Your belongings should help you live in the present

Many times we make decisions on what to keep based on the past or the future, without considering too much the effect our things have on our present life.
As you work through your decluttering, consider your present situation and what the items do for us right now.

There are those of us who live in the past.

They reminisce about the good ole days- back when we were kids, in my college days, before I became a parent, when I didn’t have to adult… Ah, those were the good times!
That’s when I wore this…
That’s when I used this…
That’s when I acquired this…
I had so much fun with this…
Maybe you went backpacking back then. But it’s been 15 years since you went backpacking, and now you’re an avid paddle boarder. In fact, you have plans this weekend to get out on the lake!
Which means all those backpacking supplies belong to your past-self. Not the present-self.

There are those of us who live in the future.

All week they anticipate the weekend. All the plans are coming- I’ll deal with that next week. Next year will be better. When the kids are out of the house I’m going to _____. When I retire I will fill my days with _____. Yes, life will be better then.
This weekend I will do things…
Next year I will take a watercolor class…
When the kids are out of the house I’ll travel…
When I retire I will pick up gardening…
The future is always full of possibilities. But you’ve been intending to take watercolor classes for the last 6 years, back when you bought all the supplies. In fact, you just shuffled them from one closet shelf to another, so you can reorganize your space and make everything fit better.
Which means all those watercolor supplies belong to your future-self. Not the present-self.

We need to keep things that help us live in the present.

Minimalism really means to take a good hard look at all the things in our life and decide if they are assisting us or hindering us.
There is no right or wrong- but everything we keep in our lives needs to be serving you in the present.
The tea set you have, but it’s been stashed in the garage for years… it’s not serving you.
The cake decorating set that you got when the kids were little, but you’ve been buying all your birthday cakes for years now… it’s not serving you.
The 5″ heels that were so stinking cute but have dust on them because in the last 7 years you haven’t had an occasion to wear them… they’re not serving you.
The things in our house aren’t sitting there benign.

All those things are actually holding you back.

It seems harmless enough to let the backpacking gear sit in the garage- it’s not really in the way and “out of sight, out of mind,” right??
But the truth is all the things that we aren’t using require something of us.
Maybe that’s the effort it takes in rearranging, shuffling it from one area to another.
Maybe that’s the mental inventory you keep in your mind of all the things you own or all the things that “need to be dealt with.”

“Clutter is postponed decisions.” ~Barbara Hemphill

When we leave things piled up in different places around our home, it distracts us because it’s all visual clutter- but it also reminds us of all the decisions we still need to make.
Every time you see the watercolor supplies – you are reminding that that is something you want to do, but you haven’t made it a priority to do yet. And that’s exhausting.

Clutter is getting in the way of living in the present.

When you look up the word “assist,” the opposite of it is “obstruct.”
And that, my friends, is what clutter does.
We spend our time managing the stuff in our home, instead of spending our time doing things we enjoy.
How many more weekends could we spend on the lake paddle boarding, if we never needed to clean out the garage?
How many nights could you spend relaxing with watercolors if you never needed to reorganize that hall closet?

It’s not a magical transformation- it takes intent.

When I decided to embrace minimalism, I thought everything would fall into place.
I wanted to be more present with my husband and my children, I knew I was always distracted and would flit around from one unfinished project to another.
Because of that, working towards minimalism did take me quite some time! 😅
But when I finally got to the point where my home was EASY to take care of and was serving me well… I didn’t just automatically want to sit and spend time with people I loved.
I had been acting like a ping pong ball my entire life- it didn’t matter if I got rid of all the stuff- I was still bouncing around!
That definitely was a disappointment- but I had learned to make decisions and deal with clutter, so I set out to learn to sit still and be present.

Set up things that assist you in living in the present.

Minimalism isn’t just about getting rid of things.
It’s also about putting things in place in your life that help you accomplish what you want.
If you want to be more present with your family- block off a couple of hours a week to do something together.
Turn your phone off. Turn off the screens. Plan an activity that you can do together.
If you want to grow as a Christian, put it in your daily schedule. Make it a routine to read and pray in the morning.
Sure, maybe that means getting up 10 minutes earlier- but if you want to grow, you have to make it a priority.

If you want to go somewhere you actually have to take the steps.

Let’s stop allowing life and our stuff to happen to us.
Instead, look to the direction you want to go and start walking.
Let go of the things holding you back
Schedule in the things that you want to be a priority.
Minimalism really means to take a good hard look at all the things in your life and decide if they are assisting us or hindering us.

About Rachel Jones

Hi there! I’m Rachel Jones, and I founded Nourishing Minimalism in 2012 at the beginning of my minimalist journey after I'd been doing a yearly decluttering challenge for 4 years and started to see a change in my home. If you're looking for encouragement in your journey, please join our FREE Facebook Group: Nourishing Minimalism Facebook Group


  1. Sarah T. on 08/08/2020 at 6:46 pm

    Rachel, so so so good! The ping pong ball analogy makes so much sense! We’re so used to bouncing around that once there is nothing to continue bouncing around on, we feel lost for a bit. At that point, we have to make another conscious decision to slow ourselves down. And oftentimes, figure out what is really important to us. It takes getting rid of the distractions to finally settle. Wow.

    • Diana on 01/01/2023 at 7:42 am

      Exactly! So well said. Im still in the ping pong state…but getting where I want to be.

  2. Justin on 08/09/2020 at 11:57 pm

    Heard it before. Great to be reminded. Felt like a slightly different spin on this idea. Thanks!

  3. Elsha on 08/10/2020 at 7:24 pm

    What an ‘on-time’ writing. It hits a bunch of areas that i needed to hear…at this exact moment. Spot on! Thanks… Elsha

    • Rachel on 09/25/2020 at 10:37 pm

      This is all great advice! I tend to keep things for “when I will need that” there’s only one thing. When you have many kids (which you do 😊) you want to keep clothes to pass down one to the other, most cuz I can’t afford to buy them all new clothes every year. So they have a couple boxes each in their closet.

  4. FatBob on 08/10/2020 at 8:38 pm

    This article is exactly what I needed. I have such a hard time getting rid of things. I want my home to be easy to care for. I want all of these things. I am so grateful for your writing and sharing this. I am inspired to do what needs to be done. Thank you so much!!!

  5. Christy on 08/16/2020 at 10:25 am

    I have been a minimalist for a couple of years now and it’s amazing how long it has taken for me to be able to simply sit still and enjoy the ability to relax. My home stays clean and it is small so when I do clean it doesn’t take long. My kids are 17 (twins) and they don’t mess it up much anymore and when they do they are good about cleaning up after themselves. It is still an ongoing process to maintain and not allow stuff to slowly creep back in, but the results have been so worth it. I love to read, especially my Bible and I have so much more time for it than I ever did before minimalism. Anybody on the fence about it, just ditch the stuff. You will not regret it!

    • Donna L Pulfrey on 01/04/2023 at 5:11 pm

      Love the encouragement of your last line!

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