Do You Have Your Stuff or Does It Have You?

Post by: Kelly Murphy-Briley

I just finished looking through some pictures
from a few years ago, 
and that question
of why came back again.. The 
why-as in:
Why did I keep all that stuff!? Why did I
need all this stuff? So as I delve into that
question, maybe you should ask yourself
the same one, unless you already have a
beautifully kept minimalist home. 
And if that’s true, then you probably
don’t need to read this blog.
Even from 
my youth, I can remember
living in a house full of stuff. 
I remember a huge Mayflower truck
coming to our house when we moved
from Louisiana to Arkansas.
The Mayflower guys came in and
wrapped and packed everything for us. 
I think the truck was one of their largest,
but of course, to an 8-year-old, I thought
it was the biggest they rented!
Once we moved to the farm, I remember
much of our things we didn’t use still
packed in boxes in the basement.
And that was years. Some of the reason,
was because our house was in constant
renovation, and I guess Mom figured it
would get ruined by kids running around
the house.  And I don’t think she ever did
unpack her purple drinking glasses, unless
it was after I went to college. 
I think some of the reasons we tolerate 
too much stuff, or dare I say..clutter-
clutter has been the norm
for us. That is what we know
The clutter of the parents, will shape
their children’s clutter.  Yes, kids are thrown
into their parent’s issues, whatever they are.
Children learn by example.  
So, if you are a clutterbug, there is a 50/50
chance you will pass it on to your kids.  
I know my parents definitely passed that on
to my sisters and me.
Why did my parents have so much stuff?
They had their reasons, and some were
legitimate. Growing up during the
Depression, and with lots of siblings,
may have been some of the reason.
And on a farm it is very possible
that the saying, “I might need it later!”
was really true. We lived a bit
far from town, so couldn’t
always run out and buy
something. That would have
been two hours back and
forth with considering
shopping time. And the
had their scheduled milking
 time, and it cost money,
which did not grow on trees.
There was no reason to spend
money on something we already
might have had.  Of course, you
had to find it. And that might or
might not be difficult.  
Oh, and what about the culture influence?
 The American way….It seems
bigger is better, and the more
stuff you have the ‘richer’ you
must be. Right?  
When we visited people who
didn’t have much stuff, it was
usually because they were poor
since they were in crisis-
maybe a mom whose husband
had just died, or left her with a newborn,
or a family who’d had a fire,
or an elderly person who had
to sell much of her china,
and farm equipment, to keep
the farm in the family. 
NOBODY had less stuff
just because!
That would just be weird
I love watching House Hunters,
and sometimes I watch House
Hunters International
. Have
you? Ever notice the difference
in the comments between shows?
On House Hunters, (a show where
realtors show couples homes
only in the U.S.) you almost
always have one of the couple
commenting on how “Oh, honey!
I don’t think this closet will hold
all of your clothes! Oh, where
will we put my shoes?” 
If you watch it, and nine times out of ten,
you will hear a comment similar.  
But, on  House Hunters International,
couples or families from any and other countries,
(besides the U.S.) who look for homes,
don’t freak out when they see a small
closet or home.
 They say, “It’s cozy!” But if it is an
American couple or family, they
usually reference how “small the
closet” or how “tiny the bedrooms”
“What! There’s a washer/dryer
setup in the bathroom!” 
“Oh, I love everything about this
house, but we can’t buy it,
because the closets are tiny!
 Oh me! Oh my! Oh paalease!
Oh, come on, just get rid of
some of your clothes, already!
(That’s me, yelling @ the T.V.!)  
Let’s face it. We Americans,
 have been sold the idea that
bigger is better,
(especially in houses) and
is equated to success and wealth! 
 This is why the hoarders
shows are popular. We are
fascinated that someone
could let things get so bad!
And then we feel better about
ourselves because we have less
stuff than they!  Because,
(I say to myself) at least my
stuff is good stuff, not just crap!
Oh really?! Watch the hoarders
shows more closely….
Much of the time you can see
things with store tags still
on the items!
So clutter, for some of us/me
has been the norm. 
Which brings me to the next 
why do I still need all that stuff?
Why am I holding on to it?
Now, I am not even talking
about the stuff for everyday use.
I am talking about the stuff that
has accumulated in attics and
closets, and dressers, and
Let me bravely use myself
as an example: 
One year I taught a beautiful,
and loving group of students.
We had a mutual love for each
other- each with his and her
own personalities, and quirks.
We had a sweet community
in our classroom. 
Words cannot express how
much I loved these kids. 
But, with the same fervor
the students and I loved
each other, the principal
disliked me. I will even
say hated me, because
of being assigned and not
‘handpicked’ by her.
She was controlling and
“always got her way.”
That was a quote from her. 
Anyone who disagreed
with her on an issue,
was “insubordinate.”
She felt better by going
out of her way to be
controlling and mean.
Not just to me, but I
was the unlucky one to
be on her radar that year.   
After surviving a whole
year of hearing what an
awful job I was doing from her,
and a year of what a great job
I was doing from my parents
and teacher colleagues, the
last day of school finally
arrived… It was bittersweet.
Although I knew I wasn’t
returning,  my principal
refused to let me reveal
 this to the parents or students.
And since I wanted my paycheck,
I listened to her. One of my colleagues came
by my room to announce that
Principal Meanie-Face (as I will
call her) was leaving in 45
minutes, and anyone who
didn’t have her room packed
up and empty would be required
to return the following day,
(my precious Saturday,
first day of summer vacation,
away from Principal
Meanie-Face) to finish,  
because our principal was
locking the building.  
Well, I wasn’t going
to spend one more day at
that school.
throwing stuff in boxes, and
trash bags, right and left,
using anything I had, 
frantically trying to get out.
I made it in time, but it took
more than 5 years to
the strength to go through
those boxes. Not because I
threw stuff with proper packing,
but because my confidence
in myself was so damaged
I hadn’t possessed the bravery
to deal with all those memories. 
Good or bad. But I finally
found the gumption to do it.  
I didn’t throw everything out.
I kept pictures and notes
 from 1st graders telling me
they “wished I was their mother”
and added them to my teaching 
scrapbook.  It was emotional
but I got through it. 
 I needed to hold on to that stuff
until I had the courage to deal
with the emotions
. All that
sweetness of the children,
my teacher of the year nomination,
(Yeah, go figure) concern of my 
teacher buddies, and meanness
of an angry, power-hungry
principal were all rolled up and placed
in one section of my attic. 
The point is: I had kept
those things for a reason.
And eventually, I had to
deal with the reason.  
Because to stay emotionally
healthy, we all have to
eventually deal with the reasons. 
It was hard, but I am able
to look back and say:
I survived a horrible situation.
I learned that 
God doesn’t
always take away a tough
situation or stress. 
Sometimes He wants us
to learn how to deal with it
by leaning on Him, and
calming ourselves. 
That leads to peace
in difficult situations,
and not simply peaceful

I want more out of life than my stuff.
Don’t you? So, these days, I look
@ weird a bit differently, 
and the
more evolved and older I get…the
more I like weird. 
What about you?
What’s your why? Why are you
holding on to stuff? And are you
holding on to your stuff
or is it holding on to you? 

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Will You Still Like Me if I Become a Minimalist?

Posted by: Kelly Murphy-Briley

Hi friends!  Been out-of-town enjoying the beautiful
Ozarks for Spring Break, but am now back and I
wanted to add my two cents to a subject I have read
about via internet. There seems to be some talk about
whether a person can keep his/her friends,
and still be a minimalist
. I haven’t really had
any negative feedback, except from folks reacting
by saying they need to get rid of stuff too! (Plus,
they are probably thinking, “It’s about darn time.”)
When I share with others my newfound philosophy
of trying to live simply, not one person has told me
he wishes he had more stuff.
I have always known I wanted to live more simply…
Who do you know that  wants a more complicated life?
Like any great life change, if minimalism is to
work, it has to become a daily thing
Little by little, things stay picked up.
Even a 15-minute pick up will help with clutter.

Most people just react to my becoming a minimalist
by saying how much they too, need to sort through
and discard their unused items.   Even in these
tough economic times, it seems EVERYONE
has stuff they need to chunk. But I can speak
only from my American perspective.

For me, the big question, was how did
I get here? How did I accumulate so
much stuff, and why? And how do I
get motivated to get rid of what I don’t
need? One of the things that helped
me deal with those questions, was
to pick a section of the house to work
on each week. I like to clean from the
top down, so I started with the attic.

First, I put a big box, on the ground floor,
right below the attic entrance, and what
I wanted to donate I put in the big box.
Anything I wanted to keep, I put in a
different bag, and later converted to
one of the GIANT ZIPLOCKS. I didn’t
label it, because the fabulous GIANT
ZIPLOCKS are transparent, so there’s
no need to label!  Then, after I had gone
through the attic, I started sorting through
the box.  Anything I thought I could give
to someone I knew, I put in a separate
bag; anything I wanted to donate to
Goodwill, I put in a bag, and immediately
stored in my car trunk. Anything I was
unsure about, I left in the attic, until the
next time I had time to get to it. Then, I t
ook the two bags to my car. I went immediately
to Goodwill, or to the lucky recipient’s abode.
Note that I did this that day, so as not to
create a cluttered car trunk.
Note to self,  tackle the closets.
And as to the why.. I have read people keep
things, and buy things to fill a void. I guess,
having lots of stuff made me feel better
about myself, and richer.
But in the process of accumulating things,
clutter began to become a weight around
my neck. It was like being choked, emotionally.
Not dealing with it was holding me back from
the changes I need to make.
I had heard people say how “freeing” it
was to give stuff away, get rid of things,
and live with less. Yeah, yeah, yeah……..
Until I experienced that feeling it was hard
to explain or understand. Once you do,
it is a good feeling!  This is not to say I
had never donated anything, but it had
just been easier to write a check.  But that
‘feeling’ did increase my motivation.
As for the psychology of it, I guess I selfishly
became a minimalist to make myself feel
better.  I also do nut want to leave a bunch
of stuff for my family to have to sort through,
if something were to happen to me.  I  didn’t
want them to experience added stress that
coping with my lose would bring.  Discarding
unused items the beginning of my minimalism,
but my learning why I have to keep what I have,
will  help me keep stuff to a minimum.
The trick, I think, is to live with only what
you need and really love.
And if there is truth
to what I have read about clutter stunting creativity,
then I am hoping to become more creative along my journey.

That will hopefully help me keep the friends I have, and develop some new  friendships as well.
So, what about you? What is your most annoying clutter challenge?
Reading, retweeting, commenting, and subscribing helps me grow my blog!

Why Mooving 2 Minimalism?


     You probably know that when trying to sell a house, it’s easier to keep it “show ready” instead of rush to straighten only for appointments.  That way, all that’s left to do is leave.  I’d rather not stress out by trying to grab anything left out and run to stash it in the car trunk, but instead, use that hour to take my dog, purse, and keys, and head to the park.   

And for me, out of that motivation to sell, some good results have come.. One of them being the motivation to pass on those no-longer-needed items, and declutter. Of course, “no longer-needed” items are often items that can be done without.  Not that every family member is always motivated to declutter at the same time. I’m certainly not saying that. (I am still hoping a certain family member will declutter the top of his closet, and throw out those pants left over from college, back in 1989). 

 But do I have to become a minimalist just to sell my house? No, not if you want to rent storage space or have a friend with lots of free storage space.  And actually that was my only motivation: to make the house look decluttered. I thought I’d just put it all in the attic. But then I went up in the attic, and saw I really had little room to store anything up there!  Ok… I don’t know where all that stuff came from!

 Actually I do, I just don’t know why I kept  it all! (Well, I didn’t @ the time, but I do now. I grew up hearing… “I think I’ll keep that. I might need it later.” )

   And …. that’s what started it.

So back to the attic….I began to go through years of teaching paraphernalia, posters, letters, school supplies, games, and teaching materials from ’89.’    But now my teaching stuff is compacted into five boxes, which may seem like a lot, but for someone who started teaching back in 1986, that is saying something.   I was able to give away about 2 box loads of stuff: stuff like: pencils, 7 reams of unopened copy paper, (teachers are known for their stockpiling expertise) notebooks and notepaper, notepads, individual chalkboards,  crayons, staples, etc… (No teacher ever has enough pencils.)

Luckily I have a friend who just got her first teaching job, and needed everything.   She teaches in a Memphis urban school, and her first graders seldom show up with even a pencil, much less the other stuff.  She took whatever she wanted out of the stuff, and I donated the rest to a Sunday school and Goodwill.  Everybody won! Especially me! I got to declutter and I felt good about it. (Sometimes it makes the letting go easier if I know who it’s helping), and my friend and her class now have supplies to nurture learning.   

The other boxes, I will actually use when I return to teaching, but if it turns out I don’t use them in the nest year, I can give them to another teacher, or a school. 

  This is why I say I am mooving toward minimalism. The moo in the mooving meaning-like a cow- it’s a slow process.  Cows, if you don’t know, rarely run, unless they must. They move very slooowly! A dairyman knows a cow shouldn’t run since it hinders her milk production, and maybe cows know it too, because they sure are difficult to motivate, unless by food. They are stubborn, and have their own pace. Every tried to move one?

I am moving toward minimalism-at my own pace-slowly, which is actually how many of us come to minimalism. Getting a house ready to sell, and selling a house, especially in the current housing market is a slow process, but becoming a minimalist, even if  for awhile, can really help. And you might find you like it!

 Being a minimalist means different things to different folks. To some, it means getting one room, (or an attic decluttered) for  another it means selling everything and moving to the woods. To some it means becoming a monk, to others downsizing from a mansion, to a tiny house.  (Check out Ozarks Crescent Mural on the blogroll for more pics).

 For me it was slow, but it happened when I started thinking about why I had the stuff  I had. Once I figured that out, I was able to reevaluate and decide what to minimize. 

And that is what makes minimalism so ‘doable’–it’s flexibility. But it is more than just getting rid of stuff, but about trying to focus on what really matters toyou.   Minus the clutter, and the time spent cleaning and organizing the clutter, —what really matters?

Just like everyone else I have to do stuff: carpool, laundry, grocery shopping, car care, yard work, vacuuming, dusting, cleaning, etc. And now because our house is for sale, I get to do it more often.  I have gotten busier with other things lately, like blogging, reading up on how to blog better, taxes, and car repair, but what I’ve noticed is my stress level is much lower, and  I am more relaxed. Why? Because my house is straight and tidy. If people drop by I don’t have to freak out and try to throw stuff in the closet. Have you ever done that?  Now I just have to answer the door!

Relaxing !

When my teen was a toddler, I used to love getting together with other moms with toddlers the same age as my daughter.  A close friend of mine had a daughter who was about the same age as mine, and we used to get the girls together and hang out @ each other’s houses once every few weeks. Our daughter’s loved spending time together as did we. So, one day, on a day that wasn’t our scheduled time to get together, I was in her neighborhood, and decided to drop by and surprise her. So I went to her house, knocked on the door, waited a bit, walked around to the back yard to see if they were in the back yard, came back to the door, and knocked again. Finally, she came to the door. She had been home the entire 10 minutes I been outside(sweating profusely.  And she was glad to see me, and thanked me for dropping by, but would NOT let me in!  She said her house was too dirty! This was a close friend, too! Instead, she told me to drive around for 30 minutes and then come back.

Needless to say, that made an impression on me. I couldn’t believe that she would not let me in, or that her house was that bad!   That seemed so odd to me!  And yet, I, too, have had those times when I thought:  ‘Man- it would be nice to have someone over..if only the house was clean, but I’d have had to declutter it just to clean it!”    Minimalism really helps me with that, because there is less stuff to clean and less knickknacks to dust!  Organizers are great, walk-in closets are great, but do we REALLY need all those clothes?! 

What about you? Is decluttering a constant issue? Are you longing to minimize your stuff, or are you minimally minimizing? Any challenges?  Share your comments!


Remember the last time you examined your Target receipt (or other department store receipt) and read “5% of our profits goes back to your community” or something similar? Me too. And when I read that, I feel some satisfaction, because in some small way, I’m feel like I am helping make a difference. I like that companies, especially large ones-give back!  Because I believe we are here on Earth for a reason.

But how often do we see  “100% of our profits go to charity” written on  a receipt or anywhere?  Well, not often. Ok, rarely.  We don’t expect that because it isn’t the way to run a business or make a profit, right?  Who does that anyway?

Well, today I will tell you about someone who is doing just that.  I’m thrilled to report he has written his first e-book, and will donate not 5% or 10% – (as is the norm for many organizations), but 100% of the profits, during the first week of his launch to the charity, Hope International!

I am speaking of Mike Donghia,  experienced blogger, college student, and now-ebook writer of  his new book, Rise Above The Noise. The link is ……. .

"Rise Above The Noise"

"Rise Above The Noise"

Let me tell you that Mike’s passion for helping others in need, whether through blogging helpful information, or through donating a week’s worth of profits from the sale of his e-book to Hope International,  has led him to give us specific ways to help ourselves with all of Life’s noise.

While the internet enables us to connect with people halfway around the world, and provides very valuable information simply by the tap of a keyboard button,  it can also be very disheartening. There are so many distractions and some of them are negative. It’s sooooo easy to get reeled in by ‘the noise.’  Sometimes we are so caught up in that noise, it creates mental clutter.

I feel that way sometimes— like I can’t even make a difference in my own home, or my own neighborhood, much less around the world!  Don’t you? Like our hands are tied so tightly, and our day so full-that inside I think ….How can I help anyone around the globe, when my own life is nuts!!?

Well, both! Mike’s insights provide a way for help with both.  He talks about the ways technology helps us become more human, and yet how it can also cause us to lose touch with ourselves and each other. And he speaks from his own experience of struggles with managing technology without neglecting his studies, relationships, and his responsibilities.

He addresses how our minds are too noisy…..

Remember the last time you set down to lunch with someone who didn’t make a phone call, receive a phone call, text, check a social network or email?  If you answered yes, you are in the minority.  And how did it feel when you were in the middle of sharing a story, or important point, and noticed your friend’s eye slowly shifting to scroll and check his or her phone? It’s distracting, right?   We can all get caught up in that.

Mike writes about how “choosing less” and minimalism has led him to refocus and  “turn down the noise” while calling on several experts-like Colin Wright, Tyler Tervooren, and Tammy Stroble, who share their thoughts and personal experiences on the issue.

There’s a reference in the book about being the “pioneer of my own frontier” which struck a chord with me. It reminded me that–yes, it starts with me!  Change has to begin with me!  And believing someThing, someOne- is out there beyond ourselves, spurns us on too, doesn’t it?

When I help someone, in whatever way, and see that person’s life become better- I give hope. I get hope.  And I make the world a better place!  In fact, in the process, I become a better me. I help myself, and that spreads and spreads like in that commercial “I’d like to give the world a Coke….

But I have to know how to do that. Well, Mike covers that in his book. And he loves Hope International; a world-renowned organization which helps others through: finding sponsorship of orphans and homeless children, assisting villages in creating wells for healthy water, providing financial assistance to impoverished young woman, and providing small loans of up to $200 to partner with people in Third World countries who can use those loans to begin small businesses which support their families.

So, here is your chance.  Buy the book for a thrifty $10.  It’s packed with great information, and remember 100% of the proceeds go to Hope International during the first week of the launch! You can check out their website at

To buy the $10 e-book check out Mike’s blog at .

If you like what you see on this blog, share this article on Facebook or Twitter and help somebody else as you help yourself at the same time! Share this article and you help me grow my blog–kind of like giving the world a Coke!

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