I Want to Give it All Away


As you might imagine, I am the decluttering ring leader in my family. While my husband and daughter have been beyond supportive in indulging my clutter-free fantasies, if they knew what I really wanted to do, they might run for the hills.

Lately, I’m been dreaming about this big, little idea. I want each of us to put the things we need the most in our small closets and then, give the rest away. (I am sure my husband just stopped reading this post and this blog.)

My real fantasy is to give it all away and not put a thing in the closet, but I didn’t start with that because I don’t want you to stop reading too.

If I gave it all away …

  • I could see what it feels like to not be attached to any “thing”
  • I could better determine the importance of things I need by living without them
  • My mind could be free to think about things above and beyond stuff
  • I’d have nothing to lose

While I will continue to shed stuff and live with less, I won’t be giving everything away today, or anytime soon. The happiness of my husband and daughter, and the family that we’ve built together, even with all of our stuff will always mean more to me than any “thing”.

If you are struggling to “get your family on board” or “to declutter their stuff”. Stop for a moment and re-frame. Put people before stuff, and time before money. Sometimes that means holding onto stuff, or progressing more slowly. Even though, with my family, we’ve given away more than 50% of our stuff and still have more to give, I am happier than I have ever been. Right at this moment, my marriage is stronger, my energy is better, and my heart is more joyful than ever before.

Why am I so happy living with less? Because I dream about …

  • giving instead of buying
  • time instead of money
  • a future without mortgage payments instead of a white picket fence
  • affordable college for my daughter instead of an overpriced degree
  • movie night cuddling with my husband instead of an expensive night out
  • creative ways to save money by purchasing less, instead of turning to Groupon or other sales to spend more.
  • writing, yoga, walking, laughing instead of worrying, feeling guilty and spending to feel better.

When you start to live with less, you crave even less stuff, because you get a glimpse of what life really has to offer. When you turn your focus to joy, love, happiness, gratitude and other warm & fuzzy emotions and away from acquisition, competition and hoarding, your heart will soften and you’ll be free to dream about and experience the very best.



  1. says

    You continue to inspire me. Even after giving away, selling, getting rid of most of the stuff I find it way easy to accumulate in our new home in Hawaii, if only on a small scale.

    Reading this makes me want to make sure not to let the small scale of accumulation happen. Remain unattached to so many things, have my TIME, write more, get in the ocean most days, enjoy my love of my life and my dogs each and every day. Let the idea of “worry” go away!


  2. says

    That is a wonderful idea if you can get your family to go along! This past spring when I relocated instead of moving everying I kept only what would fit in our van and gave the rest (furniture, mobile home and all) to a homeless woman and her kids.

    The feeling was absolutely incredible but terrifying at the same time. At first you think “WTF am I doing?” then at times you think “why did I do that, I NEED things” and then you get to the realization that you didn’t need any of it at all and could actually do with even LESS than you kept.

    My favorite part was the look in a certain little girl’s eyes when her mommy told her that they now had a home and that everything she saw belonged to them.

    If you can do it, especially if you can find someone to help up in the process – the feeling is incredible and the memory something you will NEVER forget.

    Annie at annienygma.com

      • Hedeel says

        Having been on the receiving end of this kind of generosity in a time of great need when I was a child, I can go as far as to say I know how that little girl may have felt. I really admire you for doing this and for giving that family real hope and blessings. H xx

  3. says

    There is no need to take this to extremes. Since I have been gradually reducing my possessions, those that I was not using anyway, my wife has reduced hers. If I had given most of it away she probably would have threatened to go away also.

    We live in a modern world where a certain amount of possessions enhances our living and saves us time to do what we really want to do.

    The first four items of the things you dream about I obtained with time and patience and without giving any possessions away. Admittedly, if I had acquired less trinkets along the way I would have reached my goals sooner.

    However, almost any practice or principle taken to an extreme can have very negative effects.

  4. says

    I can definitely understand the desire to get rid of everything, as I too feel the same way! And I couldn’t agree more about allowing it to be a slow progress and take the other household member into consideration. The only aspect I disagree with is that having less leads someone to being less competitive. For people who are very Type A and inherently competitive, all having less physically has done for me is change what I am competitive about. Just a thought…

  5. says

    I swear, it’s like you’re in my head! I’ve been on a decluttering journey for years, and I often joke that without my husband and daughter I would be off living in a tiny house with the barest of essentials. Thanks for the reminder though that even in the process, the people in your life matter more. :)

    • Sandi says

      I couldn’t have said it better, Kate! I totally fantasize about giving it all away, but I content myself with slowly and steadily getting where I want to be most.

  6. says

    I’m a wanna-be minimalist married to a borderline-hoarder, so, I can definitely identify with trying to get a reluctant partner to go along with decluttering. We’re still a work in progress, but demonstrating how much easier life is when you can find what you’re looking for and having a nice and orderly system for daily life makes the “convincing” much easier. Thank you for a great post!

  7. says

    Annie, that’s incredibly inspiring! Thanks for sharing it.

    We held our last garage sale ever over the weekend, hoping to sell a large chunk of our clutter. Unfortunately it rained and we sold only a handful of things. Instead of being disappointed though, my husband and I boxed up all the toys, books, CDs, clothes, appliances and linens and gave them to a local charity. Turns out, it wasn’t about making money or even just clearing the clutter, but to be able to give away perfectly good things to those who need them felt so incredible. It really does help you see just how little we all need.

    But, as you say, sometimes slower is better too. I’m all for giving the majority away, but it’s taking my husband time. And the last thing I want is for him to feel uncomfortable in our home because I’ve stripped it of things that were important to him.

  8. says

    Oh, yeah, Courtney, I’ve had many a thought along the same lines! But I’m doing it the slow and steady way, and take great satisfaction in knowing that I’m quite capable of living with even less than I have.

  9. BillM says

    Strange how most of us start out on our own with next to nothing. I started with a car (pain in full) some clothes, books, a small stereo, camping things and all of it fit into the trunk of my car as I left for college. Then came the photography gear. That was all, more actually than I needed. A few years out of college, a job, then marriage, and house and then “where in the world did all this stuff come from?”

    I still have way too much stuff!!!

    I really enjoy your blog. If I could make my interests dwindle I would have no problem getting rid of stuff. Had I followed my dream a few years ago I’d be in Montana in a small cabin and not much stuff.

  10. says

    I went through our home in August and got rid of 25 things a day. It was really hard to find things the last week, but I did it. We put all our CD’s on an IPOD and got rid of them, and got rid of things we don’t use, don’t want or don’t like. It felt so good! As Christmas is coming soon, I am going through the house again and cleaning everything and going through all the drawers, closets, etc. and getting rid of anything that we don’t need. There isn’t much, but it always seems like there is something you can find to get rid of! I didn’t go shopping on Black Friday and we are giving cash for most of our gifts. I don’t want to dump clutter on my family and have them deal with extra stuff. It is much easier to clean the house when there isn’t a lot of clutter in the way.

  11. says

    I don’t want to give it all away, but…I like your thinking and know that one small shift always leads to others. And I like to think of “stuff” not only in terms of materials things. Last spring I learned I’d be losing 1/4 of my income, which was barely covering the life I was leading. At first it felt scary, then liberating. It prompted a move closer to work, and combining my household with my sweetie’s. I didn’t give it away, but I lost driving time, work time, and dealing with life in a harsher climate time. I think the thing I’m most thankful for this year is the reduction of my job. I’ve gained time for rest, for play, and for creative work I couldn’t have done before.

  12. says

    I’m the de-clutter bug in our family. I feel like I’m always sneaking toys and stuff into a small room downstairs (my collection place for things I’ll bring to Goodwill). It’s a challenge to keep my husband and kids out of that room. My husband tends to hold onto all manner of things due to emotional attachments. He’s getting better and we’re moving in baby steps.

    I remember, before we were married, I packed what I could fit in my SUV (put the rest in storage) and left Boston to eventually move to Colorado. For 2 years I only owned what fit in my Jeep and I found that I really only needed about half of that.

    After we were married and renting a house, I had a moving company empty the storage unit in Boston and deliver it to our house. On the one hand, it was like Christmas because I had forgotten about so many things that I owned. On the other hand, I was laughing at myself for owning so much stuff. It was crazy!

    Life is so much easier with less stuff. I totally agree with you: writing, yoga, walking and laughing can cure just about anything that ails me.

    • says

      LOL, that happened to us when we unpacked our TWO storage sheds when we bought a house again (after being in a small apartment). I found myself repeatedly thinking “wow, I didn’t know I still had that!” and “why in the world did I keep that?”.

  13. Candice says

    I’m so glad to know someone else out there could “give it all away.” My husband (who was such a hoarder at one point) and I reached a happy compromise years ago. It took a long while to get him to see that one can live without “stuff” and I’ve relaxed quite a bit on my obsessiveness to be an extreme minimalist. We’ve balanced each other out; which is what marriage is all about really.

  14. says

    I love the idea of giving it all away. One thing I read that I liked, I think by Ryan of The Minimalists, was to pack up everything. Everything. you own in boxes. And then only pull stuff out as you need it. Then anything that is still in boxes at the end of 7 days, you donate to charity. Now, I think I’d have to give it longer than a week, because there are things I use only 3 or 4 times a year, and for me that is often enough to not have to go buy a new whatever when I find that I need it in 2 months. Or maybe as I pack everything up, I could put those rarely used, but still used things in a separate box so that they don’t get donated by accident. I think my husband would be totally on board with something like that. My 4 yr old pack-rat, not so much.

  15. says


    I have been going through this process slowly since my wife died in 2007 and left me and the four dogs with a house too big full of stuff neither used nor needed. I put it on craigslist then I put it on the lawn and then I put it behind me. Moved from 5000 sg ft of living space to 1140. The thought of that was scary but I now find I have more space than I need again. With one exception. Artwork and family memorabilia. The one takes up wall space and the other just space period. I solved some of the memorabilia problem by digitizing much of it. This worked especially well for photographs and documents. Not so much a good approach for scrapbooks, nik-nacs, clothing and jewelry. Taken as a whole they tell the family’s story. And as one who delves a lot into genealogical channels I can only say I wish some of my ancestors had done the same.

    For me stuff comes in three categories:
    -That which I use on a daily or weekly basis or that is held solely for special occasions: Kitchen stuff and jeans and tee shirt stuff or tuxedo stuff.
    -That which is held for the sake of posterity or culture: The artwork and tangible manifestations of emotional bonds, past and present.
    -And everything else: Too much to list, but you all know what it is.

    I really have dumped almost all the stuff from category three. And it has been liberating. I even find it difficult now to hang with folk who are heavily into their stuff. It’s almost like having joined a 12-step program for recovery from stuff addiction. I took the first step ( I came to believe that I was powerless over stuff and that my life had become unmanageable.) and I just can’t hang out in the over-stuffed dens any more.

    I got a good feeling recently for being about as minimalist as I suspect I will ever get: I put a camera bag, a laptop, an electric inverter, a dop kit, spare shoes, camping gear (tent/bag/sterno) and a small duffle of clothing into my car and left home. When it all ended, three and a half months, 14000 miles, 10000 photographs, and a gazillion memories later, I was amazed to find that I had not used all the clothes I had carried – although I had added an extra pair of wool socks when I got into colder environs. I am certain I could have gone the entire year more or less on that kit. I’m now back rattling ’round my condo planning my next escape. I’m thinking this one may be one way if I can just figure out what to do with Picasso, Parrish and the scrapbooks. :)

    • Courtney Carver says

      Richard, I can’t wait to hear what you decide to do. It sounds like the last few years have really been transformative. You have a powerful story to tell.

      • says

        Well then you might want to subscribe to the posterous blog. It’s were I publicly journal my journey – and on FB. facebook.com/rgharrison. And if my travels bring me through SLC I’ll offer to buy you a cuppa if you’re up for it. I bring my own cup – cuts down on disposable’s :)

        And you’re spot on with the transformative observation. So much as a year ago if you’d told me I’d be traipsing round Edmonton hunting grizzlies with a lens, I’d had thought you certifiable. Who knew? But here’s a tip: if you decide to chase grizzlies never carry too much stuff; you need to be fleet of foot. :)

  16. says

    This is such a beautiful post. Very timely for me and I feel instantly encouraged to keep at my minimalist journey taking baby steps as I have been for the past year.
    Much love to you and your family,

  17. says

    Thanks for sharing your fantasy. As I continue my journey to simplicity and dispose of needless stuff, the one thing always makes me chuckle is when someone says “you’re not going to just give that away, are you?”.
    Yes. Yes I am.

  18. says

    Great post Courtney – I think the balance of our relationship with stuff, and our relationship with people is the critical issue.

    The bottom line is many of us can unwittingly fall into greedy and selfish patterns of thinking – even if we tell ourselves we’re just providing comfort and security for our families, or that ‘we’ve earned it’.

    We in the rich world have so much stuff, while billions across the globe are living in tin sheds and hungry every night . . . globalisation shouldn’t just apply to producing ‘stuff’, it should also apply to compassion.

    Needless to say I write quite a lot about these issues on my blog – drop by anytime :)


  19. says

    Hi Courtney,

    I have to say, after reading your blog for awhile, I always think of you when I’m cleaning out my closet. It does feel unnecessary to have more than we need. I’m not giving everything away, but I have realized that what’s in my closet is all I need, and I’m really trying to get rid of things on a regular basis. It makes me feel good. Thanks for the reminders.

  20. Holly says

    I have resolved to give away 100 items before Xmas. I don’t have masses of clutter as I moved house last year and have shed about a third to half of my possessions already (other than sofas, fridge etc) but I have set myself this challenge to push myself a bit further. And I declared it on Facebook so my friends expect to see a daily photo of the 4 items I am getting rid of each day from 1 Dec to 25 Dec!

    • says

      “And I declared it on Facebook so my friends expect to see a daily photo of the 4 items I am getting rid of each day from 1 Dec to 25 Dec!”

      Now that is a great idea!

  21. says

    I love these “big picture” posts. Sometimes it’s easy to forget the big reasons why we’re simplifying our lives when we’re standing in front of, say, a closet full of clothes that I know need to get donated! Thanks again, love your blog.

  22. Holly says

    I just delivered a huge box and huge bag of stuff to the Neighbour’s Aid story nearby…it’s a great feeling. And I brought the box home with me so I can refill it at least one more time!

  23. Luce says

    I really love your blog and like the way you define yourself, aspiring minimalist.
    I am an aspiring minimalist too. I have just moved to a new country in North Africa and in order to avoid neverending trouble with shipping companies and custom clearances I paked all what I needed in 2 suitecases and a backpack….now even in North Africa the wheater is getting chilly and I am missing badly a fleece blanket to hide under while stitching or chatting with my colleagues at night…next time I go back to Europe I will bring one along (it is impossible to find fleece blankets here!) …I didn’t know a fleece blanket could be so important to me!

  24. kamala says

    if anybody wanna give me ad my family some oft he stuff u dont need i would appreciate it

  25. Lula says

    I just now came across your site after doing a google search on ‘clutter’. I’ve lived with boxes and boxes of stuff that belonged to my parents (and also to me) that I’ve never gone through. They’ve just moved with me wherever I go. Toys, clothes, puzzles, kitchen items, shoes, blankets, pillows, and the list goes on. Most of this stuff has been in boxes since 2000/2001(ish). My husband volunteers at a local church which also does mission work in our town. They mentioned they were going to be having a garage sale and that if we had anything to donate, they would appreciate it. My husband told them if they wanted to come over and look in our garage and help sort things to go through, that we would be able to donate. I was thrilled at the prospect of decluttering and also giving to a good cause. However, when I got home today from work, I found that there had been a MAJOR miscommunication with the church group. They had gone through my stuff, and my parents stuff, and taken most of it for the garage sale. I found a trash bag full of letters and cards that my parents had given me before they died. And I freaked out. Not to them, but to my husband on the phone. I am still shaking because I am so upset. Don’t get me wrong, I understand I need to get rid of a lot of stuff. And I am more than willing to do that. But they took work clothes and shoes that I need. Fabric I bought for blankets for my twins. My husband said he will get it straightened out. But I am so angry. And I don’t understand why I feel such rage. It’s just stuff, right? Am I crazy?

  26. KB says

    Great post, I’ve been slowly downsizing my life for the past year. I’ve always been conscious of my footprint on our earth and felt guilt for my consumption habits and the consumption habits of our lifestyle in this country and others like ours. Several things really set the extreme downsizing in motion for me though, one of those being a quote on a website. The site was about a small, young family reducing their trash output to a single retail shopping bag for a year. The husband had mentioned something along the lines of “why do we prefer guilt over a radical lifestyle change.” That statement gave extra clarity to a lifestyle I was just beginning to embrace. Posts and comments like these here help keep me inspired.

    Also, Lula, I know this is an older post and it’s been a while since you commented but I just wanted to know how things went in your situation? I hope everything worked out and am sorry to hear that happened. I don’t believe that anything of sentiment should be given away until someone comes to terms with it and is content with the next action they plan to take. Especially items concerning family and friends. Again, I hope everything worked out for you and your husband and the church. :)


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