Last December, when our family prepared to move from a home with a large, unfinished basement to a home with no basement at all, we knew we had a lot of purging to do. Our older children left boxes behind when they moved out on their own, and we’d accumulated in a way that reflected our seemingly unlimited storage capacity, which in the end felt more like a curse than a blessing.
We donated over 300 boxes, including lots of hand-me-down clothing we no longer needed. We rented a dumpster and filled it to overflowing with things that held no real value; it was more than our weekly garbage service could handle. We loaded a U-Haul with desks, furniture, and exercise equipment we had quit using and dropped them off at a local charity, hoping they’d find new homes.
Sometimes it felt like I wasn’t just purging my house; I was purging my soul. All that stuff had become an emotional burden.
In a perfect world (my children say I use this phrase a lot), we would have disposed of everything we no longer needed before the move. It was certainly the goal. But painting bathrooms and baseboards, calling in contractors, attending home inspections, and scrambling to find another house when we terminated the first contract we signed took too much time.
I wanted a fresh start in our new home, a chance to break habits that created more chaos than comfort and to discover if less really was more.
In January, I reflected on my relationship with stuff here at (in)courage and how I was starting to use sentimental objects as they were intended instead of treating them like sacred objects. By February, I saw that clutter could hijack my goals and steal my inner peace. Lately, I’ve been working my way through the final and most difficult items left to sort.
One of our new (in)courage contributors, Kathi Lipp, is an expert on decluttering. Recently when I couldn’t decide what to do with a sentimental object, she asked me, “Will you ever go looking for it?” It’s a powerful question that continues to help me filter what should stay and what should go. She said that everything I get rid of makes space for growth in my life and teaches me to trust that God will bring what I need in the moment. It’s both wise and biblically sound advice.
Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?
Matthew 6:26 (NLT)
I’m learning to put quality over quantity. When we had too many children’s books, they stayed in a box (our youngest child is sixteen). We’ve weeded down to a few favorites and put them out on a shelf. Now our grandchildren have discovered family favorites like Good Night, Little Bear and Madeline.
While trying to decide where to put cases of old music CDs, my children pointed out that we don’t even own a CD player anymore and that I can stream music now with apps on my phone, computer, or TV. I looked through them, rediscovered some old favorites, put them on my current playlists, and then gave the discs to charity.
My sister and I sorted through a box of figurines our mother had collected. We each kept two or three favorites and put the rest in the donation box, smiling because we knew they’d make someone very happy. A couple of tiny treasures that had spent years in a box in my basement now sit on a shelf in my home.
By keeping less, we experience more.
Do you, too, find yourself bogged down by possessions that no longer bring you pleasure? Let’s look for ways to enjoy what we treasure and bless others with what we no longer need, trusting that God will provide for us.
Ruth Mills says
About twice a year my husband & I go through our closets to purge what we are no longer using & donate them. If it wasn’t worn in the past 6 months out it goes. It is amazing how refreshing that practice is. But yet I always find yet “one more thing that could of gone” right after we’ve made the donation. It will now sit for another 6 months or so until our next run. The donate pile is a reminder that God is constantly purging sin from my life, not waiting, not letting it pile up but dealing with it as it arises. His mercy is new every morning!
I love your comment about God constantly purging sin from my life, thank you for sharing that Ruth.
Dawn Camp says
Ruth, since I wrote this article I’ve started working on old homeschool books on the shelves in our garage. I keep a running donation box because thankfully, my husband can drop them off on his way home from work. It’s amazing how good it feels to let stuff go!
Ruth Mills says
Cool thing of letting go of things both physical & sin, is God fills those empty spots with better!
Retha Coleman says
Oh my goodness! As I read this, I immediately thought “Do they have hidden cameras in my house?” This is exactly how my life looks right now and honestly, it has become so overwhelming that I am to the point of giving up. I will still be trying to get rid of clutter when Jesus comes back!! My mom and dad grew up in the depression so NOTHING was ever thrown away. Add to that childhood stuff from my sister and I, stuff she did not take with her when she got married, and my stuff as I got older and moved back into the homeplace when our dad remarried after mom passed away! Now that dad has passed away and the homeplace is mine, it’s like trying to move four families out of this house!!! It has become too much for me to deal with, emotionally, physically and yes, spiritually. This is a very small house and there is not room for four families so somebody has to leave and it is not going to be me. I promised myself I would never be like my mom and hold on to stuff “just in case”. Famous last words! I know my life will feel more connected to God when I de-clutter my home, my life and my soul. But getting there is not easy and I get up some mornings, look at the stuff and just close the door and walk away.
Dawn Camp says
Don’t give up, Retha! Every box — literally every item — is a victory. Just keep going and you’ll slowly see results. See if a friend (who isn’t emotionally invested in any of it) can give you a hand one day and shift your perspective.
When I downsized, twice in the last 7 years (the first time from a 2 1/2 acre 7 bedroom farmhouse, with a 2 story barn bigger than the house) , what made it a little easier was knowing that I was doing this on my terms. I watch the news and see how many people lose needed “things” and sentimental, valuable items through floods, fires and storms. They have no choice. At first it was very hard, but I continue to get rid of things every time I paint or rearrange my tiny one bedroom condo. I feel lighter and freer. I love what Kathi Lipp said- will I ever go looking for it? And it gives me time to focus on what is really important.
Dawn Camp says
Madeline, sounds like you’re doing a great job. “Will you ever go looking for it?” is a great way to filter items!
This is a constant struggle for me. My basement is full of things I need to go through and purge. It just takes so much mental and physical energy to deal with it. Thank you. I need these encouragements.
One thing I do right is that I keep a Trader Joe bag (paper grocery bag with handles) in my bedroom closet and whenever I try something on that doesn’t feel good I put it right in the bag. When the bag is full it goes to donation.
Dawn Camp says
Gail, it’s still amazing to me that we emptied our basement when we moved. It was an enormous project! Selling our house lit a fire under us (it would have been easier to light a fire in the basement!). Your clothes idea is great. There’s nothing more depressing than clothes in your closet that no longer fit.
Thank you, thank you so much. I am moving and I am so overwhelmed. I know I have too much stuff. It’s a 3 floor house. You have given me the courage to just get rid of a lot of things, clothes I don’t wear. Oh so many things. Reading your article gives me all I need to get the job done. I now know God will provide all I need. Great article. Blessings
Dawn Camp says
Adrienne, you just made my day. I am praying blessings over your move and your purge!
Lesley Boyer says
Dawn Camp says
You’re welcome, Lesley.
Dianne Godwin says
This is all so good and true, Dawn! I have been decluttering for years, but it has been at a snail’s pace. I think much of that is mindset. The more time passes, the less attached I am to stuff, and the more I can let go. Watching The Minimal Mom on YouTube has offered one of the best mind shifts for me. I really enjoyed Kathi Lipp’s recent post here, too.
Dawn Camp says
Isn’t that so true, Dianne? Things that I couldn’t have let go of before were much easier since I hadn’t used them in years. I’m selling old books online now too.
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
Dawn thank you for sharing what you shared today. I used to keep things in the roof space. Say one day I might need. Then my Husband said Dawn. When are you going to need it. You only gathering junk. Which I know you never use. My Husband seen it with his late Father. He just to love going to car boot sales or Church boots sales. He say if there used to be one on that he saw the poster about. Or heard about. I am only going for a look. Then he always buy something at them. His saying was it might come useful. But it was more junk for the garage. So my Husband has this idea in his head Dawn. If your buying it. Will you use it. Don’t buy it just because you think you use it. Or do you really need it. But it will lie there and gather dust. To him that is a waist of money. When there are people living in our world today with just the basics. Because they can’t afford any extra. Or they make do be glad for what they have. Then you get my Husband saying would God want you have it. Or spend your money on it. Plus he say if you buy it. It lies there. One day your not going to be here nor am I on this earth. When people do a clear out of our home. They will not want it either. They will just dumb it. Say it is junk. That is all you are bring home. Especially like my late Father. More so if you saw something. Stop and think he say to me. Do you need to bring someone else junk home. They have given it away as they are not using it. They want less junk in their home. Your bring more into ours there Junk that they didn’t want into our home. So all this makes stop and take stock of things I buy. I only buy something if I am going to use it alot. It will be useful to me. Not buy it and say one day it could be useful. Put it away half time I never use it. That it is taking up space in our home. That would get to my husband. As it reminds him of his late Dad. So I don’t buy junk or spend God’s money as the money I have God gave it to me. As every thing we own God gave us the money in job exctra. To be able to buy it. God wants us to be good Stuart’s of his money. Not spend it unwisely on thing we don’t need. That we think we need. That would one day come in useful. They don’t as they in the end just lie there. Some to use once in a purple moon. Some never too be used. But before all this we have to Tith the money God has given us first. To God’s work. Then do with it what God would have us do. With us after tithing is pay our bills. Also use it wisely. Not spend it on things we don’t need. Even if we think they will be useful. 9 times out of 10 they never are. So in cases like this. I got over the years. I only buy things as and when I really need them and are going to use them. Not buy for the sake of it. To gather junk in my home. No be like my Husband late Father. Who bought it because he thought it would be useful. All it done most of the time was gathered dust in the house or garage. That is why my Husband is the way he is about what you buy. I have to agree with him. You always get enough to do you. So about 2 or 3 years ago. I cleared out the roof space. Got rid of alot of junk that was up in my roof space. So never again will there be any thing in my roof space. I thank Dawn for what you shared today. It is so true we can gather things we don’t need. Buy things we don’t need. Spend money we don’t need to spend. My question is to myself. Would God want me buy that and spend the money he has given me on it. If I don’t really need it. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little xx
When my Mom died I got all of her heirlooms (only child). She had a lot of crystal serving dishes. I use them on a daily basis now. No need to save them for a “special occasion”. It has taught me that every day is a special occasion.
Beth Williams says
It is so easy to accumulate “stuff”. We go through seasons in our lives where certain items are needed & used. But when that season is over we should give those items away. My philosophy is “if I haven’t worn or used it in 6 months or more then out it goes.” I am constantly donating clothes, books, & other items. My thought is maybe someone else can use them. Plus I hate clutter & don’t want “stuff” in my home. Always purging items from my house.
Thank you! I am currently purging- it’s more than a notion. Thank you for your testimony and inspiring words of encouragement and guidance.
I so want to purge my “stuff” and I know I could do it if I had someone by my side. Many will say call me but when you do nobody has time to help and I can not afford to buy the professionals. So, I sit in my “stuff.”
…everything I get rid of makes space for growth in my life and teaches me to trust that God will bring what I need in the moment. It’s both wise and biblically sound advice…how timely. I was purging again and came across one of my grandmother’s china plates that I had wrapped in bubble wrap and a blanket. When I moved to an apt 3 years ago, I whipped out the blanket to make my bed – and you guessed it – the plate landed on the floor and broke into many pieces. I saved those broken pieces, thinking I’d craft a table top for my balcony – yesterday I let it go. Sigh – but I’m making space for growth in my life and trusting that God will bring what I need in the moment.