Finding Balance – Stuff vs Stress

Are you still a minimalist if you have more than 33 items of clothing or own more than 100 personal items?

Minimalism is about getting rid of enough stuff so you can focus on your priorities.

In many ways, the less stuff you have, the simpler your life is. You can live in a smaller home, do housework faster, save money and find things more easily, for instance.

This allows you to spend more time and money on the experiences, relationships and things you value most, leading to a more meaningful and fulfilling life.

But if you get rid of too much stuff, you’re likely to increase your stress level instead of reducing it. You need to find the right balance for you and your family.

“I’ve owned no more than one pair of pants at a time for the past eight months. And somehow, the world hasn’t ended.”

– Niall Doherty

Many people are happy to have one set of sheets, one set of towels, even one pair of pants. If that works for you, that’s wonderful.

But it doesn’t work for me. It would stress me out.

However, I don’t feel I’m less of a minimalist because I’m not limiting my stuff to a number set by someone else. Minimalism is about each of us finding the right amount of stuff for our own particular circumstances.

Minimalism is supposed to make your life better. If it’s not, you’re doing it wrong.

I have two sets of sheets and two sets of towels. Why? I could, after all, plan to wash the sheets early enough in the day for me to have them put back on before bed and to wash the towels so they’ll be dry before the next shower. Lots of people do.

But I don’t want to have to do laundry on a certain day or at a certain time. I also don’t want to be sheet-less if the cat pukes on the bed or have to dry myself off with a t-shirt because the power went out for a few hours and the towels are still wet.

I realize these kinds of things don’t happen often, but I don’t want to deal with them at all. And more importantly, I don’t want to worry about them happening.

“If I don’t do laundry today, I’m gonna have to buy new clothes tomorrow.”

– Anna Paquin

The same is true for clothes. We wait to do laundry until we have a full load (it’s better for the environment and saves money).

I don’t want to have to do laundry more often than that just because I’ve run out of clean underwear or spilled coffee all over my only pair of pants.

I’m much more comfortable having enough clothes to wear for a week without needing to do laundry, and, since I’m a klutz, to always have a spare outfit.

Finding balance for your own situation

What works for you is likely different than what works for me. If having one set of sheets is right for you, that’s totally fine. If you’re more comfortable with 3 sets, that’s absolutely okay too. On the other hand, I can’t think of any reason you’d need a dozen sets of sheets for a given bed.

The catch is finding your own “sweet spot.” Having too little stuff can be just as stressful as having too much. More so in some cases.

So, as you’re decluttering, don’t worry about what other people are doing. Use their stories and suggestions not as laws, but as tools to help you find the right amount of stuff for you.


13 thoughts on “Finding Balance – Stuff vs Stress

    • Nope, once a week or so. Sorry that wasn’t clear. I just meant if I have only set of towels (one per person), I’d have to get them washed and dried before the next person was ready for a shower. I’d prefer to throw them in the hamper and not be pressured to get to them right away, since there’s a set to use while one is in the hamper or the wash.

  1. Great post. If I begin to get stressed because I have too few or too much of something. There’s a problem. I agree with this. Maybe if the if the focus remains on the “stuff” however small or big the number is, there’s a problem.

  2. Love the idea of finding a “sweet spot” with possessions. Like all of life, striking a balance that works for your family is really where you’ll thrive. For us, we certainly wouldn’t be pegged as “minimalists” by most standards, but we are not picky about counting items. We just do life as best we can and try not to carry along extra baggage on the way. 😉

  3. Christy, when I first downsized I had people ask me if I was trying to be a minimalist. The only thing I knew about minimalism was in architecture which to me is bland and cold. I did some research on minimalism and found some people were very strict with what they believed to be minimalism with clearly defined rules. These didn’t fit me at all. I wasn’t trying to fit into a mold i was trying to lessen my impact on the planet. That said I have embraced my definition of minimalism with lots of color in my art and a few furnishings and continued my journey to live lightly.

    I like how you defined minimalism. If more people saw the movement through your definition I believe more would embrace living simpler lives.

    • I agree. When I first began reading minimalist living blogs and books, I felt that since I’d never be happy with 1 pair of pants and a mattress in a loft, there was little reason to simplify at all. In hindsight, that’s a pretty silly thought, but I know from talking to others that I’m not the only one who’s felt that way. I do hope I can inspire more people to simplify.

  4. Hello Christy, N!ce post! I like the way you put it – finding a balance, your sweet spot.
    For me, I guess I am in some ways like you – I like to have an extra set of sheets and towels, and enough clothes for a week.

I'd love for you to share your ideas and experiences.