Keeping It Simple

This past year Mike and I decided to significantly downsize our home. We moved from a 3,500-square-foot house to one that’s less than 900-square-feet. We both totally love it for its location, design, decor and especially for the neighborhood, but it does mean there are certain challenges. The biggest is simply where to put our stuff.

I love clean lines, tidy shelves, folded linens and color-coordinated closets, but what I like and my innate personality collide at this point. What often happens is that my house appears to looks clear, clean and uncluttered, but don’t look in the cupboard or under the bed, as it’s frequently a mess. It starts out tidy; then in the rush of life and the pressure of the moment, I resort to shoving—shoving things in boxes, on shelves, behind doors, under the stairs and my favorite is to hide things in baskets. That way I don’t see the mess, and it won’t add to the stress. That is until I start looking for something, open the door and the mess jumps out at me or falls on the floor.

So every few months my habit would be to clear out the mess, re-tidy and reorganize into a new, better and more efficient system. This cycle had been going on for many years. Then we moved again, and I knew this pattern had to change radically in our next location. I now try to apply the following principles and to be disciplined and accountable to keep my stuff tidy every day.

  1. If I bring something new into the house, something has to leave via the trash or donated to the Salvation Army within the week.
  2. I only buy clothes that I love—not that ones I think I should have or that I might grow to like.
  3. If I have not used an item or worn a piece of clothing in a year, it goes into a waiting black trash bag ready to be given to a daughter, a friend or the charity shop.
  4. Papers and letters have to be filed every week and cleared every year. One file box is then left containing that year’s important documents.
  5. I discovered I need far fewer clothes than I could have possibly imagined. Choice is overrated.
  6. I am determined to stock my pantry with only the foods we eat regularly, e.g. 14 types of balsamic vinegar on the shelf is not sensible for us.
  7. I have discovered there are not many things you need more than two of, e.g. umbrellas, lipstick, gloves and shampoo.
  8. If I think I need it, I wait a week and then reassess to see if I still think it’s needed.
  9. After the week is up, I ask and pray if there will be a way it might be provided other than me buying it at full price. Better options for me would be:
  • To spontaneously receive the item
  • To find it either in a consignment store or on the sidewalk
  • To find a coupon for the item or wait for it to be on sale

If none of the above happen, then I will buy it.

“Keep it simple” is the mantra I repeat to myself. Our precious things packed away in attics and storage units are just things with good feelings attached to them, not the memories themselves and not at all what’s important in this life.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” -Matthew 6:19-20

I realized the more of my time and energy that I spend managing our stuff, the less time I have. I also love the feeling of freedom that comes from keeping it simple.

What do you do to keep your life simple?


  • Cynthia Sarachik says:

    Hi Sally, Great article! I too would love to down size and simplify. I have a 4 bedroom house and not looking to making it a B&B, as so many have jokingly suggested. I have been trying very hard to purge and part with things, that have no sentimental attachments. I have been using some of your methods, already for a while, which have helped me a lot as well. I have been praying and trusting God for wisdom and guidance regarding my home. May God continue to bless you Sally and the works of your hands.

    • Sally Breen says:

      Thank you Cindy, Well done for trying to move in this direction and hear what the Lord is saying. I am sure you will get a clear sense of when and if to move.Many Blessings

  • Bob Rognlien says:

    Love it Sal, thanks for sharing! We are in the process of packing and selling our home and anticipate buying a down-sized home next year, so this is perfect for us right now….

  • Nancy says:

    This is so wonderful! I am preparing to make some major changes in my life including retirement from paid work and downsizing. I use a lot of the same tips you describe. I find that lately when I am slightly drawn to buy something, I hear a voice saying- ” do you really want to move this? Do you need it really?” And mostly the answer is a strong NO.
    I don’t want my children having to manage my stuff someday when I can’t. It’s just stuff and less is definitely more!

    • Sally Breen says:

      I think you are doing a great job of looking ahead and seeing what you need to take with you on this next part of your journey. Many Blessings

  • Krista says:

    Words of wisdom.!!!

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