April 17

Need or Want? Or is it Clutter?



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Do you need or want it? Or is it just stuff taking up room? And while I’m talking about the stuff in your home, it could just as easily be about something like a relationship or friendship, or I suppose, lots of other things. That second piece of cake? The first piece of cake?

I read something today that really gave me pause and got me started on this subject. It wasn’t anything new; I’ve heard it a thousand times. I’ve actually said it myself lots of times. But for some reason, today, it really hit me.

Basically, it was about cleaning your house, and the article said to prioritize what you need and give away or get rid of the rest. (I can’t find the article now, or I would link it. But that phrase was so powerful to me that I wrote it down.)

Prioritize what you need.

Have you ever done that? I haven’t.

If I’m going through stuff, as I was yesterday, to me it’s “do I use this?” or “do I want this?”. Need or want: I guess if I use it, I need it, but I’m not so sure.

This is Not Minimalism

I’m not advocating a minimalist lifestyle here. If that’s something that appeals to you, go for it.

I read an article once where the blogger said that you only need one bath towel per family member. Ummm…..no.


There are three of us in our home and my husband and I both use two towels. I need one to wrap around my hair and a second to dry with. He needs two – don’t tell him I told you this – because he needs one for the “top half” and one for the “bottom half”. 😂😂😂

When we moved to the home we are in now, fifteen years ago, we were moving from Michigan to Indiana. There turned out to be a few months in between one house and another, so I had to narrow our possessions down to the essentials. Those pods you can rent fit next to nothing, especially when you have two daughters and their clothes.

I spent years furnishing this home, starting from square one like newlyweds. No furniture except our beds. And the move was so costly, we didn’t have extra to go buy new stuff. So minimalism is something I have experienced and don’t want to repeat.

Still, it would be nice to have a more manageable amount of stuff. As in, less stuff.

What About Have, As in You Have to Have It?

Need or want? I think both are necessary, but I’m no longer buying for the sake of having.

This is going to sound ridiculous, but at one point, I noticed that everyone seemed to collect something. For my husband, it was hockey cards. One friend collected the same dishes her mom used to use.

I didn’t collect anything, unless you count the rocks I pick up everywhere and jars. Oh, and notebooks, but that came later.

So I decided that I would collect snowmen. Cute decorations for Christmas (don’t get me started on some people’s Christmas collections!) and useful even after, as long as it was snowy outside.

At one point, I had over 100. People would buy them for me, I bought them for myself. Early on in this house, before we had much furniture, we ripped out all of the carpeting on the first floor and put in hardwood. My husband did it himself, in his spare time. It took over a year.

I remember that Christmas, we had the tree and all of this hardwood stacked all over the living room. I don’t remember if there was any seating at all. But I got some fake snow, some lights, and my 100 snowmen and I decorated those stupid boards. It was all I had to decorate, and I was determined to do it.


Now at the time, those 100 snowmen gave me joy. (Hello, Marie Kondo.) And because they did, I didn’t mind storing them or taking care of them. And that’s part of the puzzle.

If It “Sparks Joy”

That’s one of Marie’s rules. To keep something, it must “spark joy”. So if it’s something you love, you have the room for it, and you’re willing to take care of it, then you should keep it.

When I talk about clutter – and I’m sure this is true for most people who talk about it – we’re talking about the stuff you really don’t give much thought to.

As I said, yesterday I cleaned out a cupboard in my kitchen. This is a corner cupboard, and I’ve always used it for seasonal things. If ever there was a useless waste of space, that might have been it.

I have a jar of paper straws in a glass container. They’re eco-friendly because they’re paper, not plastic. And they’re cute. I have all kinds of colors and lots for holidays. But no one likes them because they’re paper. Even my grandson won’t use them.

I had two Patron bottles a friend gave me because I wanted some. The Mexican restaurant downtown puts flowers in them on the table and they looked pretty so I wanted to do that. Did I ever do it? Nope.

It turned out that I didn’t need or want those things anymore.


Remember I said the article I read talked about prioritizing your needs? Let’s take a look at that. What do we actually need?

  • Clothing, shoes, etc – but how much?
  • Things to cook and eat with
  • Bedding and somewhere to sleep
  • Lighting
  • A place to sit

What we actually need is probably not a lot. Do we need our cell phones? Some would say yes, others would say no. The Amish live without a lot of things we take for granted. But there are things that they need, like a carriage, that we don’t.

All right. Getting too philosophical here.

So you have all of your stuff divided into the things you need or want. You have the room for them and the willingness to take care of them.

Anything outside of that: is that clutter? Your husband’s bowling trophies might be clutter to you, but to him they “spark joy”. Give and take here, as well as need or want.

The Real Clutter

I think a lot of our clutter has an expiration date attached to it. Just like when you clean out the fridge and get rid of the outdated stuff, some of our clutter is like that.

My husband and I each got a magazine in the mail today. I’ll go through mine in the next day or so and it will be in the recycling bin in a few days. His will be here for months. Sometimes years. To me, that’s clutter.

Your mail can easily be clutter if you let it. Now you probably need some of it, but if it just lays around on the kitchen counter in an unorganized pile, it’s clutter. And you might throw out something you need. Or more likely, let useless stuff make your kitchen look messy.


How much makeup do you have? Makeup has an expiration date, you know. Here is a great guide for you to check your supply. I bet you have more than a few you should throw out. And then you can buy more!

Here’s a few more things you might want to consider:

  • Socks and underwear – you know you have some with no working elastic anymore.
  • Plasticware containers in the kitchen. Can you match each with a lid?
  • The clothes you’re going to fit into one day.
  • The sentimental things you can’t bear to part with. Those are hard. Maybe let someone else do it.
  • Medications, etc. All the pills, liquids, lotions, etc. Is your sunscreen still good? It has an expiration date too. So do most over the counter medications.
  • Towels, washcloths, and sheets that are past their prime.

I could go on, but you get the picture.

How about we decide to do what William Morris suggested:

Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.

Imagine that for a moment. Living in a house where everything is either useful or beautiful. Nothing else. Sounds sort of calming and serene, doesn’t it?

About the author 


My name is Brenda and I was born without the "clean gene". I believe that you can keep your clean and tidy in minutes a day and still have time for yourself.

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