How Much Should I Own?

People often want to know how much of something is the “right amount” to own. It could be pairs of shoes, toys, sheets or towels – any number of things. In reality, there’s no right or wrong. What feels like the right number for one person won’t necessarily feel that way to someone else. I like the motive behind the question, though…being open to pare down and resisting excess. In reality, getting and staying organized is definitely easier if you own less. But how much less?

Here are some guidelines and questions to consider as you work toward determining your right amounts.


  1. Do you currently find it hard to keep on top of toy pickup?
  2. Are toys invading multiple areas of the home?
  3. Do you have lots of toys, yet your kids tend to play with the same few?

If you responded yes to these questions, it’s an indicator that you could benefit from paring down. After you’ve gone through one round of editing, ask the questions again. Repeat cycles of editing down, then asking the questions. Ask until you’re able to answer “no” to the questions.

There may be some other changes worth pursuing, as well. For example, to prevent toys from spilling over into multiple areas of the home, you’ll need to set some boundaries with the kiddos. Make it easy for them by providing places to put the toys (labeled containers, shelves, etc.) only where you want the toys to live.

Toy rotation is another great option if you’re not ready to part with something permanently, but want to limit choices and clutter. Kids will appreciate (and use) what is available to them without getting overwhelmed.

When I’m organizing toys for a client, I come across several common categories. These include balls, play-doh/slime, vehicles, building, dolls, craft supplies, workbooks/coloring books, books, stuffed animals, puzzles and games.

2. Clothes and Shoes

clothes and shoes

What someone random on the internet declares is an ideal number/type of clothing items may not work for you. She may have a corporate job, whereas perhaps you’re a stay at home mom. Or, she may live in a colder climate and need all the jackets, whereas you live in a warm climate, and that just doesn’t make sense for you. She has different interests, lifestyle, priorities, budget, clutter threshold and available space. Instead of targeting an arbitrary number, consider:

  1. How often you do laundry. We do laundry daily (again, no right or wrong) – that just works best for us. So, no one in my family has a need for 12 pairs of socks. Instead, I like to consider the duration of a typical vacation. If we travel for 1 week, it’s helpful to own/bring 7-9 pairs of socks, but we wouldn’t have a need for more than that.
  2. How much space you have. Maybe your desired number of sweaters is 10. But, if your space only accommodates 3, that’s probably your right number. Let your space parameters guide you. It’s an impersonal way to help you make decisions of what to let go of.
  3. What you love and what fits. If something doesn’t fit you, isn’t in good condition, or you feel meh when you put it on, consider parting with it.

3. Linens

organized linen closet
  1. Bath Towels: People often have more than their share of raggedy towels. They’ve lived out their usefulness as your primary bath towels, but are kept…just in case. For rags. Or backups. Or, if you get a sudden influx of guests. There are exceptions to this, but 2-3 rag towels would typically be sufficient. I like to keep two bath towels in each full bathroom, and 1-2 backups per bathroom in the linen closet.
  2. Beach Towels: 1 beach towel per person in your household, plus a couple extra, should typically be enough.
  3. Sheets: You can get away with just one sheet set for a master bed. You may want to own 2 sheet sets for a child’s bed – either to swap out seasonally, or in case a set gets dirty. Nobody wants to wait for sheets to wash and dry in a middle-of-the-night emergency.

When in doubt, put something aside for awhile, and see if you need it. You’ll get to your right numbers. Let the space you have be your guide. Then, make maintenance easier on yourself by employing a 1-in-1-out rule. You’ll know it in your gut when you’ve hit your “just right” numbers.

*Post originally written for Living Simply Pittsburgh, posted here:

Decluttering – Why Does it Matter?

Decluttering….it’s a common goal, especially this time of the year. We may have had an influx of gifts over the holidays, the kids were home, structure was, well, nonexistent, and the house can easily slip. As much as we feel that pull to get on top of the clutter, sometimes it’s not lasting. Or, we swing between being on top of it – for 2 seconds – then getting out of control again. What are the reasons to declutter?

If a decluttered state is what you’re after for the long term – if you want that to be the rule, instead of the brief exception, it’s worth exploring why you want to declutter in the first place. Your why may be different than mine, and it’s important to personalize the reasons so they really resonate with you. Why? Because then, you’re more likely to stay motivated for the long haul. Here are some common benefits to decluttering. See if any of these ring true for you, or if you’d add to or modify the list. 6 reasons to declutter:

1. Stress less

reasons to declutter = less stress!

When your environment is cluttered, your mind can easily become cluttered, too. What does this look like? What does it feel like? An inability to see past the clutter to focus on other things. Easily frazzled and behind the ball. Irritable, unproductive, overwhelmed, frustrated you can’t find what you need, even ashamed.

On the flip slide, when your space is pared down to what you use and love, you notice and appreciate those things more (and the people in your space). You have more time and energy to focus on what really matters to you. There’s space to breathe.

2. Save $

When you declutter, you become more aware of what you have. And, when you know what you have, you won’t buy more of it.

You’ll likely also find that you want less. You’re content with less. So, the allure of buying the new thing starts to fade.

And, lastly, when you declutter items in good condition – that you no longer use or need, you can sell them, and put that $ toward something meaningful.

3. Entertain with freedom

Clutter doesn’t need to be accompanied by a hesitancy to have people over due to the state of your home. But sometimes that’s the case. I’ve heard clients share that they’re embarrassed to entertain, so they don’t. Their ability to connect with others, share a meal with loved ones, is being stolen due to their stuff! Their stuff and the power it is exercising is robbing them of living freely! If that’s you, you can take that power back!

If it feels overwhelming at first, here are some suggestions on where and how to start digging out. It’s so worth it.

reasons to declutter = entertain without embarrassment!

4. Find hidden treasure

Things you thought were lost or forgot you had unearth themselves. You’ll find toys that will feel brand new to the kids, “new” pieces to add to your wardrobe, or that long lost item you’ve been searching for.

5. Maintain more easily

This is one of the BEST reasons to declutter! Decluttering (not just picking up and temporarily sorting and organizing excess, but truly paring down) is a great way to set yourself up for a long term decluttered state! More than a fancy organizing system, more than products and gadgets, or throwing money at it. Paring down means there is less to purchase, fix, maintain, clean, and keep track of. There’s no magic wand of maintenance (daily habits are key), but the initial heavy lifting of decluttering is the bulk of the work.

6. Reclaim your time

Where do the days go? How can we get everything done? Always so much to do, and it’s easy to feel that our time is not our own. There is absolutely a link between being decluttered and having more time to spend how we want to spend it.

It’s easy to find reasons for our clutter and forget our reasons to declutter. “This was from my great Aunt Marge. I have to keep it.” “Everyone gives the kids so many gifts.” “Noone picks up their stuff!” I’m sure you could add to this list. And, we don’t want to minimize these challenges. But, we also don’t want to give them more power than is there’s to claim. And, we don’t want them to get in the way of our goals. Who’s in charge of your home? Do you have the ability to make positive change? To say what stays and what goes? Yes, of course you do! Baby steps. It’s well worth the effort, especially when you find (and remember) YOUR why.

8 Strategies to Finish the Projects You Start

Projects and tasks have a natural cadence and flow to them. There’s the excitement of getting started, the messy middle, and the conclusion. Somewhere around the messy middle (literally messy when the project involves organizing) it gets to be… not so fun. You’ve been knee deep for several hours, maybe the kids have been ignored and are vying for attention, our energy is zapped…who wants to push through, much less clean up? It doesn’t have to be that way! Here are 7 strategies that build your follow through muscles so you can finish what you start!

1. Break projects into smaller work packages.

Depending on the size of your project, it may be helpful to break it down into bite sized chunks that can each be accomplished – start to finish, in one session. This helps to prevent the fatigue that can set in when we try to do too much at once. You may only have 15 minutes to allocate to something. That’s ok! Choose to work on something that CAN be finished in that amount of time. Or, if it’s a larger project, do a little bit at a time, day after day. Schedule it in just like you would an outside appointment.

2. Identify and remove obstacles.

What typically prevents you from finishing something? Distraction? Fatigue? Boredom? Overwhelm? Underestimating how long something will take?

If distraction is the main culprit, proactively address this so it won’t be an issue. Keep your phone out of sight, find childcare for the kiddos, or choose a day that’s not too busy so you’ll be able to focus and prioritize this work.

3. Decide you will finish.

finish line

Decide you’re one of those people who follows through and finishes the job! Even if that doesn’t happen all the time, declaring it to be so puts you in the frame of mind to put distractions in their place. To enlist help if you need it. To look forward to celebrating at the finish line!

4. Take breaks and vary the work.

Your project may involve a significant amount of decision making along the way (decluttering, for example – deciding what stays and what goes). This can be taxing, so if you start to feel like calling in the towel, instead try to shift your focus to doing something else that you do have the energy for. If you’ve been accumulating a donate and sell pile, take a minute to do something mindless and run the donations to your car. Or, snap some pics of your items to sell. Then, more often than not, you’ll be re-energized to get back to what you were doing.

4. Do one project at a time.

Sometimes, the very fact that we are simultaneously trying to juggle multiple projects at once – each with its own challenges, opportunities, messes, budgets – can be overwhelming! Well, no wonder! Simplifying and focusing on just one at a time makes us more likely to finish what we start. Then, move on to the next thing.

5. Acknowledge progress.

You demo’d the cabinets? Good for you! It may look messy now, but you’re that much closer to your end goal. Recognize that. Notice it. You went to the store and purchased all your supplies? Fantastic! Acknowledge these micro goals and the part they play in making it to project completion.

6. Don’t compare.

Comparison is the thief of joy, right? You may be comparing to the Pinterest version, or even how you thought it should go, or how far along you thought you’d be by a certain point. We’re our own worst critic! Give yourself a break and know you’re doing your best. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other, and hopefully, when you’re done, you can adopt the perspective that, if nothing else, you persevered and learned something along the way.

7. Be realistic.

If this is a time of life for you where it’s difficult to carve out 5 min. of alone time, much less the necessary hours to allocate to a project, it’s ok to defer something to a later date. Or, if it’s a must have right now, determine what you can delegate or hire out. Another strategy would be to lengthen your timeline to account for slow and steady progress.

8. Keep your end goal in mind.


Sometime we’re simply weary as we inch toward the finish line. That’s a great time to keep in mind your why. There’s a reason you’ve been putting time, energy, and resources into something, right? Because it’s important to you! And, it’ll be worth it in the end!

8 Ways We Waste Time

We all waste time. There’s no use feeling guilty about it. We’re not robots, nor are we striving for a life of 100% productivity. Mindlessly vegging out can be a way to unwind, relax, and gear up for a new day. But….if you find yourself running out of time to do what you want or need to do, it’s worth taking a hard look at where you’re wasting time.

I like to differentiate between truly wasting time and just having down time. Wasting time is when we should be productive or we need to get things done, but little habits (that we may not even be aware of), get in the way. Then, our time isn’t our own. It slips through our fingers and we feel like we were running around but getting nothing done. Time is one thing we can’t get back. So, let’s be deliberate about it. Here are 8 ways we waste time. The more aware we are of these things, the more we can mindfully form new habits that serve us better.

1. Looking for things

We definitely have better ways to be spending our time than the frustrating searching for lost items. One way to decrease this is to find a home for everything, and put things away after we use them.

2. Procrastinating

Time wasters aren’t always physical activities. Sometimes, a loop of unhelpful thoughts or angst about doing a particular something is the culprit of wasting time. Just do the hard thing. Get it out of the way by doing it first thing!

3. Multi tasking

Wait, what? This is a necessity and, frankly, a badge of honor for us mamas, right? We’re awfully good at it and get a heck of a lot done! But, sometimes, we flit and float from this to that without finishing things. As tempting as it is to bounce around, certain activities benefit from more focused thought (reading, writing, creating, problem solving). If being surrounded by kiddos who need your attention makes this challenging, early morning or late night hours are often peaceful times for distraction free focus.

4. Watching TV

Is it always on in the background, grabbing our attention for a bit, pulling us away from what we’re doing? There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, and of course – no judgment. But, try to change it up by leaving it off for just a couple days and see if it makes a positive difference in your productivity.

5. Phone scrolling

scrolling phone wastes time

Time spent here sure adds up! Try switching up habits a little. Instead of reaching for your phone upon waking, wait until a certain time of the day to pick up your phone. Another trick is to set a timer and give yourself 10 min. to scroll, then be done with it. It’s not about total deprivation, but, instead, moderation – being present enough to be in the moment with whatever your day brings you….a child asking to play, work commitments that need to be handled, or some screen free quiet time.

6. Worrying

It’s unproductive, based in negativity, and makes it very difficult to focus on what’s important. At the end of the day, your situation hasn’t changed but you’ve lost valuable time rehearsing worst case scenarios. Often, we worry about things that are out of our control anyway!

Instead, you could talk to someone. Sometimes just verbalizing worries helps put them to rest. Or, just give yourself permission to worry for a set amount of time, then you’ll be able to let go and move on peacefully.

worrying wastes time

7. Trips to the grocery store

Really? We need to go to the grocery store again? For the 3rd time this week? Sometimes it’s unavoidable and things come up. But, often, making lists and planning out some meals will help in this area. Also, solicit input from your family prior to your main grocery trip so you can be sure to purchase the cleanser your daughter just ran out of, or the brownie mix your son was hoping to make with his friend the next day.

8. Not finishing what you started

Every time you put something down and pick it up later, there’s a ramp up time to get back into it. And it’s a waste of time! “What was I trying to say in that half written email?” you wonder. If you expect to be interrupted mid task, consider breaking the task into smaller chunks that have distinct starting and stopping points that makes sense. This will make it easier for you to pick up again later.