minimalism; less is more

Let it Go! Make this the Season of Giving, not Shopping


With the airwaves and internet full of reminders that the Holiday Season is one* of America’s favorite times to go on a buying spree, we propose an alternative; let things OUT of your life, rather than bringing them in.

After a wonderful Thanksgiving feast of family, food and fun, none of us at moss were particularly inclined to rush out rush out and try to find a steal in the Black Friday sales.  In fact our approach was quite the opposite.  Our monday morning “How Are Yous” included several independent stories of using the opportunity of gathered family and extra time to clear unwanted excess from our lives.

Identifying things to donate means that someone else may be able to use the things we’ve just been feeling crowded by AND it’s a wonderful feeling to conclude the process by admiring all the open space that letting go of extra stuff creates.  Win.  Win.


Still, letting go of our stuff can be difficult.  Americans are amazing hoarders and our un-willingness to let things go has lead to increasing house sizes and additional rented storage spaces which are more and more jam packed.

A Self Storage Association study showed that, by 2007, the once-quintessential client — the family in the middle of a move, using storage to solve a short-term, logistical problem — had lost its majority. Fifty percent of renters were now simply storing what wouldn’t fit in their homes — even though the size of the average American house had almost doubled in the previous 50 years, to 2,300 square feet.

Why do we hang on to so many things we don’t need or use on a daily, weekly, or even yearly basis?  On a cultural level, that might be a question for psychologists or sociologists.  For each of us, as individuals, it can be rhetorical.  Why hang on to it at all?

Why not let it go?


Few of us are guilt free on the subject of having more “stuff” than we need, but we can make the effort to clear it out any time.   There’s also a nearly endless stream of advice flowing around us about how to get thing out of your life.  Here’s one dictum that comes from architecture which can be a useful mantra when trying to cleanse all the excess “stuff” from your life.

“Have nothing in your life that you do not know to be useful or believe to be useful.”

– William Morris

We’ve talked before about how this concept is one of the essential first steps of sustainability.  It is also a key tenant of modernism.  You can’t appreciate the simple beauty of building materials if they are covered in clutter.  A few key momentos are personal treasures but boxes full of them are just a burden.  Keeping multiples of a useful item (like the closet full of “extra” blankets that my family sorted through this weekend) starts to feel like selfishness when there are people right here in Chicago feeling cold.


In the spirit of the holidays we can quote Scrooge’s conclusion, “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”  Our attempts to divest ourself of extra and un-needed “things” while simultaneously getting them into the hands of those who might really need them, shouldn’t be limited to the Tuesday after Thanksgiving.

This IS a particularly good time of year to clear out coats, blankets and other cold weather gear (the motivation behind my family’s push to tackle the closets) when they can be immediately donated to organizations and people who need them.  But we can work on clearing out excess clutter from our lives, and redistributing the largess of our past preferences, all year round.

*I should say 0ne of America’s favorite times to go on a buying spree … for we have several.