Household 'Must-Haves' That Really Aren't

Household 'Must-Haves' That Really Aren't

A reader asks:

Would you please do a blog post listing/highlighting those items we all have in our house, but simply don’t need? The ones we keep because we think they are, or might be, necessary, but really are not. I figure you would know this all too well having been minimalist for so long. Love the blog! ~Shaina

To be honest, we’ve lived without many of these things for so long, I don’t know what’s “normal” to own! Many of the things on this list, I do own and it works for us. There is no “right” or “wrong.” But here are a few things that I could think of that aren’t “must-haves,” but there is nothing wrong with having them. When you embrace minimalism, it just means that you intentionally keep things that work for you and your home/lifestyle, not because “everyone should” have it. So here is what I could think of:



Crock Pot. Controversial, I know.  Ok, I like the idea of a crock pot- fix it and forget it. But for whatever reason, crock pots and I just don’t get along. I can make a soup in it, and sometimes a roast comes out okay, but everything else I’ve tried tasted awful. If you use it twice a week- keep it. If you use it twice a year… just ditch it and use a pot instead.

Bread Maker. If you want to make bread every day, consider doing traditional no knead sourdough bread or Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, neither of these methods require a mixer, they are very simple and take very little time.

Kitchen Aid Mixer. If you use it regularly, I’m not going to argue with you. There was a time when I made cookies, cinnamon rolls and bread several times a week, one summer I even baked for our local farmer’s market and used my mixer constantly. And then I had to give up gluten a couple years ago and, I have to say it has simplified my cooking! For the majority of people, the mixer is used less than once a month.

Microwave. I’m not vehemently against microwaves, but they take up a ton of counter space and stunt your cooking growth.

Knife Block. We really only need a chef knife, bread knife and paring knife- put them in a drawer or a magnetic knife strip.

Food Processor. I use my food processor. I made mayo, peanut butter bites, chop nuts for granola and occasionally make scones. If I didn’t cook so much from scratch, I wouldn’t hesitate to give this one away.

China Hutch. And pretty much everything in it! Click here to read my post about getting rid of the china cabinet.

Any Sort of Plug-In Appliance: Wok, Rice Cooker, Sandwich Maker, Deep Fryer, Espresso Machine, Toaster Oven, Blender, etc. They all have uses, some more than others. Most can be replace by a pot, pan or oven. Live simple: make sure it’s not a “one use wonder.”

Living Room:

TV.  Yes we can survive without a TV. Most things can be streamed through your computer screen and if you just have a laptop, it’s easy to set the laptop up on a coffee table or chair in front of the couch and sit back to enjoy your show.

Entertainment Center. If you don’t want to get rid of the TV, it can hang on the wall or you can get a thin cabinet so you can close it up when the TV isn’t in use.

Coffee Table and End Tables. These just collect clutter.

Lamps. Matched sets aren’t necessary, and unless you just love the mood that a lamp gives off or your living room doesn’t have any ceiling fixtures, you don’t even need one.

Book Shelves. Shelves, though attractive in magazines, aren’t friends of an aspiring minimalist. Shelves draw clutter, like a magnet.

Knick Knacks. Seriously- all they do is require dusting and sit on the shelves you don’t need.


Overstuffed Closet. Having too many clothes takes more time, more laundry and a more stressful time when you get dress. Click here to read about how to declutter your closet or here for how to make a capsule wardrobe.

Dresser. If you have removed all that you don’t wear from your closet, then you will have plenty of room for all your clothing items there, and a dresser won’t be necessary. Consider a closet organizers to hold things like sweaters, socks and undergarments and remove the dresser (which in turn removes the clutter collecting surface!)

Nightstands & Lamps. They collect clutter and dust. If you do find you need a nightstand- select something simple and the right size for what you use it for. The bigger it is, the more clutter it attracts.

Misc. Spaces:

Desk & Chair. Yeah, that’s right. Unless you work from home, this isn’t necessary. I work from home and find that my posture is bad when I sit on the couch with my laptop and I get into poor posture positions when at the table, so I have a standing desk. It’s enough room to hold my laptop and my planner, it takes up much less space, and I can wheel it around to anywhere I want to work.

File Cabinet. Go digital. Scan all your documents, get paperless statements, etc. Then all you need is a small file holder with birth certificates, SS cards, etc.

In the Yard:

Garden. If you love it, then do it. But don’t feel pressured to use your yard space to grow your own food. I personally do love working outside in the garden, but I have to keep it scaled down to a manageable size. Smaller than I want, but it gets taken care of.

Flowers & Shrubbery. A simple yard with just grass is perfectly acceptable. As long as you can keep the grass trimmed nicely, don’t worry about making your yard look like it should be on the cover of a Home & Garden magazine.


Note: these are just things are assumed to be necessary, but are not actually “must-haves”. I consider myself a minimalist, and I do have a cabinet for my TV (8 people, watching a movie on a laptop isn’t fun), everyone’s home is going to look differently and that’s ok. There is no right or wrong way to be a minimalist.

Would you add anything to this list? What are you currently living without that many people believe to be necessary?


Working toward a minimalist home?

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About the author, Rachel

Hi there! I’m the Joyful Space Specialist. it’s my desire help others create a joyful space of their own and enjoy their time spent at home.


  1. Lisa/SyncopatedMama on 09/06/2014 at 11:25 AM

    I really liked the way you presented your items, because you made sure to not just list items without reasons and you also made sure to explain that if you use an item often, it’s a different story. I think that’s really the key – educating others on what things they are REALLY going to use and find necessary, and getting rid of the rest.

    I’ve also found that over time, my use of certain things (like kitchen appliances) has changed, so it’s more important for me to pay attention to my current cooking style and what I really need to have around for that, at the time.

  2. Donna on 09/06/2014 at 1:04 PM

    Clothes dryer…….people are shocked when they find out we do not have a clothes dryer. It has been over two years and we do not miss it. We have a line outside for the summer months and use sturdy drying racks and door jams to hang during winter months.

  3. Janna on 09/06/2014 at 1:41 PM

    I absolutely agree with the above comment – love that you pointed out that the list will be different for everyone. I personally use my kitchen aid mixer and crock pot at least weekly (homemade granola bars, bread, muffins and desserts in the mixer; beans and chili in the crockpot) but we don’t have a wine opener. We don’t drink wine and the one time we entertain (Thanksgiving) the guests bring the corkscrew opener. I know other people who wouldn’t make it a week without a wine opener. I also use my blender almost weekly, but my inlaws got rid of theirs because they never used it. I would add paper towels and paper napkins to this list. We’ve used cloth for years and even with little kids, it works great.

  4. Ann Marie on 09/07/2014 at 9:21 AM

    You are absolutely right! Minimalism will look different for different families. It’s about figuring out what works for you and not hanging on to stuff that you don’t use/need just for the sake of hanging on to it. Great article!

  5. Jennifer on 09/08/2014 at 1:01 PM

    Thanks for the links! As we prepare to move, there are several ideas here I want to incorporate into our new home, like the magnetic knife strip and closet organizers.

  6. CallieRose on 09/27/2014 at 3:39 PM

    One big place I’ve pared down is in the bathroom. I don’t own a hair dryer, my hair dries on its own (although I do have a straightening iron). I only keep a couple of colors of blush and eye shadow, and only one bottle of lotion. All of my health and beauty stuff – including household first aid items, cotton balls, and spare soap/toothpaste/toothbrushes – take up about a foot of shelf space in the linen cabinet.

    As for furniture, each piece of furniture in my house serves multiple functions. My small storage dresser doubles as an entertainment stand. My fabric box serves as my nightstand (it was originally my son’s toy box, so it has both functional and sentimental value). So while I do have more furniture than I probably need, everything does double or even triple duty.

    I love this post, it has made me really think about what I have and what I might be able to get rid of. Thank you!

  7. Vivi on 01/14/2015 at 1:09 PM

    Hi Rachel,

    I found your website 2 months ago, and just subscribed your newsletter last week. I live in Indonesia, I’m a minimalist wannabe, still far from being a totally minimalist but I love your articles, because they’re straightforward, the logic is very sensing & practical to apply.

    However, speaking of kitchen specially kitchen appliances, here in our country, the situation is quite different. Because our staple food is rice, and sometime we eat noodle, the rice cooker is a must have. Most our food is stir fried, deep fry, boiled or boiled above the water. So wok is also a must, we have 2: one is non stick Teflon for stir frying, the other is usual metal wok for deep frying. While for boiling we have several pans with lid & a kind of strainer to put the food on for boiling above the water. A portable gas stove which can cook 2 dishes at a time. And the last, a blender to make Asian condiments/basic spices, or to make nuggets/rollade/minced recipes. I think that’s all we need in my country. Some have oven to make cake/cookies or to cook Western recipes, but most of us are used to live without dessert/cake/cookies, nor oven required western menu. So I don’t own oven, microwave, and I just know what crock pot is. Our next plan is buying air fryer, which could do deep fry without oil, which is much more healthier. And in the long run maybe oven, because we think we have to make more variety of meat-poultry-fish menus, in a healthier, more delicious, and easy way, that oven may be able to do it for us. That’s a bit about my kitchen, that also a typical kitchen in my country.

    I love to learn from your website, most are about priorities in my life: family, food for family, being an effective home keeper.

    All the very best.

    • Rachel on 01/14/2015 at 10:00 PM

      Thanks Vivi!

      What type of oil do you deep fry in?

      I find kitchens fascinating. I think in the U.S. everyone thinks they need to have a huge variety appliances to cook ethnic foods, as well as all the typical western foods and we just end up with an endless amount of gadgets and equipment.

  8. Lacy on 02/28/2015 at 10:19 PM

    If you really want to get serious about things, lol, I would venture to say the couch and the bed and the coffee table could be included in this list, because I’ve lived (easily) without all those for years. I used to sleep on a thin mat on a hardwood floor (talk about being an early riser!) and instead of a couch we had floor pillows, but you could also have simple chairs or other options that are much cheaper and more space efficient than a couch. Not that there’s anything wrong with a couch or a bed, I do own both now but I could go back in a heartbeat.

    • Marie meade on 12/06/2016 at 10:17 AM

      Omg. that’s going too far!

  9. Meaghan on 03/02/2015 at 3:25 PM

    Your blog has changed my life! seriously just after reading through several different posts my whole way of thinking is changing. I have been questioning appliances that get used once a year and sold them. I just went through my kids clothes and filled a garbage bag to donate. Really I’m loving this!! So freeing

  10. Maggie on 03/16/2015 at 11:00 PM

    Hi Rachel!
    I am just beginning my minimalist journey. As a homeschool mom, how do you keep the minimalism going? I’m finding that my books, especially our school books, are really hard to get rid of. When the kids are well passed the ages of certain books, I’ve been able to let go, but in general I find that there are still a lot of things that we have. Any advice you could offer? Thanks so much!

    • Bon on 11/08/2016 at 1:53 PM

      Hi Maggie,

      Have you thought about getting books from the library? That’s one way to help minimize the amount of books going forward.
      If it’s something they’ll re-read or want to reference, definitely don’t feel bad about keeping it! Minimalism isn’t about minimizing every single piece of your life, it’s about making room for what’s meaningful. Education is important, and you are no less of a minimalist for having a large book collection.
      If you do want to get rid of some more, consider donating them to a library, or to those who need them.
      Best wishes!

    • Margi on 09/11/2017 at 12:22 PM

      I guest posted here on exactly that topic a few weeks back. And I’d love to chat more about it if you want! It’s really tough to detach from some of those great books <3

  11. Robin on 05/19/2015 at 11:15 AM

    I ditched shaving cream years ago. I like to ‘run a razor’ over my legs daily as I don’t like the nubby feeling under my clothes, but, I just use my plain Dr. Bronner’s bar soap.

    I have not watched TV at home or owned a microwave for about 15 years.

    I eat a lot of raw produce, so not much cooking.

    I do live alone, so that might be why some of my ways are more possible for me.

    I got rid of my couch, chair, coffee table, dining table around 2009!

    This is all I can think of for now.

  12. Rebecca on 07/15/2015 at 10:54 PM

    We went without a clothes washer for about 6 months. One of my boys and I would wash our clothes in our bathtub every morning, squeeze them out and hang them on racks. We had 10 of us in our family at the time.
    A clothes dryer is nice – esp if you have multiple people stomach sick – but not necessary. Didn’t own one until we had 4 kids. Frequently don’t use it now and am considering getting rid of it.
    A cell phone. My oldest 3 kids and I share one. Whoever is away from home takes it with them. Since I’m a stay-at-home mom and we homeschool, this works fairly easily for us.
    Clothes, or at least many clothes : ) – our kids have 6-7 pants/shorts and shirts, 2-3 dress outfits, 2 pjs, 8 underwear/socks. I don’t have much either – can’t even do those lay out your clothes for a week ideas since I don’t have that much.
    At the same time, we have and frequently use many of the things on your list- crockpot (at least 2x a week), blender (almost daily), rice cooker (at least 1x a week), etc. -so they make sense for us.
    Just found your blog today. Enjoying the great ideas!! Definitely making me think about what is necessary and actually worth the space and time!

  13. Barbara Feltman on 07/17/2015 at 11:16 AM

    I don’t want to throw away all those barely used items. Many can be donated, but what about lotion that has been used just once? Isn’t it just as bad to add to the landfill.

    • Laura on 01/02/2016 at 5:40 AM

      Open containers of items like lotion, shampoo, etc., can be posted on Craigslist or Freecycle. You’ll probably get tons of responses for it. I donated a couple of bottles of perfume on Freecycle and had about a dozen responses for each. I noted that the product had been opened and used, and the box and packaging were no longer available. For both bottles of perfume, I wrapped the bottles in colored tissue paper I was planning to donate and placed them in small gift bags (also planning to donate). Both of the recipients were thrilled to get the product.

      You can also just use up the product until it’s gone, and while you’re using it up you can research making your own lotion, buying more “responsible” lotionsin recyclable containers or whatever, or go without. 🙂

  14. Angela on 09/10/2015 at 11:48 PM

    A lawn! Why not plant a no-hassle, attractive ground cover that doesn’t need mowing? Saves time and gas, no need for a lawn mover.

    All the appliances you listed are dispensable, except my espresso machine. I use it every day instead of making a pot of coffee. It uses very little coffee make enough caffeine for this enthusiast.

    • Sarah on 12/03/2015 at 6:01 PM

      Right on, man! Lawns are a huge waster of water, fossil fuels (mowing), time, and energy, and if you’ve ever read the warning labels on the back of the bag of Weed N Feed, oh my! So many attractive ground cover alternatives. That being said, though, if you regularly use your yard for sports or something else that will be really hard on it, grass is one of the toughest plants that can take the abuse and survive. Most of the alternatives don’t stand up to high-intensity, high-traffic use. But most of us barely set foot on our lawns except to care for them, so unless you’re playing Ultimate Frisbee or running dog agility out there twice a week, rip it out and plant some red clover, or any of the several hundred other nice low-growing, water-saving plants you can choose from.

  15. Lola on 04/14/2016 at 4:03 PM

    Lots of great ideas here! I’m looking for advice on linens- how many sheet sets/towels/wash cloths/kitchen towels do you suggest a household have? And we live near the coast and use beach towels. What do you recommend for those? Thanks!

    • Rachel on 04/15/2016 at 4:03 PM

      It’s going to be different for everyone and where you live, we live in Montana, so it’s a very dry climate and our bath towels dry between uses, so I know we can get away with washing them less than if you live in a humid environment. But We have 2 sheet sets per bed, 2 towels per person and then enough wash clothes/kitchen towels that we use in a week.

      • Helen on 09/11/2017 at 3:10 AM

        We live in Spain and have changed from bath towels to hamman towels… They take up much less storage space and dry REALLY quickly 🙂

  16. Jennifer on 04/20/2016 at 4:41 PM

    People getting rid of book shelves must truly by a sign of the downfall of society. People just don’t read anymore. How sad.

    • Diana on 05/09/2016 at 4:50 AM

      I think the theory is that books are now available on electronic devices like Kindle — so a bookshelf isn’t necessary. I prefer a bookcase, because I like to see what I have, and love to read curled up on the couch. A tablet just isn’t the same.
      Downsizing the bookcase contents makes a lot of sense though. Despite several sortings and give-away sessions I still have a lot of books that I may never read again, and someone else would be able to enjoy these if I donate them somewhere. This is a work in progress for me, and not a fast one. (But very satisfying!)

      Oh — and yes, a lot of people don’t read any more. I grieve for them, since they have no idea what they are missing.

    • Felicity on 07/24/2016 at 6:38 AM

      I don’t agree with this. I will purchase a book or checkout one from a library and make myself read it before getting a new one. I go through about five a week. I just don’t want them cluttering up my house.

    • Doubleletterlady on 05/11/2017 at 1:42 AM

      I put all of my books in the linen closet and a few in the top shelf of my clothes closet. My three cook books and my recipe box are in my kitchen cabinet. My children have books in their night stands and stacked neatly in the closet. I find that once I cleared space I had so much room that I didn’t need a bookshelf any more.

  17. Diane on 08/03/2016 at 10:37 PM

    I’d have nothing to put my coffee/tea cup on without an end table! I can (and do) live without a coffee table though (and no bedside tables either). No toaster? Can’t do that one. Interesting list.

  18. Christy on 11/20/2016 at 5:49 PM

    Wow, I cant imagine not having a washer and dryer. Im a SIngle mom and work 40-50 hours a week tho, so I WOULd not have time to wash by HAnd. ALSO I live in an apt in humid NC so it would take towels days to dry. I admire those of you who can do without THEM. I HAVE GOTTEN RID OF COFFEE TABLE, END TABLES, AND ONE PART OF MY SECTIONAL. I LIKE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE KITCHEN ITEMS. WILL HAVE TO CONSIDER GETTING RID OF SOME. I HAVE 2 CROCKPOTS. I HAVE NO IDEA WHY!

  19. Karen on 12/06/2016 at 12:20 PM

    Does it look strange, weird, empty, when you get rid of dining table, empty out built in bookshelves, get rid of couch, etc. ???

    • Doubleletterlady on 05/11/2017 at 2:08 AM

      You don’t have to do these things. Some people find it beneficial. You decide your level of involvement. Walk your own path.

  20. Di on 12/09/2016 at 1:33 AM

    With the amount of hacking and identity theft going on, there’s no way I’d opt for digital statements etc. Give me hard copies any day. But I only keep them for a year, except for tax papers I have to keep for five, but they don’t take up that much space.

  21. Marie meade on 02/23/2017 at 11:19 AM

    I really dIsaGree With the laMps.. haTe the harsh light of overhead ceilIng Light; maKes me depressed.

  22. Doubleletterlady on 05/11/2017 at 2:04 AM

    Gravy boat – what even?! In my closet I don’t have a pair of sensible black heels, or a black blazer. I don’t have a Trench coat. Cable. Special decorative toothbrush holder that matches the bathroom. 11 categories of towels. A duvet (it’s a blanket, it’s just a blanket) popcorn popper. I took the opposite approach and got rid of hangers, but kept the dresser.

  23. Diana on 07/29/2017 at 3:28 PM

    I don’t have candles and candle sticks. I have nothing against them, but used to have a cat with a bushy tail and no brain. I wasn’t willing to take the risk. I didn’t have a knife block, and wanted one — until I got one, and discovered that even though it was a small one it took up far too much room.

    I do have a coffee table, although no end tables. The coffee table works really well as a games table when I have family over, and for a foot rest or a laptop stand when I want to watch a movie. I think I’d like to downsize to a smaller table, but going without would be too much of a stretch.

    One of my goals is to reframe my bedroom closets, so that things are more easily accessible and more easily stored. Right now I have doors that are too short and narrow, and don’t slide well when opened. Once this is done, I expect to lose my dresser and some of my clothes.

    I am seriously thinking of getting an Instant-pot — and to use it regularly. But I will see if I can borrow one from a friend, first, to see if I really will like/use it as much as I think I will.

    I still have a couple of bookshelves, but have downsized considerably. Several major book purges left me with one bookshelf worth — and although I really love most of the books left, I will likely get rid of a whole lot more. I am very close to two libraries, and I love being able to take out and return items easily.

    Rachel, I would LOVE a standing desk. Do you remember where you got yours from, or did you design your own?

    (note to self: I think I’d like to do that. Hmmm… will need to talk to my carpenter friend.)

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