Peak Stuff

Earlier this year, Ikea’s Chief Sustainability Officer made headlines for suggesting that the West has hit “peak stuff”—in other words, many of us in developed nations have all the consumer goods we need and are losing our appetite for more.

Well, hallelujah! I hope he’s right. How amazing would it be for society as a whole to realize we have enough—make that more than enough—and are better served by dialing down the consumption and pursuing other paths to happiness?

In fact, I think hitting peak stuff in our own lives is what motivates many of us on our minimalist journeys. One day we look in our cabinets, or in our closets, or around our homes, and suddenly feel somewhere from disenchanted to disgusted with the excess.

Marketing demographics say that, as a woman in the 35-50 age range, I should be in my prime consumer years (particularly given my status as a homeowner and mother). Advertisers and economists expect that I should be lining my nest with creature comforts for myself and my family, the more the better.

But personally, I hit peak stuff in my mid-twenties. I remember the moment clearly: I had just hauled home my third (yes, third) shabby-chic chandelier from a local antique store, and was standing in my apartment wondering where to put it. My lease forbade me from hanging it, and the other two I owned already adorned each side of our fireplace. Not to mention that in my young-and-out-on-my-own zeal, I’d already filled most of the space with furniture and other decorative items.

At that moment, my now-husband wandered into the room and asked, “What are you going to do with that thing?”

Exasperated, I sighed—this purchase I’d expected to bring me joy had done anything but—and responded, “Take it back to the store, I guess.”

Peak stuff.

I returned the chandelier. But what happened next was really amazing. Removing that one item was like pulling the plug on a giant sink of stuff. It opened my eyes to the excess in my closet, my kitchen, my desk—really, every part of my life—and from that moment on, I’ve found great happiness and freedom in letting it all drain away.

Here are some signs you may have reached peak stuff:

  • You feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of items in your home.
  • You have items still in the packaging or with tags on.
  • You’ve run out of places to put things.
  • You’re renting a storage unit to deal with the overflow.
  • New acquisitions bring you no joy.

You may hit peak stuff in a certain category before you realize its larger implications (like me and my peak chandeliers). Say, for example, you love buying new shoes; and sure, three, four, or even half a dozen pairs may bring you more happiness than one. But at some point—maybe when you’re staring at a collection of twenty or more—you realize that each extra pair isn’t adding more value to your life. It may, in fact, be doing the opposite: taking up space, getting in the way, or emptying your wallet.

And that’s when it’s time to go for it: sell, consign, or give away a few pairs. See how it makes you feel. You may look around your home with new eyes, suddenly realizing that the cause of your stress or fatigue may be too much stuff. Taking those first baby steps to reverse the flow (from accumulation to de-cumulation) may very well be the turning point to a more mindful, serene, and uncluttered way of life.

It’s an extraordinary feeling when the balance in your life shifts from acquiring things to releasing them, and I’m wondering if others have experienced similar a-ha moments. Please share: when did you hit peak stuff? (Or peak shoes, peak bags, peak books, peak pans, etc.)? I’d love to hear your stories in the Comments!

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider joining my email list or reading my book, The Joy of Less: A Minimalist Guide to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify.}

62 comments to Peak Stuff

  • Love this post. I like how everyone has a different minimalism story – an item, an event or something else that starts the questioning of the way we live.

  • Flor

    I hit my peak stuff, well it wasn’t even my stuff. My in law passed away 4 years ago, their stuff hit me like a freight truck, literally. I found myself sobbing at the corner of the bed exhausted from weeks of cleaning and getting rid of junk ( 2 truck loads) . I was upset, tired and hated myself for allowing someone’s stuff to beat me. Four years later, here I am! I am free, light and unencumbered. I’ll be damned if I allow stuff to affect me like that ever! I am vigilant now, I question everything that enters my life, that applies to people too.

    Thank You!, for being a source of constant inspiration.

    • Carolyn

      I’ve noticed that a lot of people decide to cut down after dealing with a loved one’s stuff. I’m in the downsizing phase now. I think many of us plan to NOT burden our children with our excess stuff.

      • Drew

        This is so true. We recently lost our sister in-law due to an email aunt unexpected heart attack. The biggest observation her children have is the amount of stuff sh had accumulated over life, especially clothing. The reality is it is so much not even familiar members want that much stuff

      • laura ann

        Carolyn: after cleaning out his parents house (only child) donating, tossing, I realized the same thing. Get rid of stuff not needed, sell, donate to group homes, etc. After 9/11 disaster, I really got into minimalism more so, got rid of glassware and display cabinet and any dust collectors. But uncluttering is ongoing every spring and fall. When my mother died, she had already downsized and given stuff away which is a good idea for retirees, pass items down now to family, and free the space, toss unwanted decor, books, etc no one wants too. Donate, sell furniture if family members don’t want it.

      • Merf56

        Me as well. My sister is 15 years older – now in her early 70s. She is a fine person no question. But she is and always has been a shopaholic I love to clean out and organize the rest and have done so for my sister for decades whenever her gorgeous huge victorian farmhouse gets so stuffed there are literally pathways through some rooms. I would not have called myself a minimalist until about 21/2 years ago when I was yet again helping her clean out. She has had mobility issues for a decade and so going to the mall or antiquing has not really possible. Turns out she was online shopping and putting much of the stuff on her third floor with the help of her cleaning people. ? Her kids were told by me( I am closer in age to them just a few years older than the middle child and they are like my siblings) and blew a gasket. We all got in there and tossed. Something clicked and my sister began to toss all kinds of stuff she had squirreled away all over the house. We even cleaned out the basement. Themhouse looked the the showplace it was. For a few months. Then this spring she began to order online again and slowly but surely the place is filling up. She has money and an excellent crew who cleans weekly so there is no dirt or dust but to have so many rooms in a gorgeous house stuffed up by bags and boxes and piles is truly sad.
        I decided then and there I never wanted to leave my kids this problem even with the relatively small amount of excess stuff I had. Out went my mom’s gold rimmed China I had used twice. Cannot put it in the dishwasher and the plates and cups are so odd sized that they annoyed us when we tried to use it and hand wash. That may work for some but not for us! Tried to sell it. NO ONE WANTS THIS STUFF! At giveaway prices! Somoff it goes to the goodwill et al. My daughter felt badly she did not want it but I told her her grandmother was a lovely woman who would never want you to keep something you had no use for – which is true.
        And so on with other family handmedown items. I am a soon to e empty nester and crave a fresh new start for hubby and I back in AZ. Light bright fresh and sparse. Just what we need and love and nothing we don’t

  • HokieKate

    I have a four year old and a two year old, both girls. I’ve kept their wardrobes slimmer than every other family I know, but they still have plenty. I enjoy shopping for them. I love going to Carter’s and seeing the adorable little clothes, and I can find great deals on the clearance rack. I also sew many items. But kids don’t need clothes as often once they are out of baby size and into toddler size. And a second girl has some great hand-me-downs (not a full wardrobe, because I only kept the best). Last fall, with my youngest well into size 2T, I realized we had ENOUGH. They didn’t need more. There wasn’t enough time for them to wear what they had as often as I’d like them to wear it.

    I enjoy shopping. My girls get excited about new clothes (and yes, I realize that I have taught them that and it is likely problematic). I am sad that I can’t shop as much. I’m sad that my daughters have enough beautiful homemade church dresses that I can’t sew them new dresses right now. But we have enough and to spare.

    • Carolyn

      Well, you know they will keep growing!

    • Sandy

      I have two little girls, ages 5 and 2, and I struggle with this a little, too! We have pretty minimal wardrobes, but there are such cute dresses out there, I have to reign myself in a little. Plus, my girls both like dresses, so that makes it even harder. But, like Carolyn said, they will keep growing!!

  • Kathie

    Excellent post. Beautifully written, as usual. I’ll share my peak later, but really, that realization bloomed while reading Miss Minimalist and Joy of Less!

    • Kathie

      The first inkling of hitting peak stuff happened when I was cleaning out my daughter’s dresser. One of the drawers contained a lot of craft sets we never got around to using. That loss made me feel sad but also showed me I had developed a habit of buying more than I needed. A few years later, I found myself buying books I couldn’t find time to read and had zero room on my packed bookshelves to store. After that, I was always shuffling things around, trying to organize and keep things clean, but never discarding items. A friend told me about FlyLady who was conducting a 40 day fling. From there I found a youtube video of Brooks Palmer. I read his book and got excited, but needed more. Then I found Francine Jay. She opened my eyes to more than just decluttering/tidying. She taught me MINIMALISM and how to be a true minimalist in every aspect of my life. It is a way of living and a beautiful path to simple happiness. Thank you, Miss Minimalist!

  • Carolyn

    Love reading about your a-ha moment! I didn’t have one so clear cut…and require more than just one! I guess long, slow, and stop-and-start is still progress.

  • Brenda

    I hit my “peak stuff” moment several years ago when I was moving to a new apartment. I had been spending all day going back and forth between my old and new place hauling my stuff in my car. I was trudging up the stairs of the new building being weighed down by a heavy load of clothes on hangers when I was hit with a feeling being enslaved by this pile of clothes that I didn’t wear all that often. I also thought of what I could have been doing that day instead of spending so much time hauling stuff back and forth.
    Since then, I’ve had varying levels of success in my efforts towards minimalism, but my ideal and my goal is always owning less.

  • WE moved every year for a few years in a row due to various reasons add to that having a child with all of te stuff they have/need/want. So I got tired of packing all of this stuff. I got rid of books, CDs, DVDs, clothes, and bags. It was very freeing. I am still needing to get rid of more but, hoping to do that next move or sooner.

  • Deann

    I hit it when I found myself putting my 2-year old in front of Netflix for an hour because I HAD to clean he house and get ready for company (this was after staying up until 1 am.the night before straightening and organizing). He just wanted to play with me and I said “mom doesn’t have time, let’s watch Thomas the Train”. He nodded but I could see the disappointed….right that second I stopped and said what the hell am I doing. Right then I decided to stop spending my time taking care of inanimate objects at my family’s expense and purge like crazy.

    It worked! He’s older now but we aren’t the crazed parents that I see around me. We can have someone over at the drop of a hat because there’s no mess to clean up and now I only use Netflix when I need a mom sanity break (which everyone knows it’s okay).

  • James

    Fifteen years ago standing in the living room of my condo surrounded by inherited items (mother, father, grandmothers, aunts) plus hundreds of vinyl records and over 2000 books it just hit me, ” I’m not running a museum, I’m not running a library, this is NOT how I want to live.”
    Over several years I cleared out more and more.
    Then I discovered Miss Minimalist and REALLY cleared out.
    Now I own a comfortable amount, question all purchases, and still find things to discard.

  • Cat

    I just returned from a shopping trip about 10 minutes ago, sat down to check my emails and saw your post. I immediately burst into tears! I hit my peak moment about an hour ago when I was considering buying a daybed and chair for my living room but then realized I’d first have to sell the loveseat, ottoman, and two chairs I currently have in my living room. Then I started thinking of ALL the furniture and rugs and lamps that are stacked in my garage that I’m saving for that time when I decide to change my decorating style. Then there are the 25 bins of mostly unworn clothes in the master bedroom closet and the 175 pairs of shoes I’ve always been so proud of. When I read your post just now, it all hit me. This is all too much. None of it makes me happy. All I want now is a clean spacious house with a 10-piece simple wardrobe. I’m going to start selling and giving things away now. THANK YOU!

    • Karen T.

      Good luck, Cat! You CAN free yourself from all of that burdensome stuff! Keep reading Miss Minimalist — her archives are fantastic. You might also check out Joshua Becker’s blog at http://www.becomingminimalist.com, also Courtney Carver at http://www.bemorewithless.com, if you don’t already know about them. So helpful.

      I hit peak stuff for the first time about 20 years ago, when my kids were little and I was just feeling overwhelmed with them, the house, my church commitments, my part-time job. It was just too much, and I started paring down stuff and commitments. But I had no encouragement from anyone, and didn’t know anyone else who felt trapped by the supposedly “American Dream” life. Everyone else was chasing more, more, more. So after awhile I began to backslide, and just fell right back into the prevailing American mindset. It took us losing our home in 2010 to bring me to a new epiphany — stuff doesn’t make me happy, it steals my happiness! This time I had the blogiverse, particularly Miss Minimalist, Joshua Becker, Courtney Carver, and Leo Babauta to help me along. I knew I wasn’t alone in my journey, even if the people I met every day didn’t know or care about minimalism. Now I’m happily living with my husband in a 720 sf apartment. We have enough. I still have to be vigilant about stuff and commitments, but I know I’m so much happier with simple things like an evening walk, a good book (from the library, lol), classical music on the radio, healthy local food, a few volunteer commitments I’m really passionate about (not just guilted into), a capsule wardrobe, etc.

      • Cat

        Thank you, Karen, for the additional sites and for your encouragement. I’m looking forward to enjoying my life instead of wasting it trying to maintain all my stuff. I really appreciate hearing your story and your advice. -Cat-

    • Jen

      I would also really recommend Marie Kondos book, the life changing magic of tidying. The main point of the book is to only keep things that spark joy. The beautiful vase that makes you smile every time you see it on the mantle, the jeans that make you feel like Scarlett Johansson, and the potato peeler that stops you from slicing your fingers off. I love it, it really helps me and even though he doesn’t know it, my boyfriend has really benefited from it too! Good luck ?

    • Sun

      Oh Cat your message moved me! I still have a long way to go, but it took me forever to realize I didn’t have to keep all the stuff acquired or given to me! What a relief, and I can sense your relief! I suggest listing the big $ items for sale (craigslist?) and giving away the rest or setting a deadline and if things don’t sell, have them all picked up by a charity on a certain day. They will bring a truck and come back for more. You could set up weekly pick ups. I say this because I used to want to sell everything, and now I just sell high-value items and give most things away because trying to hold onto things to sell makes it more stressful and delays. You will feel good to give things to those that need them. I’ve even had someone on Freecycle come fill up their truck when I got started.

  • I don’t know when I hit peak stuff, but I think I’m getting quite close to the opposite. (Dip stuff? Nadir stuff?) Renting a furnished flat helps a lot! :oD

    • Deann

      I would love to see a post about the other extreme of minimalism. When do you hit that point when you really don’t have enough to function and how do you strike that balance?

      I know once I got rid of all those silly office supplies sitting around that were never used, but then oops I really did need a real staple (not the homemade kind) and an envelope and a rubber band. None of those are things you can buy as singles. I did the same with a first aid kit and then oops my son needed a bandaid and I was trying to tape Kleenex to his knee until I could get to the store.

      I’m sure I’m not the only dedicated minimalist that overpurged on occasion. While not exactly the supportive message I do think it would help folks who feel guilty about focusing too much on the other side of the equation.

  • Sarah

    I hit my peak stuff while telling a friend I was pregnant in 2014. She said she’d start putting together a basket of gifts for the new baby. I must have looked horrified/completely ungrateful as my mind leapt to the thought “where am I going to put a basket of stuff?” quickly followed by “where am I going to put the baby??!” – as I realised that there wasn’t enough space in our 1-bed London flat to accommodate another person, no matter how small!

    I spent over three months during my second trimester decluttering manically and got rid of many bags of stuff. I have since left the relationship with a partner who, among other things, wanted to hold onto items until they were all “used up” (meaning it was almost impossible to discard things) and started bringing home his old childhood junk from his parents’ house to fill up the space I’d cleared out.

    I now live in a much larger place and have been decluttering madly since I moved in 5 months ago so that I can feel like I can breathe. Too much stuff leaves me feeling overwhelmed and verging on depressed. Having that extra space and consequent organisation makes me feel calm, on top of things, and happy.

  • Lisa

    I’m in it right now… clearing out, sorting through & sneezing from the dust accumulated in 43 years of belongings my dear mum left behind. Unworn clothes with the tags still on. Every single note & to-do list she ever wrote to herself. Canned milk from 1989. Shelves & shelves of unused cleaning products. Boxes and boxes of candles. And somewhere in the midst of it all, the little treasures that keep me going. The cards, the photos, the little signs of love.
    I aspire to leave my kids, when it’s my turn to go, only the everyday necessities & a few beautiful things, but mostly memories of a loving mother and a happy family life.

  • laura m.

    I had to clean out father in law’s house who died several weeks after the wife died. Lots of stuff went to charity, sold the house furnished with some of the older furniture. Later on I read some articles on retirees downsizing their stuff and moving into smaller housing, some having lots of stuff, some hiring help or estate sales. I was never into clutter, but sold unused furniture, knick knacks I had to dust around and since we had done lots of moving when younger, (job related) decided I wanted more free time and less time cleaning house and maintaining stuff. I have been motivated by several minimalist web sites and lately the Marie Kondo method of un cluttering. Kitchen stuff was purged and donated to group homes. Kitchens can be the worst (unused utensils, pots). Garage cleaned out, clothing is purged in fall and end of winter.

  • treen

    I’ve never been one to accumulate tons of stuff, but I still had a “peak” moment. It was when I was helping my church congregation clean out the house of an elderly couple who I didn’t even know – I had recently moved to the area and gotten involved with the church, so when the need came up, I helped along with everyone else. The house was a disaster and so full of … I don’t even know what. The next day, I called my mother and said, “Obviously I hope you don’t die soon, but when you do, could you please NOT leave this kind of mess for us to deal with?” My parents spent the entire year preceding my dad’s retirement going through everything they owned and downsizing, and when he did retire, they moved from a 2500 square foot house to a 600 square foot apartment. There will still be objects to sort and take care of when they pass, but a heck of a lot less than before!

  • Linnea

    For me it peaked almost 6 years ago when I was helping my parents moving. There were hundreds of boxes and two lorries, one with a trailer, and huge garage sales and I ended up discovering minimalism and hiding in a closet to get away from all the things. Then I started decluttering my things, which I already loved doing whenever I moved (which I do quite frequently), until I didn’t have much left. For a while I could move with just a backpack and a weekendbag. Now I have a little bit more, and I still try to find things to get rid of because I like it so much, but then I was single and now I’m married with a newborn, so things are a bit different now :P But I think I could still almost fit all my personal items into a few small bags, and that feels nice. :)

  • gaby

    My a-ha moment was while watching Don Aslett on Oprah back in the ’90s. My parents were moving out to retire in their holiday house and leaving us ‘kids’ behind in their old house. They left all their old stuff behind in the old house but didn’t allow us to get rid of anything. They also promptly began filling their retirement house with stuff. I know my mum wants to declutter and downsize but she panders to my dad who is very acquisitive. Mum is currently reading my copy of The Joy of Less. I can only hope that Dad reads it too and gets inspired! Today, I have a home of my own but I shudder to think what my siblings and I may have to deal with in the future at a time when we will also no doubt be overcome by grief.

    • gaby

      Great topic, by the way. I love the thought that maybe we have reached a point where consumerism has reached it’s saturation point. But I wonder, will this lead to less consumerism or just a leveling-out of consumerism? I worry that developing countries are yet to reach their peak and wonder if the planet can handle reaching that peak. I am heartened by the posts from far-flung nations that embrace the minimalist message. Maybe we can save this planet yet…

  • Anne

    I’ve really enjoyed reading the comments here. I can’t point to one moment when I hit peak stuff – it’s been a gradual journey through feeling overwhelmed with mess and busyness, clearing my Mum’s house and realising how valueless most of our stuff is to anyone else, seeing the unhappiness of a friend who spends compulsively and has a hoarding problem, feeling that we need to be much less profligate with the planet’s resources, realising that I feel much better mentally and emotionally in clear, uncluttered surroundings and being inspired by this and other blogs. Marie Kondo has given me the final piece of the puzzle: I’d been gradually decluttering for a couple of years, but her book inspired me to prioritise it until it was done. There was a glorious moment on Easter Monday, after several days of non-stop hard work, when I looked round and realised it was done. I feel so much happier, day to day life is simpler – I think this is one of the most significant things I’ve ever done.

  • Ula

    What you’ve written is the next sign that west societies’ attitude to spending can change. Recently I’ve read that the amount of Americans who prefer saving over spending is significantly increasing.
    I hit peak stuff on my way of being minimalist. A good example is when my husband has won a coupon with money to spend in one store – I didn’t want anything. New towels – no, kitchen gadgets – no… We bought only food.

  • Apple

    How interesting topic! In my very early twenties, after a holiday abroad, on the way back, my luggage was lost. I had a lot of my clothes, shoes, lotions & potions in it. However, after the initial upset, I realized that I did not even exactly know that was in my bag, and that I did not miss my lost clothes, shoes and beauty items as much as I had feared I would miss them. Most of the items did not need to be replaced. In fact, I was happy with less. :)

    That was the day I also learnt to travel with hand-luggage only.

  • PaulB

    I am of the opinion that the recent recessions, particularly in the UK, have forced people to realign their thoughts on stuff. Whilst a recession causes great personal hardship to many sometimes good can come from it too and if we, as a consuming western world, exercise a bit of restraint as a result then that is no bad thing :)

  • Sharron

    I have always been a minimalist i just struggled with how i felt about stuff. Growing up we did not have a lot of money so when we got stuff we were told to hold on to it (hoard) this always felt wrong and i always thought that if i didn’t want it then someonelse may need it. After getting married and having a family i was in a constant buy-purge cycle and for my sanity i had to break it. Despite messages from media, peers, family member to buy more stuff i resist unless its something i truly desire and have the means to acquire it. Beautifully made clothes and luxurious make up are not lost on me but i simply discriminate and become extremely picky about what i own, keeping my home and mind clear. I recently required some smarter work clothes. It took a lot of try on’s lots of research to find one silk blouse and a pair of linen trousers.

    I echo some peoples message about relatives stuff. 5 years ago my MIL passed away and we had to clear her stuff. Although she was very neat and tidy in keeping her stuff it was so overwhelming and exhausting clearing it. A lot of brand new clothes, books that had been read, giftbags, bowls, ornaments, crockery etc all went straight to charity. My DH kept a wallet from his dad and a few photos as well as around 3 practical things. It cemented any minimalist tendancies both me and DH had

  • Amanda

    I had my ah-ha moment when packing to move out of my parents’ house once and for all to start grad school out of state. I became overwhelmed by how much stuff I had accumulated and was still in storage in the basement, garage, and in my bedroom. I was overwhelmed with cleaning and happened to hear about the book “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo. The book inspired me to go through each of my possessions and decide if it would stay with me, or if it was time to let it go. I ended up hosting a garage sale and even got friends and family involved to get rid of the excess, then dropped whatever remained to Goodwill. I still struggle sometimes with the stuff that seems to accumulate, but now I see it as an opportunity to weed through and get rid of those things that no longer bring me joy! It’s a win-win!

  • Sara

    I hope that this opinion about peak stuff will become more widely realized!

  • I love this! I’m not sure I hit ‘peak stuff’ at a single moment- though I’ve bought a couple shabby chic chandeliers too. :) I think it came gradually for me. Moving every other year gave me a chance to try to move as little as possible…to have to touch every single item we owned and decide if I wanted to pack, move, remove and place that item again. I became intrigued with minimalism and the impact consumerism was having on the earth and other human beings…and tried to read everything I could get my hands on about the topic. I remember reading a piece you wrote about a break in you had that caused a lot of damage to your apartment…but imagining the thieves having to cross the border to enjoy the baggie of Canadian change they got away with.

    A move overseas really helped me see what was necessary for our family of four. The move back pushed me further. I’m so glad to be a woman in my peak consumer years…not consuming with abandon. Thanks for the inspiration you’ve been to me!

  • Sara

    I hit my peak stuff in my early thirties. My career plans hadn’t turned out the way I’d hoped – I had a good job, just not what I’d wanted – and I started to feel overwhelmed. By life, by stuff. I was single at the time and even though the first things I began to get rid of were books, the second were dishes and other kitchen stuff (I still don’t know how I’d accumulated all that…perhaps it was symbolic of a real home to me). Books were something of an escape for me, but also a burden, and I didn’t cook all that much and didn’t care about setting the table and all that.

    Although it took me some years to do this decluttering and getting rid of stuff, things were slowly changing for the better all the time. And even though it may seem that I have more stuff now than at that time, it’s only because I have a family now. For some years I tried to have a bare minimum despite this, but it wasn’t working out and I had to let more things creep into my life – aka our lives. However, I feel we’ve reached some sort of balance for now; as long as we don’t accumulate much and declutter and recycle unuseful things like clothes that don’t fit anymore or stuff that’s broken and can’t be fixed etc. things can stay this way for the foreseeable future. :) Eventually there will be just the two of us, my husband and I, and then we can have less stuff. I can’t wait! ;)

  • Karen

    I have always lived a de-cluttered life and it was even more noticeable when I was homeschooling our children as I did not want the house full of bits and pieces all over the place. If something was not used in 6 months I would get rid of it. Money restraints meant that I did not get caught up in the overspending cycle as well . I would like to add here that sites like Pinterest and Tumbler and others encourage people to spend, spend ,spend. Great reading the journey you began Miss Minimalist and also the other comments here.

  • Grace

    I hit my peak stuff limit about 3 years ago. My partner and i had a 3 bedroom unit with alot of storage space. All of our 8 cupboards were full with junk, mess was everywhere constantly and my anxiety hit its peak. I started by cleaning out my closet which was packed with clothing either too small/big, not my style or ‘party clothes’. Nothing suited my lifestyle.
    My partner got on board and one weekend we got rid of 4 carloads of stuff. It felt amazing!

    Within the 3 years since we have kept decluttering with the odd ‘relapse’. I’ve found it hard dealing with other peoples mentalities around gift giving or what i should own from their perspective.

    I now have just a handful of clothing, my house is not cluttered and we live in a smaller unit with less cupboard space and much of it is empty. It’s a nice feeling.

  • Rachel

    We had to move AGAIN, our eleventh move in eight years and I had enough with packing things that I barely used. As I went through everything, I began to set aside things I didn’t want to take to the new place: duplicates, things I knew I didn’t need, but I knew a friend or family member would use, or things that were being kept because I might someday need it. For our latest move (number 13), we shocked our friends when our family of five basically managed to move in one trip with a fourteen foot moving truck. Since then, we’ve eliminated bed frames and our entire family, including our three kids, sleep on a mattress on the floor. It’s unconventional, but the benefits (like no danger of kids bouncing dangerously far above the floor and no squeaky frames to keep us up at night) far outweigh the raised eyebrows and questions asked by others.

    • K2

      Rachel,

      I have been sleeping on a mattress on the floor for years, roughly since 1998. Now it is an Ikea mattress that I can actually roll up jellyroll-style, cinch with straps and easily carry/move. Isn’t it the best? I love how it makes the bedroom look so open. When family visits, I use a double thick inflatable bed, then put the mattress (only about 4″ thick) on it for them. They say it is the most comfortable bed they’ve slept on.

      I’ve had minimalist tendencies since that time in 1998, and in fact, the mattress on the floor was a result of a divorce and total apartment clear out to “start fresh.” There is a certain lightness and freedom that come with less stuff, knowing I can pick up and move easily, even by myself since I don’t have any heavy furniture.

      Thanks, Francine, for the article and to all of you for your interesting and inspiring comments!

      All the best.

  • Wendy

    I realised I had to do something when I moved to a bigger house and I still couldn’t get my stuff organised. I always believed that I could keep my home tidy if I had enough space. Well, now I had more than enough space for all my things, but it was still in a state of chaos. Since then I have cleared out so much stuff, and I don’t miss any of it. The extra space is breathing space, not things space.

  • Leila

    I had my a-ha moment when I realised I had 50 pairs of pants and I was used to wear only a few. The same with the other items in my wardrobe. I got rid of them but I’m still thinking about minimalism, specially concerning to the kids.

  • […] “How amazing would it be for society as a whole to realize we have enough—make that more than enough—and are better served by dialing down the consumption and pursuing other paths to happiness?” […]

  • I figured out when I was about to move with my husband & first child to a new house that the amount of stuff was growing. I had a garage sale, donated what was left, and felt much better about what went with us to the new house. This is also when my husband discovered the value of downsizing before the move. At that time, I gave up some hobbies that had gone nowhere (I guess I was not really motivated to do them), most of my college books, as well as a number of wedding gifts I knew I would never use. Years later, I opened my own business as a professional organizer, and I now help seniors downsize and fit better in senior apartments. It can be a struggle for a senior if they have been acquiring all their life and have come from a large house. I appreciate all the comments before mine. Thanks.

  • Kaylan

    It was Peak Baby Stuff and it was nearing my sons first birthday. I realized he was comtent with very little and all the excess that I organized and reorganized and rereorganized just stressed me out and took time away from my child. I sold 2/3 of the baby stuff, then went crazy on everything else. About that time Konmari became popular and I cleared house again. And again. Annnnnd again. The less we have, the less we want, and the happier we are.

  • Chris

    Just this month I have hit my limit with having excess stuff. It really started when I was struggling to find shelf space for my books and I began to realize that I had acquired too many. I went thru every book and found 3 large shopping bags full that I was willing to part with — I sold them at our local Half Price Book Store! This wasn’t the first time I have had to pare down my books. I’m a book lover but I am not willing to live with piles and mess anymore. I just have found myself going thru every category of my *stuff* this month ready to pare down to what I really use and really love. It has been about a year since my Dad died and I did acquire quite a few things from his home — so some of my things are harder than others to “let go of”. My brother and I had to move our mother twice in just a few months and now all of her remaining things that didn’t go with her to assisted living are in my brothers house stacked to the ceiling in one of his rooms (I live several states away) and I know we will someday have to go thru that stuff. I just feel as if I’m fed up with having “stuff” control me and crowd and bog me down — I’m 52 and I’m ready to DO more things not HAVE more things. I want to have only what I really love and use — and I know that means I will frequently have to reevaluate and sort & let go of things. I’m so grateful there are many places that love to get donations — the veterans, the local thrift shops, our church, and one of my family members and her daughter love to get clothing. So, in circulating my unused stuff it creates good for others too. The best thing is that not by nagging but by just dealing with my stuff my collector husband has been going thru his things and letting go of a lot of stuff too. There’s nothing like being able to reach directly for things and not stumble over clothing, dishes or other stuff that isn’t the “right” thing. I have a long ways to go but every time I declutter and get rid of things I feel a little bit freer and better!!!!

  • Sarah

    I hit “peak stuff” in the 80s, and somewhat stopped shopping. Then in the 90s, I married a hoarder. He was under control then, but I should have been on alert when I saw 16 bicycle wheels hanging from the garage ceiling because the components (center mechanism) or rims were still good.

  • miss minimalist

    Wow, what fascinating comments–thank you all for sharing your peak stuff moments!

  • Heather

    When I had an apartment filled with so much stuff that I, an introvert, spent more time away from home than in it because I didn’t find my living space relaxing. One day I looked at my 8 7-ft bookshelves filled to the brim with unread books (what had been read might have filled half a case), and realized how burdened I felt by those unread books, like they were looking at me accusingly for adding to their number and never actually reading them. This was circa 2011 or 2012.

  • Tina

    I never get craft materials new.
    They are always 2nd hand or free.If I don’t use them in a year or so,.I pass.them.on

  • Mike

    My “peak stuff” moment came over the holidays. Whenever I visit my parents’ house – the same one that they’ve owned for 40+ years, and where most of my childhood stuff still resides, I would clear out some stuff. A shelf here, a drawer there, and seemingly endless piles of old newspapers all got pitched. MY parents, for their part, were willing to bring the donations to their local Goodwill store, rather than have me haul it home. I wasn’t a minimalist then, and I certainly did not have the time to do a thorough cleaning of my old stuff, but I did want to at least start the process. It dovetailed with a time in my life when I was moving and in a great desire to unload my unneeded possessions. I had Freecycled three useless-to-me-but-not-to-someone-else pieces of furniture in good condition, and before the move, to boot.

    Years later, I visited my parents again for the holidays, and I saw that the places that I had cleared in my old room had since been filled with more stuff! My parents had always been voracious readers, and fortunately, they passed that trait on to me; unfortunately, they were the type to buy loads of books on sale and just never get rid of them. The bookshelves in the den, living room, and the basement had already been filled with books which is why they had used some of the space in my old room. I don’t mind them re-purposing my old room – it is their house, after all – but the sight of new possessions in previously clean spaces just kicked something in me. I had been a sort of “lite” version of my parents’ book hoarding, but restricted by my wonderful sig other to just one bookshelf. That holiday visit inspired me to finally “kick the habit” for good. I kept only a tiny fraction of the gifts that I received that year which were not consumable and donated the lion’s share of them to my local humane society, who will use them in their spring yard sale. My sig other and I have agreed that next year, instead of presents, we’ll treat each other to a short vacation in the big city, a nice dinner out, museum visits, and a hotel stay, plus some donations to our favorite charities, rather than physical gifts. I’ve also applied the core minimalist question – does this thing add value to my life? – to all of my stuff, and I’ve been weeding things out slowly ever since the holidays.

    I am determined to pare down my possessions to the essentials. I’ve always been rather frugal, so falling in to the trap of buying things while also letting stuff go won’t be an issue for me. I now give any new potential purchase the third degree before handing over any money.

  • I found a pile of ripped socks and underwear and put it in the recycling. The oldest towels get cut up for rags. We were putting our heavy winter sweaters away in a suitcase. We have very little. We went to get a pair of shoes and a woman had a huge bag full of clothes she was buying.

  • I filled my weekly bag for Goodwill. Then I filled a bag of art supplies for a local day camp. Then I filled a bag with books and greeting cards for two of my fellow park district volunteers. Next, I will go through my jewelry and china because my friend’s church is having a rummage sale soon. My husband found some books to give away. We always have more to get rid of.

  • Tina

    My mother was a world class hoarder. My brother and I cleared out her piles of broken, useless trash several times. My sister took many carloads and dumped them. I buy things I like, mostly small, portable things like jewelry or a pretty houseplant. Never souvenirs and very few clothes or shoes. We recycle, give things away, and seldom get anything new.

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