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My husband and I used to joke about having a "mystery box" yard sale. You pay $5 for the box and whatever is in there you keep! Now, we have gone through most of our mystery boxes, and the ones left are his stuff, so right now, imo, are his problem.
Thanks for the encouragement!

Joy @ JoyfullyGreen.com

That's funny about the mystery boxes, but it's actually not such a bad idea! When I chaired a couple of fundraising auctions, the "mystery prizes" always received the highest number of bids. People are so curious, they will pay for the chance to see what it is!

Urban Woodswalker

In my mind I am a minimalist. Back in the 1980s, my loft was on a TV show about hoarders...back before it was recognized. My husband and I were shown in shadows so we could not be recognized. We both contributed to each others problems.

It better now..husband gone so his "stuff" is no longer around, and I live in a smaller place. Yet, I have the same issues, despite having therapy, and reading ...using every tool I can to deal with this problem.

I have been able to contain most of my issues to 2 areas...though 2 areas are huge problems indeed....crafts/art supplies, and books. I simply need more space, and I cannot afford it. Thus, I just am so attached to my possessions in these 2 categories and its very out of control.

Its easy to donate clothes, and other people's possessions..in fact, I am always finding and donating. I am the one in our family to donate unwanted items. Yet, the books...most are not in electronic form to begin with.

The art supplies (I use that term very loosely because I have shown my trash fashions in galleries, and won awards...so "trash" becomes an art "supply" too. It would be so easy if I only worked in one media, and only did one kind of art. but my creativity is all over the place. Tools can be quite expensive...as do the thousands of other supplies. boxing, and organizing is a full time job...and once its done, I can mess it all up in one hour's worth of creativity. Its astonishing...it can take 3 full days to clean up and organize...sometimes even weeks...and in a flash its all like a hurricane went through the rooms. I work everywhere in my 2 bedroom condo. the van is packed, the basement too.

Just wanted to share.. I have been learning about, coping with, getting help for this issue for around 20 plus years now. Nice to keep reading about others success.

Its really like dieting...we live in a very abundant United States. Access to cheap foods, and consumer goods is everywhere. Its brainwashed us 24 /7. Its no wonder we have these problems of over abundance and obesity).

Thanks Joy, for yet another insightful post.


I hate shopping and I always have, so I don't have to worry about buying too much stuff. My problem is the amazing, wonderful, well meaning grandparents who spoil my children with way too many gifts. Both sets of grandparents send packages for every holiday (Valentine's, St Patrick's Day, Easter, etc...) and they go way overboard for Christmas & birthday. I do take stuff to goodwill or hand it down to younger kids on a regular basis, but I still feel like we have way too many toys, art supplies, books and junk for the kids.


I still miss the CDs that have been missing since we moved 6 years ago but am proud to say I've been too stubborn to replace them. Hopefully with cleaning out storage to prepare for moving again they will turn up and we will be reunited!


I think my biggest road blocks are nostalgia and price. "Nostalgia" in particular strikes with the kids: can I possibly trash all of their preschool "art" without stealing their rightful access to sweet memories? Answer: yes, you can. They won't even care in a week and might even be embarrassed by the red papier mache dino still on display in the living room in time for their bat mitzvah! "Price" comes with "guilt". It happens when buying an expensive item that only got little play...Were $400 spent on a pair of gold shoes, not even visible from under the evening gown, a really wise investment? Answer: no! But this is when I try to convince myself that SURELY I will have the prefect occasion to wear them again, and thus make them the eternal fixture in my closet when twice yearly I actually make bags of giveaways to charities.

I also have a solution when it comes to the junk boxes. Just like the success of a diet often resides in allowing oneself ONE cheat day, I think that every person in the house having ONE (size according to age) junk box/drawer is fair game. The idea is that you don't give anyone in your house or yourself any grief for that one t-shirt from the-best-summer-camp-ever that you still hang onto in spite of its being past its prime BUT as soon as one person's junk box/drawer is overflowing, said person must make a choice and get rid of something. The fact that there is a cap to the junk madness helps keeping the clutter in check, and at the same time it allows for a little indulgence, which makes it all together less daunting. I also think that apartment living makes it easier to get rid of things because there is less opportunities for hidden “stash”. Maybe one idea for those living in houses it to design basement and attics in a way that they become a part of the “house tour”? It’s crazy what wonders a bit of peer pressure can work on clutter habits…

Joy @ JoyfullyGreen.com

You're very welcome, and thanks for your always interesting commentary. I'm slightly fascinated by the concept of "trash as art."

Joy @ JoyfullyGreen.com

Ah yes, I'm well aware of this problem! Aside from well-meaning relatives, there are also the birthday party gifts from friends. I've taken to editing which gifts the kids receive from these parties. The ones that aren't appropriate are exchanged or find their way into a donation bin.

Joy @ JoyfullyGreen.com

I still have LPs!

Joy @ JoyfullyGreen.com

Excellent suggestions for putting a cap on the quantity of stuff! And you're absolutely right that kids never miss the art. I edit the contents of their backpacks daily and most of it is recycled.


How do you get rid of the gifts from relatives or friends that your children have seen? This used to be easy because my boys were small, but this last Christmas, I took the junkiest toys to goodwill drop off on our way home the grandparents and a few days later my boys asked where something was that they remembered unwrapping that I had gotten rid of! EEECK!!! I told them we left it at Nana & Papa's and we'll have to look for it next time we go there. I'm hoping they forget when we show up for Easter or this could be very awkward...

Joy @ JoyfullyGreen.com

This has happened to me occasionally--the kids remember something I've donated. I usually say something along the lines of "It must be somewhere...wow, look at that cool bird!"


My son's grandparents started always giving things directly to him when he was about 5, because they didnt' like my editing. So I've just had to work with him on letting go of things he either doesn't have room for or that it turns out he didn't really play with.

He doesn't always decide exactly like I would, but at 7 he gets rid of stuff pretty readily. It's a lot more work than if the grandparents would just respect our wishes, but that's not in my power to make happen.

Joy @ JoyfullyGreen.com

Hi Rosa,
Sorry for this late reply to you, but I just wanted to let you know that I read a good post recently at BecomingMinimalist.com about this very issue--parents not being respectful about your desire for less stuff, and how to address it. Here is the link: http://www.becomingminimalist.com/dear-loved-one/

I hope it helps!


Betsy (Eco-novice)

Ha! This reminds me of when I was on the verge of buying cloth napkins, cleaned out a bin in the garage and found cloth diapers that had been given to me as wedding gifts (I registered for them). I'll have to check the library for the books you mention. I could use a regular de-clutter pep talk.

Betsy (Eco-novice)

Whoops, I meant cloth napkins not cloth diapers! Guess you can tell what's on this mom of a 1-year-old's mind.

Joy @ JoyfullyGreen.com

Yes, it is amazing what turns up when you clean up and clear out! Some good, some bad...

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