Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Lose a Ton...Literally

Simplicity is a theme that continues to find its way into my life.  I have come to believe that we are happier when we have less.  The idea that stuff makes us happy is a complete lie; instead, stuff often gives us more worry and work.

But collecting things can be so easy!  I go for anything labeled "Free" and can come up with a number of uses for that free item if I could only give it a little TLC.  The TLC takes time (and often money!) and I honestly never get around to it.  My home is a collection of many useful, special things, but also a place where unfinished projects get stashed and unread books fill boxes.

Just a few months ago I was overwhelmed by excess when I was switching out our seasonal clothes.  As I washed all of our winter jackets, mittens, hats, and sweaters one last time before they got stored away, I was struck by the HUGE amount of clothing my family has.  I had four gigantic piles of clothes spread around the living room to be washed.  But if you looked in our closets and dressers, you'd never know that any clothes were missing because each one of us still had so much in our wardrobes!

In my disgust, I went to my closet and counted my summer tops.  Between the tank tops, sleeveless, short-sleeved shirts and jackets, I had 35 tops.  Thirty-Five tops.  Sick!  I could wear one a day for over a month and be fine.  That screams excess to me.  (But a little voice in my head says, "Well, there are different tops for different occasions.  This one you can wear when you go out on the town.  This is for colder days in the summer.  These are for layering so they don't really count as one; they're a part of another.  This one only really goes with that one skirt...where is that skirt...?")

Ew.  I saw my wardrobe with new eyes.  Zac and I went through our closet and dresser and came up with three full bags of clothes to give away.  And I've got to be honest - he did WAY better than I did.  I have such emotional connections to my clothes!  He asked me the hard questions to help me evaluate my clothes such as, "Have you worn this in the last 6 months?  The last year?"  That helped, and it also helped to think about someone else enjoying it rather than it sitting unused in a closet for that one day a year when I might wear it.

My thoughts have been stirred by that day, and I want to do more.  I want to go through our entire house and give every THING we have a hard look.  Is it a helpful item?  Has this item been used in the last year?  Is that a picture I like looking at?  Do we need that many ____?  Is this knick-knack worth the weekly monthly dusting of it?  Do I need to keep that book or manual or can I access that information online?

As I've talked with friends I've heard my sentiments echoed.  Since I know that projects are more fun with friends, I'd like to invite 19 of you to journey along with me to create a cohort of 20 people to collaboratively remove 2,000 pounds of unused stuff from our homes.  Yep, let's get rid of a ton.

The parameters for this endeavor are as follows:
  • Choose a 10-day period within the month of July.  These 10 days must be consecutive.
  • Each day remove 10+ pounds from your home.
  • Strive to give away or recycle the things you remove.  Send as little to the landfill as possible.
  • Daily write in your journal, photograph your removed items, and record your removal weight.
I will share some photos, stories, and lessons learned from our group on my blog so whether or not you are participating you can journey along with us.  I can't wait to see what we discover through this experience!

If you are interested in participating, please email me at: amber (at) spectrum of amber (dot) com and tell me a little about yourself and why you would like to take this journey.

Frequently Asked Questions:
Why 10 consecutive days?
To transform the way we think about stuff.  This is more than just a project; it's an attempt to create a new habit and new mindset about how we acquire and why we acquire things. 

What if I'm getting rid of a piece of furniture?
Great!  But that doesn't mean you're done for the whole exercise!  You can put that weight toward your 10-pound goal for one day, and I encourage you to push yourself to get rid of a few other items on that particular day too.

What should I journal about?
Anything, really!  How did you feel about the work that day, was it easy?  Difficult?  What is your relationship to the stuff you eliminated?  What are you going to do with the extra space?  What was it like trying to get up to 10 pounds?

Why take pictures of the items?
To document your hard work and get a visual of all that you are removing from your home.  

Why weigh the items daily?
To hold yourself accountable and also to document the total pounds removed by our entire group.  


  1. Awesome! I am already in the practice of getting rid of stuff. There is constantly a give away box somewhere filling up with stuff.
    I am right there with you on the clothing thing. It's so hard with little kids. We get so many wonderful hand-me-downs... but one can only wear so many. I've been wanting to do this for a LONG time... and maybe knowing someone else is doing it will help me JUST DO IT! :)

  2. I thought Independence Day would be as good a day as any to begin this discipline. (plus I wasn't at work!) So today it was the dresser and the closet, and as far as my scale could tell, the things to go to goodwill total 11 lbs. I realized that none of my children would have any interest in seeing every t shirt gotten in some race, so I have spared you all the agony of throwing them away; anyway, who would wear a shirt from a race you didn't run? As the days go on it will get more interesting, but there are closets just waiting, and after 35 years there is a lot to be freed from!

  3. Great idea Amber! I don't know if I can commit to this immediately, but I am interested in what you said "transform the way [I] think about stuff". I definitely could stand to get rid of some stuff!

  4. I would have loved to have joined the group--much to my chagrin, I'm reading these posts in August ;)! Even so, as I've been reflecting on the role of "stuff" and consumption in my life over the past couple of years, reading through your "Lose a Ton" posts today has helped me to continue to feel inspired to continue to find my "just enough" and be content with it. Thank you for these posts, Amber!