Happy 2016! Start the New Year by Giving Away Just One Thing

First batch of clothes given away
Batch one of the clothes I am giving away. The dresses I haven’t worn in at least three years. Same with the boots. Clearly they are essential to my happiness and well-being.

Things. I buy them, I get them for gifts, I find them. And at first it is awesome! “A new iPhone! I am going to be able to text all my friends so much faster and with better emojis!” “A new shirt! When I wear this, I will be so outgoing and comfortable talking to strangers!” “Yippeee! Life is so beautiful! I’ve never felt more (choose one: important/sexy/powerful/confident/peaceful/happy/loved/calm/safe)!”

And how long does that feeling last? Maybe it lasts forever for you. For me, I am going to estimate it lasts anywhere from 5 minutes to 2 months. If/when I am attempting to actively practice gratitude, I might continue to appreciate the thing for a while, but the emotion I hoped I would have forever when I got said thing is gone – at least until I get the next new thing. And that’s just the emotional part. There’s also the logistical part.

Where am I going to store the thing? When does it need to be cleaned, maintained, and updated? When am I going to make time to clean, maintain and update it? Sometimes it gets misplaced – then I spend time finding it and figuring out how to keep from losing it again. Should it be insured? And is it even paid for already, or is that one more part of the thing I need to manage?

Now even if these things truly add value in your life – for example, the way my iPhone does in mine – all of that “managing” is a mental-time-energy drain, and at some point, it is helpful to take a pause and just ask “is the benefit of having this thing still outweighing the cost”? With my iPhone it is a resounding yes.  With my used-only-one-time electric dip warmer, not so much. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the the electric dip-warmer, I’ll expound. This little beauty is literally the one-hit-wonder of a household gadgets and is a prime example of a perfect item to own if, say, you entertain guests – with hot dip – approx. 6 or more times per year.  Ergo, fare thee well, little dip warmer, fare thee well…

Electric Dip Warmer
The amazing electric dip warmer. Note the layer of dust. And no, no matter what they tell you, you will not use it for simmering potpourri.

So the question is when was the last time you really took a look at all your stuff and asked if you care whether some of it is in your life and your personal space? I’m betting you don’t even realize how much stuff you have that you couldn’t care less about. My guess is that, because these items are so unnecessary to your life and happiness, they are just white noise in thing form. They’re there, but they might as well be invisible. This is definitely true for me, and I am pretty comfortable getting rid of stuff. And even still, I have some thing-white-noise in my apartment (and car).

So, because January 1 is a time when many of us take time to reflect on the past year and set some goals for the year ahead, I would like to propose a toast. Here’s to committing to getting rid of one thing (or more!) you don’t need or want in your life. [Side bar: Organizing guru Marie Kondo just squirmed at the suggestion of one thing – more on that later, but for now, just trust me.] It might help you to decide which item by selecting something you have not used in the past year, but that is not a necessary criterion for deciding.  Just pick something that, when you look at it, you feel like “ugh.” and get rid of that.  Immediately – take it right to the trash or right to your local thrift shop – or if you think it might be of value, to a consignment shop.  Hell, if you live in a city, take it right outside and put it on the sidewalk. Just pick one thing. Some of you will get on a roll and start getting rid of many things. Bravo! But if you just get rid of one thing, also bravo! For some of you, this task will be really easy.  Just becoming aware of the fact that you have things you don’t want is all you need to motivate yourself to get rid of stuff.

For others of you, this might be more difficult. There can be many reasons for this. Maybe everything you own has some sentimental value. Maybe you are fearful that, at some point in the future, you will need the thing you gave away. You are not alone – this is so common. But, if you feel this describes you and you really wish you could change, I encourage you to get help from a professional: either a professional organizer (ask friends for names of good organizers or try the National Association of Professional Organizers) who is well-versed in the emotional component of organizing and decluttering and/or work with a therapist, particularly one specializing in Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT).

Once you start tossing (good) or giving away (better) stuff you no longer need or want, other than having more space, you may experience some unrelated positive side effects in other parts of your life. There are many theories about making space for the new by getting rid of the old. One decluttering book that has been in the spotlight lately is the above-mentioned Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing but there are many good books on this subject. I’ll list some of my favorites and cover a few of the principals in Kondo’s book in a future post. It will also include the fun concept of getting rid of something every time you get something new.

What do you think?  Are you going to take the 2016 decluttering challenge? If yes, what item are you committing to get rid of? And if you gave it away, who/what organization did you you give it to? Post your answers below and post any other comments about your success with paring down/decluttering below.  I would love to hear from you!  Also, please subscribe to my blog (it’s free!). 🙂

About The Author

Anne Stericker

City-dweller, designer, writer and lifestyle consultant practicing the art of living well in the 21st Century. Fixated with good coffee, great design, and any little thing that makes life better.


  1. Steve Heller | 4th Jan 16

    The Decluttering Challenge, eh? This is not a blog for the complacent! I will meditate on this challenge first, to declutter my mind….

    This was good, liked reading it.

    I used to keep everything and have gone over the other way somewhat, including a rather dramatic declutteration 1.5 years ago when house was sold amidst rather large life changy things: so, there’s not actually a lot of fluff sitting around my place.

    But in the spirit of “do it right now when you read it because you’ll never go back to it “…. I just found that “1 thing” (which quickly became 2) … went conceptually ‘electronic’ it seems:

    (1) old earphones … like the pre-earbud, dollarcoin sized fuzzy earphones that are kinda dried out
    (2) the old, sitting around clock/CD player the size of a loaf of spelt bread … what’s a CD, anyway?

    Both items are now outside in the cold midnight hour front porch. There, see?! —> you write some blog post, and random people deposit items outdoors onto their front porches. What a world it is….

    • Anne Stericker | 8th Jan 16

      Hahaha! That’s funny! I am so proud!!!!! Thank you for taking this post seriously and thank you for actually finding two examples of things you don’t need (or want!). I am impressed! Bravo! Bravo!

  2. Larry Spinak | 5th Jan 16

    For Christmas, I received a pair of ratchet screwdrivers with interchangeable heads and built-in flashlight tips. A PAIR. One slightly larger than the other. This means even if I were to use one ALL the time, one of them will be gathering dust. And I guarantee you, there just isn’t that much interchangeable-head, lit screwdrivering to do in my life. So, one will have to go.

    • Anne Stericker | 8th Jan 16

      Ahhhh… Christmas! The best time for collecting things to give away the next day! Good for you for knowing when to let one go.

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