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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Laying Aside Weights -- Get Rid of Fifty Things Challenge


(That’s the not-endangered spotted carpet of our spare bed room.
Thanks former resident, whoever you are.)

Hebrews 12:1  Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

I mentioned in a previous post in this series that I’ve been working on a decluttering challenge myself and would tell you more later.  This is “later”. :-)

In reading and watching things about the whole decluttering process, I came across a reference to a book called “Throw Out Fifty Things” by Gail Blanke.  In reading some of the book online at Amazon.com I concluded that I wanted to buy the book and read it, which I did.  Now, right up front I have to say that I really can’t recommend this book.  The reason is that, though the first part of the book is useful, the author has a number of chapters on decluttering one’s thinking and indentity which contain too much of the rudiments of the world.  Colossians 2:8  Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.  Throughout the book, in fact, is a thread that says you can “reinvent yourself” into something better and “become the person you want to be.”  As Christians we are called to be what God wants us to be, to be “reinvented” by Him.  2 Corinthians 5:17  Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

Having said that, I did find some things in the book that I could extract and use which were helpful to me.  The basic decluttering challenge in relation to going through one’s possessions was workable and there were some useful points there. 

To start with, the basic plan is to learn to disengage yourself appropriately both mentally and emotionally from the clutter in your life.  Secondly, the plan is to go through all of your stuff in a relatively short amount of time (I think the basic process was to take two weeks) and to “throw out fifty things” (you’re allowed to donate them or give them away). The grit of the challenge comes in when you find that each individual thing is not counted, but rather categories!  So, if you go through your books and “throw out” 15 that counts as one thing.  If you discard 22 items of clothing and pairs of socks, that counts as one thing.  Yeah, that’s a lot harder than you might at first think!  To get to fifty takes some work.

Also included in the throwing away process is bad habits and thought processes.  This was where the book became considerably less interesting to me.  There was quite a bit there was not too useful for a Christian for various reasons.  Some of it was still OK and had a point, though not applied the way she used it.  However, the basic idea of changing one’s habits and thought processes for the better can be applied in a Christian manner.

So, being me (the ladies in my family are noted for altering recipes, even on the first go), I changed it right off to fit my own needs and methods.  I didn’t start in the room she recommended (the master bed room).  We live in a single wide with additions on both sides, so  I started in the room that made the most sense progressively, which was the master bath.

At first I focused on the object-type things only, and I made some good progress.  As I mentioned before, when you start seeing the things go it can be quite invigorating and make you want to do even more. :-) 

Mrs. Blanke’s rules of disengagement left somewhat to be desired in my opinion (from a Christian perspective).  We do need to disengage ourselves from our things, and from wrong thinking and even some people.  However, it’s important to try to come at this from a biblical direction.  Some points in other areas that Mrs. Blanke made were spot on, so in my own thinking I kind of incorporated those into my own method of disengagement.

To start with, the Australian decluttering authority Peter Welsh says there are two kinds of clutter – 1) things we “might need” later, and 2) things that we are emotionally attached to (memory related).  I personally see a third and that is the things we don’t notice or refuse to make a decision on.  We know we don’t need them, we are not attached emotionally, but it’s a bother to do something with them.  My family has all three bases covered!  Consequently, I have a triple challenge, so to speak, but I suspect a lot of us do.

My rules for disengagement are something like this, though I admit I haven’t really written them down before:

1. Do I need this?

2. Does this serve a useful purpose? If not, why am I keeping it?

3.  Am I keeping it because I like it or from a sense of guilt, either because it “might be useful some day” or because it was important to someone I love?  (This is one I’m just realizing and I think it’s going to be helpful.)

4. Do I actually use it?  Or do I have plans for it in the foreseeable future that I will be likely to really carry out?  Would someone else put this to better use? (This one can be tough with things that I have fond hopes of someday doing – like craft projects.)

5. If it is a memento – does it have good memories associated with it, or are there some bad memories mixed in that I’d rather not recall?  (You’d be surprised how many things I’ve either let go of because of the bad memories, or decided to keep and adjust my thinking toward the memories, perhaps even letting go of old hurts or struggles – it’s been quite freeing.)

6. Is this weighing me down?  Is it a useful thing in it’s way, but really only making more work or stress for me?

Then there are the three questions that I mentioned in a previous post:

1. What does this have to do with my service of the Lord?  Is it profitable to the life to come (1 Tim. 4:8)?

2. Is this ___________ essential to my well being?  Does it help me maintain a workable comfort level?

3. Is it a good use of time, energy and/or emotions?

This has more or less been my thought process in this decluttering challenge.  Some of this comes from Mrs. Blanke’s ideas, some have been developing as I go and some have only come to me quite recently (though maybe it was in the back of my thoughts for awhile).  Disengaging from our stuff is more difficult than I expected.

I rolled right through things at first, but eventually I got bogged down.  I ran into some snags. 

First of all, I got to more difficult areas eventually, and rather than slowing down and doing them, I either skipped them “for now” or broke them down into smaller chunks.  Breaking them down worked, but putting them off is a weight that needs to be shed.

The second snag was that I realized I was becoming emotionally exhausted and that was weighing me down.  Because I come from a heritage for feeling obligated to keep “useful” things as well as one that easily is emotionally attached to sentimental things, I started having after shocks to the decisions I made when I was in “get it done and gone” mode.  I required a break, which helped.  But, sadly, I still wonder about specific items I got rid of simply because of who gave it to me or something connected with it. I have to remind myself that the person and/or the memories of the person are more important than the thing she/he gave me.  I don’t need every little thing to remember her/him by, especially things that I won’t even use or don’t like.  And, I don’t need to feel guilty because I didn’t like it!

The third issue I’m facing now is that our garage is getting warm as the weather here in Texas heats up.  So, I’m going to probably sidetrack a lot of areas I could work on and focus on that for awhile.  We really do need to get it cleaned up, and there’s a lot there that needs to go!  We would like to build a tornado shelter in there, and park our car inside.  Both are possible in our garage, but it is too full for either right now.

Working on the actual object-type things has had its challenges, but I felt that there was a point in Gail’s book regarding the throwing out of bad thinking, beliefs or feelings, though not in all the ways she dealt with it.  Consequently, I’ve also tried to work on some attitude and daily living issues as well.  This has been different.  I think I’ve made some progress in some areas while others I feel like a total failure in.  I’m sure this is pretty “normal”.

Last but not least, from the book I got the idea of keeping a record of what I was throwing out (or sending to the thrift shop, or giving away).  Again, I didn’t follow her suggestions exactly, and I also made the categories to suit my own thinking.  I didn’t run things over from one room to another much either unless they were closely associated (like food, which is stored in the kitchen and dining room).  Since she included throwing out bad thinking, habits, etc. as individual categories, I listed my “goals” along this line as individual things.  Unfortunately, I’m almost to 48 now and I still have a lot of stuff to go through. ;-)  But, I don’t have a problem with starting a new list to get through the rest, or raising my final goal total.

For my own interest and totally not in the book, I decided to also record some of the things I removed from a given room to a more suitable place, things I repurposed or recycled for other uses, and things that I reorganized and straightened up.  This has added to the project, of course, but it has also added to my sense of improving our living environment.

Altogether, I feel like I’ve made some good progress, but I also feel like I have a long ways to go.  I think this process would probably be improved by doing it “with” a friend or family member so that you can keep each other inspired, encouraged and accountable.


I intended to make a later post on this book, but having thought about it off and on for awhile, I can’t really get motivated to write more on this specifically.  I will undoubtedly mention this book in further posts, but not particular posts on the book itself.


  1. Trying to work on it myself at the moment, too. The last time I tackled my room that contains the most clutter, I managed to find two full bags of things to give away or throw away, and that felt really good! Hoping to do some more soon! :)
    Thankful for the tips, ideas and encouragement in your declutter/laying aside weights posts, sis! :)

    1. Clara, good for you. It does feel great to see things going out! :-) I hope to make a haul of stuff out of the garage soon and get it to the thrift store. Certain items are already mentally labeled "to go". ;-)

      My pantry (which was filled in a rather disorganized "unpacking mode") and my sewing room are the "rooms of doom" for me on this. I have things heaped in the sewing room. There are surely projects I need to get rid of. The closet in there is FULL and most of it is not sewing related at all. Weirdly enough, I seem to be able to function fine in there among the piles, while in the rest of the house they would drive me crazy. Ha. So, the motivation isn't that high.