Thursday, August 16, 2012

39 Things

I read this article earlier this week and it captivated me.  It still captures my imagination as I type these words.  The premise of the article is simple - we need less stuff.  The man that inspired the article pinned the amount of stuff we need at 39 things.  The article also asserts that it COSTS us to have all this stuff.  Not in the capital we expend to acquire it, but in the actual having of it.   

I come from a long line of pack rats.  My maternal grandparents.  My mother.  While I pride myself on not being nearly as extreme, I have a lot of stuff.  With triplets, the amount of stuff exploded.  Every crevice and closet in our four bedroom, 3,000 square foot house is full.  Unnecessarily so.  It drives my husband nuts.  Both the external cost of acquiring it and the internal cost of housing it as the walls continue to close in. 

When you think about it, if you had to rush out of your house in 60 seconds, what "stuff" would you save?  Not much.  I'd save my box of writing journals from over the years.

I'd save my keepsake box for the kids.

I'd save photos from before digital existed.

But that's about it.  Everything else could be replaced.  And honestly, it might not even need to be.

The author of this call-to-action-article quotes Andrew Hyde, the inspiration for his article: "I found a far more quality life by rejecting things as a gauge of success."

Wow.  Of course.

He found a better and more fulfilling life if he didn't allow THINGS to serve as the gauge of success. I am framing that quotation in my house - that and a Bible verse since the Bible explicitly warns against storing up things that have no lasting value.  (Matthew 6:19-21, Psalm 62:10, Ecclesiastes 5:10, Luke 8:14, Isaiah 2:7-9)

So I'm embarking on a "39 things" adventure over the next three weeks. 

I offer no illusions I will try to live with only 39 things (it would take work just to get my shoe count down to that).  But reduction is both necessary and cathartic.  This is my plan.  First, eliminate 39 things each week for the next three weeks.   I will either give the items to Goodwill or sell them (although the author of the article makes a valuable point that selling things is not a great solution, and in my case it has added to holding onto things because I have not yet found a seller, so I will be selective). 

Then........since I also spend too much extra money, my personal discretionary budget just got cut to $3 a day.  I realize this sounds a little Draconian, but the reality is that I have been spending beyond the responsible bounds for our family.  AND it often results in MORE STUFF which is exactly what I'm trying to eliminate with this three week project.  This allowance does not include groceries, in fact I will rely on groceries since I will largely give up eating lunch out with that budget, gas, toiletries, tuition payments for the kids, and similar daily necessaries.  But anything "unnecessary" or personal now has $21 a week alloted.  That means Starbucks, Zulily for the kids (my worst spending habit), accessories or clothes for me, eating lunch out, etc.  If I only spend $63 over the next three weeks, I will save our family hundreds of dollars. 

Let me briefly explain why three weeks.  See, I have always had a fascination with numbers.  The number three in particular and numbers divisible by three.  I was born on 9-9.  I was 12 when my parents divorced, 21 when I went to law school, and 30 when I met Bray.  I was 36 when I had the kids, three kids to be exact, and it was 33 hours shy of 33 weeks at 3 pm.  So....I will take the challenge over 3 weeks, before we leave for Disney on the 3rd, get rid of 39 items each week (for a total of 117 items, at minimum, which is divisible by 3 and adds to 9), and return from Disney and turn 39 on the 9th.  Apropos that this challenge takes place in the 3 weeks leading up to my 39th birthday. 

If you're looking for a few techniques to assist in undertaking your own 39 things challenge (or whatever the number may be for you), here's a few I will employ:
  • Get boxes.  Here's some of mine.  I boxed up a lot more stuff this way than had I used bags - they don't hold as much.
  • The four boxes and two bags I packed for Goodwill last night
    My linen closet after it was hit with the 39 things plan
  • Pay cash. I will charge nothing on my credit card over the next three weeks but gas and groceries. Everything else I have to have the cash on hand.
  • Unsubscribe from every e-catalog or award or deal alert you get.  They're addictive.  Zulily is the master.  I unsubscribed from everyone who sends me emails trying to get me to buy stuff.  (And delete your computer browsing history so you don't get tempting ads on other websites you visit.)
  • Calendar what you need.  My kids are growing constantly and I tend to buy a season ahead of time.  While that MAY result in a deal, it also results in overbuying because I didn't keep track.  Calendar what you need and don't get it before you need it. 
  • Save for your passion.  Index how much you are spending a week or a month on lunches out or magazine subscriptions or Starbucks or extra accessories for little bit.  Does it matter?  What does?  I'm passionate about getting my new website off the ground and supporting World Vision.  What could I do with the dollars elsewhere?  Wouldn't I be happier reallocating them? 
  • Make a list of what space you need where.  I need space everywhere, but August's focus is my guest room.  I'm clearing it out.  I want half the closet empty and nothing on the bed or floor.  How do I get there?  What can go?
I'd love to hear your ideas in the comment section.  What one thing would you save in your house?  What tips can I use to help declutter and renew my life and my house. 

And to you mommas, this isn't just for us, this is for our kids.  I do not want to leave them with a legacy of treating things as a measure of success.  Of acquiring for acquisition sake.  Let's teach them today what to treasure tomorrow. 


  1. Gindi, this is INSPIRING!!! Unfortunately for you, I was about to ask if I could come over and see if I wanted to buy any of the kids clothes you are selling, but now your blog may have talked me out of it!

    Linda Hetherwick (twin Mom and owner of some of the kids clothes you previously sold!)

    1. That cracks me up! You're still welcome to look, but I'm also happy if you are too busy cleaning out your own closets to add to your pile!!!

  2. There is a beautiful chapter about a now-deceased Rabbi in Mitch Albom's Have a Little Faith that I just finished reading. He was the antithesis of your quote! I think this is wonderful and I'm down with you on the $3/day spending. We did some hard core math this past week on what we SHOULD be saving and it is not anywhere close to where we need to be - and that's squarely my fault for my trips to Target, eating out, going to the grocery store more than once or twice a week, etc. So, I'm playing a game with myself to see how LITTLE I can spend in one week! So far, I spend $45 on my groceries than what I allotted per week and have not spent any other money, especially on myself!!! Very excited. :) We go school shopping tomorrow (on tax-free weekend) and I will know exactly what to get before we go!

    Proud of you, and will be praying for it to be easy and rewarding, not a chore!!

    1. Thank you sweet friend! Glad to see I have a buddy in this. It kills me that it's tax free wknd & I can't spend, but the reality is, we do not need ANYTHING and the kids have plenty of clothes and shoes now already for school............

  3. I have a thing with numbers too! haha 3's, 4,'s 12's :)and really need to get organized and get rid of "stuff"- love this post! It has encouraged me. Thanks for sharing :)

    -Alisha from