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.