Why You Should Give Away 50% of Your Stuff

Why You Should Give Away 50% of Your Stuff

It took me about a year to give away and sell 50% of my stuff. That first big-give gave me the courage, confidence and desire to let go of even more. Way more. It wasn’t always easy, but absolutely worth the effort.

If you want to experience all the benefits of a clutter-free life, 50% is a great place to start. It sounds extreme, but once you start moving from room to room and removing the things that don’t matter and that you don’t care about, you’ll reach the half way point sooner than you think. You can probably do an initial sweep and box up 10-15% of your stuff and not even notice it’s missing. The next round might be a little tougher, but the lightness you feel from the first pass will motivate you to keep going.

Banish Your Biggest Fears about Giving Away 50%

  • I’m afraid I won’t know what to give away or where to start. You won’t know until you start, so just start. Walk through your home with a small box and fill it with meaningless objects that you are tired of dusting. Give the box away. Repeat.
  • I’m afraid I will buy everything back. When you are faced with empty shelves and rooms, you might be afraid that you will want to fill the space up again. It’s ok to feel that, but instead of giving in, sit with the empty space. Think about how you would rather spend your money and time. Let the empty space give you permission to decide what you really want out of life. It probably isn’t more stuff.
  • I’m afraid of hurting someone’s feelings. Giving away things that were important to other people might be hurtful. Have meaningful conversations about why you want to declutter. Offer to return things if that is appropriate. Be kind and gentle but firm in your commitment to live with less. People love you for you. If they love you for what you keep or don’t keep, rethink the relationship.
  • I’m afraid I might forget the past. Your stuff tells a story and letting it go might feel a little bit like letting go of who you are. Write your story or photograph your stuff that makes up that story before you give it away. Holding onto it prevents you from living and writing new stories. You are not your stuff.
  • I’m afraid I might need something just in case. Box up your most important just in case items and put them in an unmarked box for 30 days. If you don’t need it, and especially if you don’t remember what it is, give it away without looking in the box. You need less than you think.
  • I’m afraid that I will realize how much time and money I’ve wasted. If this is your fear, you’ve already realized it and faced it. Don’t waste one more second or dollar on stuff that you don’t care about it. If you don’t give it away now, you will continue to spend time and money on things only because you feel bad about buying it in the first place. Stop it.
  • I’m afraid that giving it away before it is “used up” is environmentally irresponsible. Chances are there is more life to your stuff, and it is just as likely that someone else needs it more than you do. You don’t have to throw your stuff in a landfill. Instead, research organizations that will get your stuff in the right hands or read 101 Places Your Clutter can do Good.
  • I’m afraid people will judge me or think I am weird. What someone else thinks about you is not who you are. Surround yourself with people who support you and lift you up. People will think you are weird. That’s ok.

50% of your stuff is less than you think. You can get there without counting too. Take a picture of a the rooms in your home. Don’t forget the storage spaces. After a few rounds of decluttering, take new pictures and compare. Once 50% is gone, you will have more information to decide if less is better. If it is, try another 50%.

Why you should give away 50% of your stuff …

  • Give away 50% of your stuff and give the most important things a chance to rise to the surface.
  • Give away 50% of your stuff and discover mental clarity to choose how you really want to live your life.
  • Give away 50% of your stuff so you can live in a smaller space.
  • Give away 50% of your stuff so you discover that you are not your stuff.
  • Give away 50% of your stuff because it will never love you back.

The real eye opener for me was when I couldn’t remember most of the things I gave away. I’ve never searched for something that I didn’t keep or felt like I made a mistake giving things away. I’ve learned that living with less is a blessing and not a sacrifice.

 

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Comments

  1. says

    I’m with you on this! The main issue that affects me now on your list is that I sometimes hold onto an item because I don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings. Things (especialy paper) still accumulates living more simply and I need to stay on top of this element as well.

  2. barbara says

    I did this!!! I moved from 1000 ft squared place to 322 ft squared place last year and gave up all but half my clothes, a few personal items, 30 hangers, two lamps and a table. .. I moved in a car2go! (Really). Have not looked back .. I offered family pieces to family before giving the rest away, have no regrets.

  3. says

    Courtney! Very well reasoned arguments here as always. Since we began decluttering, our home feels nice. It is easy to move through, like butter and it easier to find items. We can see out the windows with no obstructions. Seeing the trees, sky, birds and especially squirrels is critical. 50% may just be that magic number, but it is awfully hard to measure. 50 certainly is a nice round number, no doubt;)

  4. Heather says

    This is great article! There once was a time I had that regret that I too was wasting $ by decluttering but I am blessed with new thoughts on that through wonderful blogs like this. I know that I value the experience and memories I had with that certain object I’m giving away. It served its purpose and now it’s time to give it to someone else. There are young, just married couples or those new on their own, who come along at that i can pass things onto and charity garage sales I can give too I’ve found. If I keep this object that I no longer love, or has purpose in my life, I feel like I’m stealing from someone who it is now meant for and not doing the environment any favors because that person will have to buy one at the store instead. I’m also blessed with a good neighbor thrift store in my town where donations go to those in need…senior citizens, those whose home burned down, etc…. — keep up the great work here! It goes a long way to bless many people & the environment. :)

  5. says

    such a great article. I have been going back and forth on stuff and what to keep and what to give away. I’ve decided this is my sign.. to get rid of all the junk!! Thank you..

  6. JC says

    This is wonderful. I struggle with the guilt factor of having wasted money and the earths resources on stuff I don’ care about. I’m committed to the 50% anyway! And you are right…people will think we’re weird, but so what. JC

  7. says

    Love this. Another good reason to give away half your stuff is that clutter creates stagnant energy. Clearing your clutter is the foundation of Feng Shui – it truly transforms your life when energy can flow freely.

    I’m not quite at the place of being able to move all my stuff in a very small car – but that’s what I’m aiming for. My biggest challenge is books – I’ve already given away about two thirds of my books – still have about 300. Not easy to travel lightly with that many!

    • Kathy Mader says

      Keeping the house clean has become such a chore. It’s made me realize that my stuff is simply not worth it…it’s a burden and joy-thief. Ugh! Gotta do this! Recently I debated about giving away a set of china that I found at a thrift store for $35. It was very nice, had a covered vegetable dish and everything, but who needs 3 sets of dishes…in fact, who needs even two…or even a complete set of one? After much mental agony, I gave the whole set away. Have not missed it one iota. Need to write these things on my forehead, as I seem to quickly lose track of my new values. Thanks for the support and encouragement, Courtney.

  8. Morghan Phoenix says

    There’s only one tweak I’d add. The “just in case” items will be larger for poorer people. I have a box with my previous version of big ticket items because I couldn’t afford to replace something with a $250-1000 price tag if it gave up the ghost. I’ve had fruit punch added (by a 3 year old) to a laptop before, keeping a decade old one in the closet enabled me to remain connected and able to continue working (backups to external media are your friend) while saving for a replacement. It wasn’t nice, actually wouldn’t even run YouTube, but it worked.

    I’d tell people to keep their situation in mind when decluttering, many will be able to replace destroyed items. Some, however, will not.

  9. Katie says

    I just dropped a trunk load of stuff off at Good Will today and it felt awesome. I have to add that I have been looking forward to it all week. I find getting rid of clutter tobe so cathartic. Clutter makes me anxious. I have been accused of lacking sentiment, but I try to explain you don’t need things to hold the experience close to your heart.
    I really enjoy your blog.

    Katie

    • says

      I was thinking the other day that the donation receivers at goodwill must have the happiest of jobs. Normally the people who are dropping off donations are so joyful to be free of their stuff, they can’t hhelp but smile!

  10. Nicole W. says

    I think your idea of photographing AND writing/journaling about something before releasing it is spot on for me emotionally and will create open storage SPOTS in our home. THANK YOU! I have very few things from my childhood, but they’ve been around so long I can’t imagine throwing them away – this is an ideal solution!

  11. Julia says

    Great post! I’m probably at around 30% at the moment and that’s taken me 3 years. Some items I’ve sold, many I’ve given away to local charities but the most rewarding one was last week when I took a huge box of barely used winter bedding to our local women’s and children’s shelter. They were incredibly grateful for the items (mid winter here at the moment) and that feeling of giving to someone desperately in need was far greater reward than admiring it in my cupboard.
    Sometimes I find myself looking for an item, cursing at myself for having too much stuff still and can’t find what I want. Then I have a look through my photo records of what I’ve got rid of and realise I’ve let it go. No big deal – if I only looked for it once in all that time (and it wasn’t vital) then I really didn’t need to hang on to it.
    Hoping to have another big push to get rid of bigger items this weekend!

  12. Mari says

    Don’t really know where I’m at % wise and I don’t really need to know but A LOT has left home already – donated, recycled, reused, sold, given away, and the dreaded *dumped* (–> garbage).

    > The real eye opener for me was when I couldn’t remember most of the things I gave away.

    YES! And when life has gone on without the things that I do remember giving away! Regrets are RARE.

  13. MelD says

    I have no idea what % of belongings I’ve given away, I just know I live with a lot less stuff than I used to! I buy a lot less, too.
    No idea what went, either!
    We still have more than enough, and that will be reduced gradually as we get older, our lives and lifestyles alter and our youngest daughter leaves home (that will be a few years, yet, maybe 3-4 before she is able to support herself). It’s always ongoing.
    At present, we are facing the challenge of dealing with an apartment’s worth that has to be disposed of – some personal belongings to come home, which means more decluttering at home (small house), and some will be stored for our daughter, which she wants and will save her money later (plain dishes, basic kitchen implements, couple pieces simple furniture). The rest will be sold, given away or thrown out…
    At some point, we will be responsible for our mothers’ and grandmother’s homes, too – seems this is going to be the story of my middle age!! LOL Getting good practice…
    At least home is now peaceful.

  14. says

    Hi Courtney,
    I really like your blog, thank you for your inspiring posts! This one is very good! :) I am an aspiring minimalist, like voluntary simplicity, freedom and so fourth. But I still have lot of stuff to get rid of.

    It has taken me a long time to get to were I am today, but I am glad to have learned something from my mistakes. I have collected to much stuff over the years..

    The teacher will appear when the student is ready, how very truth.

    Thanks from Sweden :)

  15. says

    Love this idea! I’ve done this with my daughter in her room. An easy way to track the 50% it is I took two similar items (and couldn’t believe how easy it was to find multiple similar items like teddy bears, dolls, scarves, Barbies, etc.) and I would say, which one of these do you like the most? She would (usually very easily) pick the one she loved, and we would throw the other one in the goodwill box. It was actually fun, because once she got into the “giving away” mode, she found items that she wanted to give to specific people (friends who had admired some trinket, etc) and we walked out with a neater room, 50% less cluttered. I also communicated this experience with both sets of grandparents (the source of most of that clutter to begin with) and they have started giving things more precious than stuff (museum memberships, concert tickets, etc). I really enjoy your posts!

  16. Paige says

    I think the percentage varies per situation. We (our family of 4) recently moved from a 1400 sq ft house with attic, garage and yard to a 1200 sq ft apartment with 1 small storage closet. We sold, gave away and donated A LOT of stuff. I have continued to take donations to free up more space. This move has really taught me a lot….about what i can live without, about how much money i waste buying things b/c they are cheap, and how much i like a simple clutterfree space. I am trying to be more minimalistic, but i will never be where some of you are and I’m ok with that. :) I would love to see pictures of your home, Courtney. Do you decorate or hang pictures?

    • Courtney Carver says

      Hi Paige, I will post pics of our new space in an upcoming post but yes I do hang pics. I love art.

  17. says

    I’ve already let go of over 50% and it strikes me that I’m ready to let go of another 50%. Decluttering is a process as everything is connected to us through our emotions – we’re letting go of many emotions when we let go of stuff – most of us need to pace ourselves, I love this journey. I feel all fired up to get into it again.

    And there are things I’ll use until I sell my houseboat – and they’re not coming with me. I love the idea of being able to move with a couple of car loads – no moving van for me!

  18. says

    Great post!

    I’ve just moved into my smaller place and am in the process of clearing out my storage unit. There is just no way I want to bring everything back in. I never realized how little I could live with until it wasn’t an option. I only took from storage what I needed and nothing more. It was less than 50% ;)

  19. says

    Excellent advice in this post. I struggled with some of the things you discussed here, but I worked through it.

    When I first started decluttering, I didn’t think about a percentage of what to keep. I just knew I wanted less. Later, as I got into the swing of things, I had a goal to really cut my stuff down dramatically. I sold some things, but I would estimate that I gave the majority of it away, especially clothing. Today, I probably have about 30% of what I use to own, and it feels so freeing having less.

  20. says

    What a great experiment! When I first read it, it felt scary. But then I remembered how good it felt when we cleared out our home before our last move. We sold, donated and just plain gave away truckload upon truckload of our possessions including our dining room set. In the 5 years since we moved, there have only been 2 times when I wished I still had something I’d given away – a small price to pay for the freedom of having less to care for. You’ve inspired me to do it all over again (not the move, just the purging:)

  21. says

    I started doing this 13 years ago (allow yourself to take time for some of this, each pass gets easier). At the time we were moving out of a house we’d been in for 25 years – and my Dad said if you’re not sure hold onto it, but try and get rid as they were downsizing! 10 months ago I moved into my own place, and it’s easier to see what I will actually use, rather than holding onto ‘in case I get a house’, etc. My cousin is an image consultant and gave me a good rate to detox my wardrobe. I have about 3 small areas, plus photo albums, and electronic space left to sort now! Every time I get rid of something I feel freer… :-)

  22. barbara says

    I have enjoyed reading all the items in this thread .. someone recently reminded me that I don’t need as much renter’s insurance since I have fewer items .. so I assessed my situation and reduced my annual fee and coverage. This is not something I thought much about when I moved last year and got rid of more than half my belongings.

  23. Natalie says

    I spent the afternoon getting rid of much of my past, including greeting cards I had kept from our wedding and the births of my children. I kept a couple of the ones that had funny or moving messages. I also got rid of nearly all my DVDs and CDs since they are now available online if I ever need to purchase them (although I usually only watch a movie once or twice!). I also threw out all of the school work I had kept from when I was a kid- I’m not sure why I had held onto all of it all these years! 15 full bags of stuff were donated to charity a couple of weeks ago and I already feel so much lighter. Thanks for your wonderful posts and website!

  24. Kim says

    We’ve probably donated/sold around 25% of our stuff in the last 2 years – potentially more. When we bought our house (expecting our first child), both of our parents decided to give us all the stuff from our childhoods. ACK! We were thankful we had a large attic and basement to store stuff in, but when we were forced to move to an apartment with no storage (expecting our third child and four years later!) we were devastated by the amount of stuff we had accumulated. We ended up donating a BUNCH but also had to rent a 10×12′ storage locker. Our idea was to go through a box a week and thus make our way through the storage unit, but it didn’t quite work out that way. Finally, we couldn’t afford to keep the locker and we did a major purge, but then had to move the rest of it into our kids’ playroom :/ We’ve just recently moved (again!) to a house that’s quite perfect for us. We forced ourselves to go through the remainder of the stuff we’d been storing and we moved with WAAAAAAY less than we’d had coming from our house. So freeing!! We still have lots of work to do (LOTS), but it’s amazing how much better I’m able to breathe in a living room without boxes in it!

  25. says

    My relatives all the time say that I am wasting my time
    here at net, except I know I am getting experience all the time by reading such good content.

  26. says

    Courtney, thank you! Your clarity of purpose is a beacon for those who struggle with stuff. In my job I see people overwhelmed and drowning in their own possessions. It’s an inspiration and a joy to read how you lightened your life by having less. Thanks again :)

  27. Elizabeth says

    Taking the 50% plunge has been one of the best personal experiences. Over the last year I’ve made a few thousand dollars selling it back through Ebay. Those items that didn’t sell got donated to a local thrift store.

    I don’t miss anything that was sold or donated.

    I still shop. There have been times I will buy an article of clothing that looks similar to something I already have and I buy it anyway. When I get home I put up the old ‘similar’ item up for auction. I don’t need both. Same goes for other house hold items, shoes, and equipment.