How many?

Cleaning out a closet recently, I came across a baseball cap that had belonged to my friend Jim. I emailed his friend Patrick to see if he would want it. He replied that he already has a baseball cap and doesn’t need another. He only needs one? I probably have a dozen baseball caps, so I found his response disconcerting. I have hats in different styles and colors for different occasions. How can he only need one?

I started looking around my house at other multiples—blankets, tablecloths, sweatshirts, shoes, etc.—and asked myself how many of anything I really need.

Like baseball caps, some things just seem to multiply in my house. It’s like a fairy tale where elves are working throughout the night to create more blankets, coats, shoes and so many other things that fill up spaces in my house. But how many do I really need?

Intellectually, I know I need way fewer of most things than I have (for example, I have three metal tape measures, three sewing tape measures and two yard sticks—how much measuring do I even do???)

And then there is my knitting. Every year I tell myself that I am going to knit up the yarn in my stash before I buy more yarn, but then a new baby comes along, and I need to get a specific yarn for a blanket, or another knitter is retiring and plans to travel in an RV, so she needs to get rid of her stash. How can I pass up her treasures?


Fabric is also in abundance in my home, even though I have not done any serious sewing in years. And I have enough cookbooks to start a library.

I remember telling my friend Philip one day that I was going to go through my kitchen utensils to see what I could get rid of—how many spatulas do I really need? A few hours later, he sent pictures of two large trash bags he had filled after going through his closets (I had inspired him, he said). Meanwhile, I had pulled exactly one wooden spoon from my collection of kitchen utensils. Do I really need five spatulas? I know I don’t but getting rid of them seems to be beyond me.

I keep thinking of Patrick turning down Jim’s baseball cap and asking myself how many of anything I really need. I think of people who have so little—migrants, people whose homes were destroyed in fires or natural disasters, women fleeing abusive spouses—and I wonder how I can move things from my home to theirs.

Our local domestic abuse shelter has a second-hand store that supports their work; I will start taking my extras to them.

And, when I am tempted to buy something, I will check what I already have and ask myself how many?

Think of the money I will save, the space I will create and the freedom I will enjoy by living with less.


4 thoughts on “How many?

  1. artsandletters9

    Early in the Pandemic I cleared out a large 4 ft. by 2 ft. by 2 ft. container that held 50 years of paperwork. At the end I had enough to fill a small box. It was both an interesting and a grand relief.

    My best finds were: a schedule for the excellent softball team my 41 year old daughter loved at 14 and a copy of the 1911 surname change in my family by the grandfather I never met.

    My daughter was delighted with the reminder of a joyous slice of her adolescence and I got a kick out of the legal approval of our surname so my father’s birth certificate surname could be clarified for his remaining 83 years.


    I can relate – just spent the past year moving out of a large home that held all the remnants of 35 years of marriage and six children. Who knew I could be perfectly content with ALL my clothes in a 2 ft x 5 ft closet while traveling in 2022? However, I do mourn my books (but I did save all my favorites in storage 🙂). It took me three times revisiting the question of ‘how many spatulas do I really need’ before my heart and mind agreed on the answer. lol

  3. Madeline Bialecki Post author

    I feel fortunate that I already live in what most people here consider a small home (1,076 square feet) and I find it more than adequate. My goal is to have all my clothes fit in one closet and one chest of drawers (although I find I need extra drawer space for winter gear).


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