Ruthless Rules for Stuff: Sticky Situations

Earlier this week, I wrote about my new-ish ruthless lifestyle when it comes to stuff. My philosophy is to evaluate everything in my home by these two questions: Do I use it? Do I love it? If I can't answer an honest yes to at least one of those questions, the item must go.

At the end of my post, I mentioned my rules get a little tricky in two areas. And those are gifts and anything that's related to my children.

Let's tackle gifts first, because I have one staring me in the face. Literally.

A few days ago, a loved one (who doesn't read this blog) gave me that necklace, because they knew I lost most of my jewelry in the robbery last year. It's beautiful and not cheap. Those are real pearls, they told my husband, and that probably means the delicate gold chain is real as well.

Problem is? I will never wear that necklace. It's not my style at all. The past few years, I purged all similar necklaces from my jewelry stash, because they didn't pass my two-rule test. I didn't love them, ergo I didn't wear them. So out they went, no matter the sentimentality attached.

But now I'm faced with a fresh dilemma. It feels ungrateful to donate the necklace to a local charity, which is what I do with most of my unwanted stuff these days. But it seems ridiculous to put it where my jewelry box used to be and hold on to it just because it was a kindhearted gesture.

Ugh. I hate internal conflict. Why do people give me gifts I don't like and force me to deal with them? It's so rude! [/sarcasm]

The only solution I can think of is to give the necklace to someone who will love it. (Read: Who wants a necklace?) I can't justify keeping it just because I feel guilty getting rid of it. Giving it to someone who wear it and enjoy it will honor the intent of the gift, which is to bless someone with beauty.

And I will still have satisfied my ruthless rules.

Stickier still, though, is applying the rules to children's stuff, especially when it comes to evaluating anything from the baby era. I mean, that's not just stuff. That's my heart.

That yellow smocked dress that Natalie wore for her dedication, which was the Sunday immediately after 9-11? That's more than fabric. 

And the baby blue two-piece set adorned with a fuzzy duck that Connor wore for his first official pictures? 

And Teyla's tiny newborn-sized clothes?

(Seriously. Those are newborn clothes. And she's drowning in them.)

And Kieran's blowout outfit?

(Kidding! Just checking to make sure you weren't asleep at the screen.)

Those are memories. Those are love. Heck, they still smell like my babies. Holding them up to the two-rule standard is agonizing. Because those tiny clothes, those soft blankets, those brightly colored rattles and tattered board books aren't going to get used anymore. And yes, I love them. Oh my heart, I love them. But if someone else could use it and love it too, is it right for me to hang on to it just because of sentiment?

So I've made some hard decisions - and some concessions. I've kept for myself two tubs of baby clothes, one for the girls, one for the boys. I tell myself I will give it to the kids someday when they have babies of their own, but I'm not an idiot. I know they won't want sleepers, possibly spit-up stained, that are decades old. The memories are mine, not theirs. 

And I've put my favorite baby toys in our storage area, because I hope I'll get to use them again when guests with little ones come to visit.

But the rest? I've given away. Many of the clothes I've given to my siblings or my close friends, and I will confess that it makes me smile wide to see one of Natalie's old dresses on my niece or Kieran's infant short sets on my nephew. And I gave most of the toys and baby paraphernalia to area ministries that help families, where I know they will go to good use.

It reminds me that my treasures here are destined to rust and fade anyway. It's the love they represent that's eternal.

So I continue to be ruthless with my stuff, living a lean lifestyle, purging my possessions even if it's painful. Because ultimately, it does more than keep my house clutter-free. It keeps my soul focused on what really matters.

And it's not stuff.

Your comments on the last post were so awesome. I'm thinking I might do one more post on my ruthless rules to talk about the nitty-gritty of how to do it. I'm an organizer by nature, so if I can offer a few tips or point you toward people who are more gifted than me, I'll do so. If you have tips to share or questions to ask, leave them here. I'll try to tie it all up in a pretty package with one more post.


  1. I really love this post, Kelly.

    I go in spurts, where I'll purge everything, but then I let it go. I guess I'm like that all the time with everything. It seems easier to me to do all or nothing. Seeing you be consistent is really encouraging.

    I think I might need some girlfriends to come over to address the border in me.

  2. A quilt! Make a baby clothes quilt! For you! Or have someone else make it. Then they wouldn't even have to be tucked away in boxes, you could read a book with your babies on your lap. Or there's a lady in Western MN that my dad did a feature story on once - she makes teddy bears out of things like that.

  3. Chris Ann and I are of the same ruthless makeup! A long time ago, I started one rubber maid bin per kid. In it is their first bear or blanket, my favorite 1-2 outfits I remember them in, artwork from school, a special toy or t-shirt from a show they performed in. One day, when they get married and have their first baby, it will be my mama gift to them. The rest...goes! :)

  4. You know my mum kept some of our old clothes and seriously even if they are old they are timeless really and both me and my sister enjoyed using them on our own kids. So possibly the same thing will happen with yours. I have a similar concept to yours :) most of the baby stuff is gone to relatives. The rest is slightly still in waiting. I have had tons of books and slowly I am giving them over to the local library and charity shops. My own clothes that I do not use I have given to charity as well and it feels good not to throw away good stuff and knowing someone else will be using them.

  5. I will take the necklace! :) And I love the fact that I got the poop stained clothes for Levi... :) I may need you to help me with this whole "getting rid of stuff" idea because I can't even believe that we are maxing our house out of space already!!

  6. When we found out we were having girls I immediately gave all my baby boy clothes to my sister-in-law. She didn't know what she was having, but since her husband's family is all boys... ;) She had a boy and I love seeing him on facebook wearing the clothes his cousins wore! (They live on the East Coast, I'm on the West, hence the need to give them to her before he was born because she was here then and could take them home with her)
    I did keep one outfit or piece of clothing that really reminds me of each boy, but that's it. I'm doing the same for the girls and I seriously love getting rid of it all. Perhaps it helps that most of the girl stuff is not new to me anyway. ;) It's actually slightly addicting to see how much I can get rid of in my house once it starts to go... I just wish I had a little more time to organize! Right now I'm selling it cheap on a local facebook group so I can continue to buy the clothes in the next sizes my children need, most of it right back through the group. It's awesome that way!
    And also... my mother gave me a small bag of baby clothes that she, my dad, and I wore... yeah. They are mostly hand crocheted things that are completely impractical and how do I say, um, no thanks? So they sit in the corner and the girls will probably outgrow them in a few months and then what? OY!