalist style, so I have a few things around my house that are purely decorative, but they are things that are worth the dusting and cleaning to me and/or my husband, especially since we both have lost our grandparents, parents, and most of our aunts and uncles. I refuse to hang on to everything, though. I only keep it if I truly love the item, not just the person who left it to me.
    I saw the effect of hanging on to too much when we had to clean our after my parents’ deaths, and that spurred me to keep my house in better order. There was stuff packed under beds, behind sofas, in every drawer and closet in a three bedroom house, and in two sheds outside. Too much!
    I do have one question for the Frugalwoods, though. If you’ve had the sheets for nine years and maybe won’t use them for a while longer, will the fabric still hold up when you finally start using them? I admit I also hang on to usable things until the current item wears out, but sometimes I find I should have just used the spare while it was still in good shape. I was just wondering if this was anyone else’s experience.

    1. So far so good–we recently started using some long-stored towels and they are fine. I suppose it depends on the material, but I’ve found that keeping things stored in a dry environment tends to bode well for longterm storage. And if it doesn’t, then lesson learned :)!

  27. I am in awe of your bed without throw pillows! It never occurred to me that this was an option. I have always tried to make my bed look like it belongs in a fancy shmancy hotel – and it does. But, that means we’re tossing throw pillows around several times each day. It is definitely time consuming for something that really, only I, seem to enjoy. I might have to try your method out and see how I feel 🙂

  28. This is so validating to read, thank you!

    I never understood why my mother found it so important to store, place, dust, wash, and upgrade decorative pillows on beds that no one but her and my father ever saw. And heaven forbid we as kids would actually lay on a decorative pillow … that was a huge no-no! This is a woman who irons her sheets and shower curtains, so maybe I’ve told you all you need to know…

    My partner and I recently updated our home – by the grease of our own elbows, thankyouverymuch – including putting in a simpler trim that required less wiping and dusting (and looks a whole lot cleaner aesthetically). I found that once drapes and cluttered shelves were removed for painting and trim work, I didn’t want them back. The house looked tidy, and a lot more spacious. That started me on a path of de-cluttering most of the rooms in our house and I’ve found myself feeling more relaxed in my evenings and weekends without all the “décor” staring me down from various perches and spots around the house.

    While I still have many areas in my life that need further simplification, reducing clutter and chores is paying out big dividends in the mental health department. And thankfully my partner feels the same way!

  29. There’s nothing more permanent than temporary…I grew up in a family of frugal minimalists (farmers) and have always been very streamlined with my approach to possessions. Moving a bunch, having a small space, being a former archivist, and helping two family members clear out their houses has solidified that.

    I find gifts the hardest thing though! I didn’t spend money on it but now incorporated it into my life. A family member thought I “needed” a throw pillow for my bed, so now I’m moving a sequined pillow on and off the bed morning and night. Looks good but for all the time I spend in my bedroom looking at my bed, maybe not.

  30. I have the opposite problem. I throw away almost everything and hold little attachment to anything. Which means I have two bins in my basement- Christmas and Halloween decorations- that’s it . Problem is, I have gotten into situations where I need something that I knew I had but threw away in the past. Can’t win sometimes!

  31. I was a big home décor lover & I’ve cut back drastically. It’s funny things people don’t notice. We live on a small quiet street. Because there are no neighbours across from us, I realized one day that we never open & close our living room drapes, they just hang at the sides from floor to ceiling, big & bulky cause “we’re expected to have living room curtains like everyone else”….So I removed them & the long curtain rod about 4 months ago on a whim.. Do you know that no one in my family has even noticed yet, or the guests we’ve had over for entertaining. I thought for sure by now someone would have, to me its pretty obvious but not one person yet.

    1. Perfect!! We don’t have curtains in our current home for that same reason–no neighbors to see inside; ergo, no curtains!

      1. Don’t you then lose a lot of heat/energy out the windows without curtains? Even with double glazing lots of heat can go out windows. We’re trying to *add* curtains/blinds to our place to lower energy waste & bills. 🙂

        1. So far, it doesn’t seem to. We heat our home with our woodstove and stayed toasty all winter long last year. Plus, we love the view too much to cover it up! Fortunately, our windows are on the newer side, so they’re sealed pretty well.

          1. Properly sealed frames are key! We love our city view too but we’re quite exposed to the wind so we are installing lined Roman blinds to stop the cold creeping in. NZ’s housing stock is notoriously cold and drafty – lots of places still aren’t insulated and double glazing only became standard for new builds about 10 years ago!!

  32. I’m a “frugal minimalist” at heart too. Sometimes the two ideals conflict, but when they do, I often choose the frugal option. My rule when getting rid of something I’m holding onto “just in case” is: can I get another one for under $20? If I can, then I’m essentially paying to store it – and I might not even need it anyway. I like to donate useful things rather than just storing them because while they are just sitting in my basement (possibly growing mold) someone else could be actually using the item. I also enjoy lending things to friends – this works especially well with baby items. If I have another child, I can get them back. If not, I’m happy they are being used rather than just sitting.

  33. I completely agree – minimalism and frugality ‘take’ less time. I’m a firm believer that nothing you do not love or that doesn’t serve you in a positive way should ‘take’ anything from your life, time being the ultimate. I am a minimalist of sorts; people feel the need to give me things to make up for what they perceive as my lack – it’s quite funny when I say thank you very much, but I’m really happy like this – the reactions range from shock-horror to respect. It’s all great though, each to their own, throw cushions and all!

  34. You’ve inspired me to do some purging this weekend. Throw pillows? Unused wedding gifts? Random trinkets? You name it, I got em. Although, I’ve already gone through a lot of stuff, I feel like it is not a one and done kinda thing. Its something that I need to continue to go through and ask the question of “Do I really need this in my life?” I grew slightly overwhelmed while reading your post and seeing/thinking about the things that I still have and need to do away with.

  35. I cannot begin to explain how perfectly timed this post is. My boyfriend and I (Frugalwoods’ blog followers for almost two years now and a main motivation for my own frugality…I was once a huge shopper as well) we are currently helping his Mom renovate, clean, organize her house…which includes getting rid of excess ‘stuff’ which has piled up in the basement and unused rooms – all while doing our best to enlighten her about the glory of frugality. We just recently moved in a few days ago to begin this process (also a bonus: quite frugal!) and realized how much we still possess which inspired us to rid ourselves of the unnecessary excess – the less to move the better! Though we only moved from NH to MA (soon back to NH), it is a big enough move that we are continuing to minimize. We value our time more than anything and have realized the more items we have to worry about, the less time we have. And with frugality, when you are focused on reaching FI, buying the latest and greatest or staying up to date with fashion is not something that crosses your mind. Did I mention how much less stress you experience by not worrying about the aforementioned items, which in my opinion, hold no value? We have reached the point where frugality and minimalism have replaced the excess stuff we were holding onto and frivolous spending, and in turn this has created more time to focus on hobbies and spending time with each other and loved ones, and of course exercising/hiking/biking!

    Liz, your posts have continually inspired me to further my focus and dedication with regard to frugality. And now I feel we can help a close relative enter the wonderful lifestyle that accompanies frugality and minimalism. We aren’t one to push our lifestyle onto people which is why it makes it better that his Mom is willing to let us help her – and we know she will have more time, money, and energy not having to worry about a plethora of items.

    Cheers to a relationship-focused, intentional lifestyle 🙂

    p.s. thank you for continuously sharing your experiences through this journey!


  36. Regarding home decor – I’ve never liked the idea of buying big-box decor because it seems so commercial without any personal patina/story. Since I never buy any of those items for myself, I truly enjoy receiving those items (candles, a nice bowl) as a gift. It helps that friends/family have excellent taste. 🙂 I sometimes buy a souvenir piece of decor if I’m on a vacation…with the focus on finding something locally made and maybe with some utility so that I recall the experience.

  37. This was a big reason why I wanted to go smaller when we were looking at homes. I’m guilty of trying to purge things and then push them into a closet to go through “later,” so a smaller house allows for less of this to happen. Granted, we’re in 1350 SF for our family of 3 plus a roommate, and our closets still have a lot of “things” we really don’t need. It’s a slow process but I’m going through them a bit at a time. I’m definitely grateful not to have a basement or attic where things can hide for a decade or more (as seen by both of our parents’ homes).

  38. 850 square foot condo with two adults and two kids under three=no room to store anything. I buy and sell so much stuff on craigslist–I look at craigslist almost as a rental company. The idea is to buy something used when I need it and attempt to sell it immediately after it’s unnecessary for the same price I bought it at.

    This is most relevant with my approach to children’s items. Not sure if we’re done having kids, but I sell all the gear as soon as it’s outgrown. I know I can always buy it again off craigslist and then resell it when it’s finished. Sometimes I take a small loss on the buy/resell process, but it’s the only way to avoid the condo being overrun.

    Now, if I had a basement or an attic I would almost certainly store things longer. But that would entail a more expensive housing situation, and I’m pretty sure the $10 losses I sometimes take on craigslist gear are much cheaper than the extra several hundred thousand dollars it would cost to have a house with storage space in Honolulu (where we live).

    And the climate here is not conducive to long-term storage, anyway.

    1. I love your approach to Craigslist–so smart! That’s totally what I would do if I were in a smaller square foot situation 🙂

  39. When I moved from a relationship that just ended back home, I had a carful of stuff. We packed my car to the brim and drove it back across the mountains. Over the past two years I’ve slowly been getting rid of stuff that I know I’ve grown out of and won’t actually need. I do keep a sentimental items, and things that’ll come in handy eventually (Lady in the Black titled me a “frugaminalist” and I like it!). But you’re totally right. I actively avoid trying to buy things and encourage my parents to question if they really need whatever it is. New pair of sunglasses? If it’s going to bring you joy, and be functional, by all means. But another set of dishes? Do we really need a fancier bowl when we have a fancy bowl already?

    It’s all a matter of perspective, and everyone losses that perspective sometimes. I look at stuff a year later and go, ‘why did I keep this?’ But it’s so nice to know that there’s so many others on this journey, struggling, forgetting, and remembering the all the same things I am 🙂

    I started a BNP group in my community based on your experiences with your group – and it’s proven to be so much easier getting rid of the more expensive stuff (in my case, a camera) knowing it’s going to a good place where it’ll be appreciated and used (an aspiring photography teen). So thank you for introducing me to those!!

  40. I may have commented this here before, but I also stopped buying clothes this year (inspired by you, of course!) and like you, I’ve found the benefits go far beyond the money saved. I find myself less stressed when I have to dress for something, from working out to a fancy event. I am less anxious when I’m out and about. I realized that I spent tons of time thinking about the things other people were wearing, wishing I could have them, wondering if I looked OK, etc. I also realized that for me, the constant thinking about what other people were wearing wasn’t even about me being “into” fashion, it was about me wanting to transform my own life.

    For example, I was always lusting after fancy workout clothes (you know the kind). When I instituted the clothes buying ban, I realized that what I really wanted wasn’t another pair of fancy streamlined leggings, it was to *be the type of person who wears those*. That was a big moment for me. I stepped up my workout game, because I realized that was really what I wanted for myself – not the leggings.

    Thanks for another insightful post!

    1. Nice! Thank you for sharing those insights! So true about not buying clothes–it brought about a wonderful, revelatory change for me. So glad to hear it did the same for you 🙂

  41. Not too long ago I was under the impression that being frugal and being a minimalist were one in the same. I am beginning to understand that while they both have great amounts of overlap, they are not the same.
    It seems a minimalist will throw something out if they do not need it in the near future…to them they value the space it takes up (both physically and mentally) more than the money it will save them when the need for the item arises. On the other hand a frugal person will keep the same item around for years because they know one day they will need it, and storing it will eventually save them money…like your sheets. I guess someone should create a Venn diagram on this topic! haha

  42. OMG! Your throw pillow example is SO VERY timely. We live in a nice home in a beautiful neighborhood. We plan to sell and downsize to a more modest home/neighborhood in less than a year. We have lived in our home for nine years and JUST LAST YEAR decided to finally decorate our master bedroom. It took almost one year to complete (due to schedule mostly) and I just finished it this July. And the bed is absolutely gorgeous, especially with it’s NINE (yes, not joking) pillows, shams (2 sets) and throw pillow to adorn it. It’s magazine-worthy, honestly. And, now I realize, that’s about it. I literally keep most of the pillows stacked in a corner of the room 99% of the time. I keep looking at the pile and wanting to whack myself in the head. What a waste! After we show and sell our home next spring, they are out of here!

    1. I will add that once we added some crown molding to two windows in the bedroom, I just fell in love with the look. I had a designer friend helping me and he suggested some lovely shades to go on those windows, but I was so taken by the beauty of the more simple windows with the new crown molding that I decided to leave those “bare” of any additional window treatment.

  43. I realized if I got rid of all the clothes that bring me “joy”, I would be left with one old fleece pullover from a Mt Rainier gift shop. So, I started trying to get clothes that bring me joy and that stressed me out. I thought of getting rid of my hiking clothes because I didn’t love them. It’s kinda stupid of me, clothes just aren’t a big deal to me. My parents were quite practical and frugal and I thought it was boring but have come to realize it’s a great trait to gift your children. Sometimes, I feel rather colorless next to my friends with 4 complete sets of dishes and matching table accessories for various occasions but that’s their joy, not mine.
    For stuff like Hummels and nicer crap, there is a thrift store chain devoted to raising money for a children’s hospital in our area. To bring my mother’s collection (she had 12 collected over 89 years) there made me feel quite virtuous was emotionally easier.

  44. Thank you for the great reminders. Having downsized from a fairly large house in order to live in a small apartment, but with hopes of resuming life in another part of the country, I did keep enough to minimally furnish a small house. Now I have that small house and have felt that my apartment and storage unit had transformed into “clown cars” when I wasn’t looking. Where was I to put it all? I’m still giving things away and now I feed my thrift shopping addiction only with needs. Like you, I expect to need no clothing for some time to come. So now I don’t look at the clothing racks. Most recently I needed more storage containers for closet shelves. That’s what I looked for. When I found them I stopped shopping. Now I need some white clothes hangers so I can hang clothes to dry on the extra rod above the tub in the guest bath, and two under shelf baskets to expand storage in the laundry room. They will hold cleaning cloths. I hope that you can see that you’ve inspired me.

  45. As always, great content and thank you for sharing. I’d like to reinforce the shopping angle. I too am a frugal minimalist, and other than perishables-food, toothpaste etc- don’t ever recreationally shop. But I do need to buy things. So now, when I buy something-“shop”-it is such a rare occasion that I actually enjoy it, and it is not the mindless experience it was with the prior me.

  46. So timely! I’m planning a purge in my own home and those throw pillows are the first things to go. Ditto! on the ‘I’m supposed to have these.” Now I feel less guilty about tossing them in the trash.

    1. Oh but please donate them instead of throwing them in the trash! Donating to a thrift store, a Buy Nothing Group or a similar outlet is a great way to keep items from the landfill–and, it’ll make someone else’s day 🙂

  47. I moved cross country last year and gave away more than half my stuff, thinking that I was only bringing the essentials. This last month we had an invasion of fleas. I don’t know how since it’s only me and my two indoor only cats. Part of what I did to get rid of them was wash everything I own made out of material. I put all my stuff in trash bags on the back porch and only allowed them back in once they were washed. In those bags were clothes that no longer fit (I went up a size since I moved) and way too many towels, throw rugs, etc. As I washed, I sorted, giving away even more stuff once I knew we were flea free. All that stuff represented more work if the flea thing, or something similar should ever happen again. So, I guess I could say fleas taught me I wanted to own even less.

  48. This essay reminded me of a time in the 90’s when my grandmother moved from her house into an assisted living facility.
    Grandma was a pack rat and had what I refer to as ‘Depression Mentality’.
    She lived through the ‘Dirty Thirties’ when folk made do with what they had, so she held onto stuff ‘just in case’.
    Her tiny home had cupboards packed tightly with everything from dozens of stacked old used cottage cheese containers to pantyhose stuffed with old shopping lists carefully rolled up and secured with sewing pins.
    Cleaning out her wardrobe, she had to be convinced to part with 12 girdles, but kept the other dozen.

    My mother was an exponent of this as well. She loved great garage sale finds and Goodwill bargains. Never mind if it was needed, the deal couldn’t be passed up. But who needs 3 Portmeirion teapots and dozens of hand crotcheted doilies?
    When it was time for her to downsize, it caused her anxiety as she had invested much time in accumulating her treasures. Everything had a story that went alongside it.
    Sadly, a lot of this stuff didn’t hold the same value for her children, but it gave her much joy.

    This influenced me to be more mindful of what I hold onto in my own household.
    I try to aim for a life lived less burdened with things.
    No dozens of dust collecting knick knacks or recyclables kicking around for me!
    I feel less stressed, more organized and more at peace with my surroundings.
    Plus when my time comes, my estate will hopefully be easier to deal with for my family.
    One thing I do when I go through and ‘reevaluate’ household contents periodically is to collect all the superfluous stuff and donate it to garage sales that give the proceeds to animal rescue
    It’s a win-win situation as far as I’m concerned. I get to help a good cause and experience a feeling of freedom in lightening my home contents.

  49. We recently moved to another state, from a 1350 sq ft house to a 1060 sq ft house. Before moving we purged many things and put the rest in storage close to our destination, packed up the car and stayed with family in our new state while we looked for another house. It took 2 months to move into our current home. During those 2 months we lived without many of our things, just what we could fit into our car. My clothes consisted of what I could fit into a small bag. When we moved into our new house and got our POD out of storage, I had access to all my clothes again. However I was overwhelmed at the amount that I had saved for my new destination. It was quite an eye opening experience and I found myself giving away more clothes. It was like that with many of our possessions. Being without them for 2 months was very liberating and gave us a new perspective on what to finally keep in our new home.

  50. Marie Kondo’s book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” helped me with the ongoing battle of decluttering. It’s a very short read and I have no incentive or affiliation for recommending it to others except that I enjoyed it and thought it helpful. The framework to her method, from memory, was 1. Getting rid of items you no longer need (through various avenues such as donations or recycling) then 2. Organizing the rest. I think this is a very important sequence and decluttering doesn’t work with it reversed.

  51. I love love love this article and this is exactly how I thrive my life to be. Even though my girlfriend is still not a big fan of going minimal. Especially when it comes to kids, people spend so much time and money buying stuff their kids don’t really need instead of just spending time with them. I believe the kids will grow up with more meaningful relationships with their parents.

  52. We have decorative pillows on our couch and I hate them lol. Sometimes I’m too lazy to move them when I sit down but realize a few minutes later that I would just be more comfortable and have more even couch space to park myself if I move them and so I do. They are for show……and discomfort. And when I’m done watching TV, I have to put them back in a fancy angled position.

  53. Oh boy, I sure am different from the people on this blog. Although I do have things that I need to sort through and downsize a bit I really enjoy having extra things in my home which is pleasing for me to see. I like to put seasonal decorations (candles, wreaths, decor) around the house, put on differing tablecloths/table runners/placemats in the dining room and pictures in most rooms etc. It gives me a lot of pleasure just to walk into the rooms and have things look a little different every couple of months. And, yes, I also have a variety of pillows that I put out…some in the living room and some in the bedrooms. It’s part of my enjoyment in my life and the family likes it also. It looks and feels homey and cozy.

    1. Nah, I’m right there with you! You’d have to pry my throw pillows (and collection of vintage salt & pepper shakers, and other decor that I love so very much) out of my cold, dead hands… I think it’s a metaphorical throw pillow. For me, my “throw pillow” is books. I LOVE to read but I feel no obligation to keep books, and many of my fellow booknerds think this is a travesty. I use the library, give away or resell books that people give me after I’ve finished with them, and only hang on to a very few books that I truly want to have around for life. And you know, we bought our house in December and I still haven’t unpacked ANY of my boxes of books… and now I’m thinking, maybe I don’t need any of them anymore.

    2. The key–and the thesis of this post–is to find what works for you. Everyone has to identify their own approach to home decor (and life in general!), which is why I mention that there’s nothing inherently wrong with throw pillows–they were just wrong for me :)! Successful, joyful, longterm frugality (and minimalism) incorporates what matters most to you personally. It’s all about finding your own approach and enabling others to do the same in their lives.

  54. Our youngest son just left for basic training a few days ago. Purging has become my therapeutic friend. We have lived in our 1596 sf home for 24 yrs and I am longing for the simplistic life my husband and I had in a 700 sf apt. I also joined the no new clothing ban back in Feb. I would always hit the thrift stores when in town. My time has been freed up as my thoughts don’t revolve around getting a bargain anymore. I have pleasantly been surprised I don’t miss the thrill of the hunt. Thank you, Liz for gracing us with your blog and hosting our community of “Less is enough”

  55. Well said, Liz! I am also doing the same thing, and would like to add that going through things is just mentally and emotionally exhausting! Keeping a few things organized is way simpler and I always find that I hoard to not have to immediately deal with things which, in hindsight, is much easier! I also have a hard time letting go of material possessions that belonged to family members.

  56. I have always searched for bargains in thrift stores and loved, loved, loved to shop!! In the last year I gave up shopping for myself, donated 40 years of stuff and began shopping for others. I have sizes, colors and needs noted and have so much fun! Imagine finding a dress for a wedding for my friend for $1.50? She was so grateful and looked lovely. If you have a gift for this type of thing you can put it to good use for others’ genuine needs and keep your own closet in check.

  57. For the last 2 years I worked I rented a 650 sf apartment and furnished it with only what I needed and a few beautiful things I loved. So it was quite an eye-opener to retire and go back to a house filled with things I had learned I didn’t really miss. Since then I have been paring down the house by donating things. If it doesn’t give me joy or isn’t something we can use, out it goes.

    Quite an eye-opener to look at everything you own and decide if it gives you joy — not do you like it, but does it fill your soul with joy. Forces you to look at the memories things carry and whatever reasons outside of bringing joy or being useful that we use to convince ourselves to keep something. As Ashley said, it is mentally and emotionally exhausting. But the feeling of lightness I get as I unload stuff makes up for that.

    I also like the criteria posted here, “Would I buy this if I saw it in GoodWill?” If not, it probably needs to go out, because it offers neither joy nor usefulness.

  58. When we were married everyone (or so it seemed) gave us towels. Instead of doing any store returns or exchanges, my mom suggested I just pack them away until they were needed. We had 3 children in less than 4 years and money was tight. The kids and I would go “shopping” through that box whenever our regular towels needed replacing. They loved picking out different colored towels and I loved not having to spend money for them. The stash lasted just over ten years. One of my best frugal moves!

  59. I can relate to this! We don’t have a basement, but we have an attic, and it is SO FULL of boxes for me to sort! Most of the things are kid-related. I have a hard time getting rid of good quality toys that are just a little broken – I think I’ll glue or sew them back together and then donate them, but then rarely make time to do so. Going through our attic of boxes is definitely on my list of things to do before this year is out. It would feel wonderful to have that space clear.

  60. Go you! I get such a high from finding stuff to get rid of/sell/donate. It becomes quite addictive. My poor husband is scared that one day he’ll come home and find that we have no possessions left. 🙂 I just find that less stuff = more mental energy freed up.

  61. Ah I think I’m a practical frugal person too or at least striving to be! Shopping was my big issue too mainly clothes but I found that it definitely made me more anxious as I was subconsciously doing it for external validation and my identity and self worth was becoming tied up in my outward presentation which is definitely not in line with my values. I’m on a clothing ban at the moment but I’m not going to ‘declutter’ my closet as I will just wait until I have worn everything out (another reason to stick at my home exercise program) I can’t pretend that I’m at your level of self acceptance (I do still fond myself comparing myself to others and feel lacking) but I’m working on it a day at a time. Thank you for your posts, they make me feel less alone in my frugal ways 🙂

  62. As a frugal military family that has moved 15 times in 20 years I fall on the side of the debate keep it and move it, the other side is to buy new at each duty station to fit that house. My problem is compacted because we have bought and own 4 houses at seperate duty stations. Any of which we could move back to at any time. So the item that haunts me the most. CURTAINS. I have them for the houses we own and they travel in boxes with me to each duty station they rarely fit the new houses windows yet I can’t bring myself to give them away just in case we go back to that house. The irony we moved back into one of our houses that I had been carrying the curtains around for 10 years, to discover our tenant had installed beautiful wooden pull up shades. Problem solved I happily donated those curtains to the goodwill. Now if I could just bring myself to do it for the other houses!

    1. I keep quite a few curtains and have found that some at least tend to fit the new place, but I don’t move as often as you!
      It does translate to clothes as well though. Hang on to them for ages in case they fit in the future, then decide that my tastes have changed and I don’t want to wear them anyway.

  63. Where have all the pictures of Frugal Hound gone? Completely, unrelated to the substance of this post I know, but I’ve noticed in your recent posts Frugal Hound is missing. I don’t have Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest so I’m missing out.

  64. We live in a small space which makes us careful about what comes in. I’ve been putting items we don’t need on Freecycle/Craigslist, and it’s still been challenging to get rid of some of them! It makes it very apparent how easy it is to bring in stuff, but how difficult it can be and how much energy is spent in trying to get rid of stuff. It adds a whole other element to considering whether to bring an item into our space.

  65. Haha, no throw pillows here either! Minimalism FTW.

    The beauty of not owning a basement (like us) is that we’re forced to purge unnecessary items. We’re forced to — there’s just no space for storing things that don’t get used.

  66. “Throw pillows” reminded me of a friend who tactfully endured the dust ruffles her mother-in-law purchased and INSISTED every proper home have, even though she hated them. At least those don’t have to be moved to use the bed.

    Someone passed on advice to me once for dealing with “things you might need some day.” Estimate how many you need for the rest of your life, and move the rest along. Shirt buttons? Rubber bands? Flower pots? Sheets and towels? Craft supplies?

  67. I’m of the school that sez that one of these days I’m going to go through yatada yatada yatada and really clear out the excess or stuff that hasn’t been used any time near lately. Because of this tendency, the only time it got sort of done is when I moved. And I have moved a lot. Because of this tendency, I figured out another system that has worked well for me. Maybe it might be of some minor use to anyone else who can’t get their britches moving to take everything apart at once, eg
    clothing, all the kitchen cabinets, the linen closet, et. al.

    This magic (for me) system is called “a copy paper box (or an old moving box or?). I stick it in the corner of my closet and whenever I trip over something I know can move on, I toss it in the box–one item at a time most of the time. My current box has a couple of small candle holders, some clothes, an old frying pan and an old sheet (so far). The idea is that you are filling this box up as you trip over something you know you don’t need. You don’t have to go through the whole closet, all the kitchen cupboards, etc.. When the box is filled, stick it in the trunk (or whatever) of your car, and when you are out and about and in the area of a thrift store drop it off and get a receipt (for income tax deductions). Shove another box in the closet and away you go for the next time. Or, empty the box into a bit plastic bag if you don’t have an extra box.

    This doesn’t solve the attic or basement problem, but were it me I’d take it a couple of boxes at a time and a half hour later you are done for now. I wouldn’t stress about it, just pick away at it instead of making a monumental project you are dreading out of it.. It’s not going anywhere and a couple of days or weeks later you can do a couple of more boxes. Just a thought–whatever works for me may not be the answer for you.

  68. Judy, thanks for sharing, I love this idea, it’s so low pressure. Due to back issues, I am using a variation of it, the box/plastic storage box is in the back of my car and my goal is to put an object in it every day. The objects are things I see around the house that we don’t need, objects that are tied to unhappy memories but we used to feel guilty about letting go of, or objects that don’t bring joy. When the box is full I drive it to Goodwill, where they unload it; if we need the box, I keep it; if not, they just take the box with its contents.

    For something over 10 pounds (my weight limit), my husband will move it, either to an accessible place where we keep it to use it, in the car for the Goodwill, or in the trash.

    Doing it this way frees me from stress and believe it or not is making inroads on the clutter. So far I have 2 full boxes in the car, and I think the third will be full by early next week. Once I get the house in shape I will use the same system for the attic and basement, areas I am afraid to even look at right now.

    The ultimate goal is to have only what we really need and a few beautiful things we love, organized and accessible. You can’t cherish your things if they are hidden away in a box or under piles, is my new motto.

  69. I love the look of your bed without throw pillows, Mrs. Frugalwoods! It is so streamlined and neat. We have minimalized the possessions in our house, too, and we also have packed basement storage rooms. A lot of it’s not neatly labeled though! It serves as our catch-all room or a halfway point for getting rid of stuff we don’t need. I’m not one to hold on to stuff I might need, although I’ve wished I were a couple of times over the years, when I needed something I got rid of. It’s more like I’m not very good at staying on top of taking stuff to our donation center. I really love the idea of asking yourself if you really need something. I am just looking at a pillow in my living room that is an absolute annoyance to me, because I have to move it every time I sit down in a certain chair. I’m moving that pillow down to the basement! Thanks for the inspiration! 🙂

  70. 4 years after moving into our (currently) forever home, I still have boxes of stuff that are unopened sitting on top of cupboards and in the garage. No basement for me to hide things here, but that’s probably a blessing anyways. This year, I said enough was enough and am currently on a mission around my own home to give away, donate or throw out anything that doesn’t have a use or ‘spark joy’ as Marie Kondo would say it.

    Enough is enough, it’s time to clear away the clutter, get rid of the random pillows we got coz it made us feel like adults and get back to basics. Much like you have! Thank you for the encouragement!

  71. I put used candles in the sun on my front porch. They melt, scent the area and when they’re spent, I dump the melted wax on the dirt. When it dries, I bag it and toss it. Then I wash the container and either re-use it or recycle it. For the few times I need a candle, I use the battery operated ones from Walmart.

  72. I have really enjoyed reading this post & comments. Will look at several of the books referenced. I used to move quite often in my 20’s, but have been in current home 18 yrs. Until earlier this month, was in same classroom for 17 yrs. Needed to pack up to move to a smaller program, and will be changing grade level / subject matter. But… some things I have will still work, I pared down a 4 drawer file cabinet to 2 copy paper boxes. Started out great, but ended up with 29 boxes for transport. What is all that stuff? And while packing, it just seemed to be multiplying. This has been an eye opener about my home (very few decorations due to house of cats) & trying to pare down the clutter. I know so many of us share these struggles – so good to read stories from others!

  73. Very timely post, thank you!
    I think farmers are the worst packrat/collectors because there is no lack of storage space in the attic, basement, barn, smoke house, chicken house, outhouse or shed. My Daddy and Mother both grew up in the ’20’s and ’30’s with all that and more. Farmers are handymen that can (eventually) fix and use anything; that goes twice for farm women. You never can tell when that stack of canning jars, feed sacks, bent hangers, paper bags, jelly glasses, rusty wire, and worn out machinery beyond description might yet be useful!
    My Dad’s parents died when I was a toddler. My parents took over the 110 acre farm, his siblings took what they wanted/needed just as my grandfather’s siblings did years before, and we moved into a 2 story full attic and basement house with our own stuff on top of all the left-behinds. Forty years later (1993-ish) Mother persuaded Daddy to move to a smaller one story house on 1 acre. Downsizing was a HUGE job. We found things tucked into corners that had not seen the light of day since 1894 when great grandfather moved out of the log house into the big new one. Much was trashed, given away or sold but their littler house was still full of the “good stuff”. Plus Daddy put up a small barn for his things.
    They enjoyed the new place for many years until Mother fell asleep. Daddy would often drive into the small town nearby to eat at his favorite diner. The waitresses soon knew to get a cup of coffee ready when he drove up. Sometimes he would go to the big city to wander the aisles at Harbor Freight, usually bringing home some clever tool for the workshop he never used in the attached garage. After Daddy fell asleep my husband filled the pickup truck with bags and boxes of things that still had their receipts, went to Daddy’s favorite HF store and told the story to the manager. God bless him, he gave us money back even on things 5 years old!
    Yes it was silly of him to spend money on those tools. Maybe he should have found a different hobby, but tools were his hobby. About that same time (early 2000’s) there was a notorious May-December romance that got the rich old man’s kids in a tizzy and kept the tabloids in print for months. I’ve decided it’s better to clean out clutter than pay lawyers to clean up relationships.
    My husband and I are now approaching the age my parent did the downsize and move. We both have some of their “good stuff” plus our own. I no longer keep empty cottage cheese cups for storage but how can I toss Mother’s college papers? Maybe a (still future) grandkid will care? I have given away old pencils and dry paints but but but… that’s a box of hand spun natural Alpaca yarn! I’ll use it eventually someday! My oldest child tells me to let things go if I don’t need them; God gave them to me once, if I need something, God can give them to me again. I know this is true but letting go is an ongoing struggle.
    The Frugalwoods’ example of setting priorities and pruning accordingly is a great encouragement, plus I read the comments to learn from all of us in similar boats. I don’t want to put my kids through what we did three times with my parents. Its time to quit nibbling around the edges and get serious about eliminating clutter and organizing what is important. If I have forgotten I own something or can’t find it when I remember it, what’s the point of having it?
    Frugaminalsts Unite!

  74. Thanks so much for this post and this blog! I grew up in a family of packrats with a mother who would occasionally get overwhelmed and purge. But we never stopped bringing stuff in! As an adult, I realized that clutter makes me anxious. For me, the big thing is aspirational clutter, like the reader who commented on ‘nice’ workout clothes and wanting to be the person who wore nice workout clothes. Very well said!

    It’s so nice to come here and read about other minimalists! I love purging and organizing and helping others realize that they don’t need so much stuff. I’ve considered starting a side job to help people downsize, as I get real joy from helping and delcluttering, while it is very stressful for others. Thanks to everyone who comments here, for all the inspiration.

  75. I worry that our basement will flood and ruin the stuff that’s stored down there, another good reason to limit what we keep (and store it off the floor on shelves).

  76. Not having a basement in our new home makes it easier to not over-acquire stuff, but I must admit, I’d love to be able to stockpile non-perishables when they’re on sale. Great job on streamlining your lives Frugalwoods Family. I love that you are living your dream! 🙂

  77. You can think of the stuff (maybe not the throw pillows) as an interior decorating version of “going shopping in your own closet”. Maybe in five years you’ll get tired of your home decor–it happens–and want to refresh or change it. As for candles, maybe it’s not an issue if you have solar panels, but if the power goes out for an extended period, you might want to burn those.

    Just have the darn garage sale. It will be a community event. Have people bring a dish, play music, bring something to swap. Play bocce on the lawn. 🙂

  78. My dad grew up with very little and I think that’s the reason why he hangs on to everything “just in case” he needs it in the future. He had a plumbing business for decades and has many sets of the same tools. I have tried to encourage him to start selling at least one set, but it’s hard for him to let go. I get where he’s coming from, but he doesn’t realize that the money from selling tools could be more of a comfort than having all 3 sets just in case something happens to the first two.

    P.S. I love your blog and you are living my dream! I love the woods (nemophilist here). I grew up on 18 acres of mostly wooded land and it’s my goal to end up with at least that much. 🙂 Happy homesteading!

  79. I’m totally on board with minimalism regarding things — excess clothes, furniture, decorations… I’ve found that everything benefits from being decluttered. Anything that takes away from my Living, is NOT what I want.

    What I’m further interested in is: Minimalism regarding Time — how to pare down my daily “Things To Do” list so I can get to things that are important to me.
    Mrs. Frugalwoods, you have mentioned that you don’t go shopping much anymore, and in another post you talk about avoiding ironing, wearing clothes more than once and cooking LOTS less via large-batch cooking. These are all fabulous ways to save time. What about other readers — have you found ways to shave off time spent on routine chores? I’m so curious to hear about how others have dealt with this issue. Thanks!

  80. Hi, I’m a frugal weirdo and I have an Econo Mutt. This is such a good community – I am doing the UFM and realizing that I’m doing a lot better than I thought, but there are some very interesting tweaks available here. Nice to meet you, my people. Your thoughts on connection to things, true happiness, and the fleeting nature of wanting/needing are so spot on. Thank you!

  81. I have save the pictures of your bedroom and living room as inspiration. I have been taking Joshua Becker’s minimalism courses but having this kind of inspiration as to what it will look like when I eventually feel “done” is just the inspiration I need. I love your articles, your lifestyle, and your important doses of reality and how it just doesn’t happen in one day. You keep it real!

  82. Hey Mrs Frugal Woods! Catching up on old posts after seeing you talk in NYC the other week (you were great). Do you have any basement before & after pics? Or could you do a post on where things are now? I love a good decluttering makeover 🙂

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