DOWNSIZING:  Setting Boundaries with Your Possessions

By Kater Leatherman

A dresser drawer. Your kitchen cupboards. The linen closet. Cubbies, baskets and shelves. Those plastic storage bins.

All of them have one thing in common: They are containers with built-in boundaries. If they are crowded, overflowing or impossible to open and close, that is a sign you have too much stuff. And, most likely, it means that housed within them are things that you don’t like, can’t use or no longer want.

The word “boundary” in the American Heritage Dictionary is defined as “an indicated border or limit.” Children, for example, need limits in order to feel safe, nurtured and loved. In healthy personal relationships, we respect other people’s boundaries. With possessions, when there is a lack of boundaries, the effort to maintain and live with stuff we don’t need or want becomes a struggle. The agony of having to let things go increases anxiety, affects our energy levels and keeps us in the past. Boundaries, therefore, restore balance.

The beauty of having boundaries is that they help us reclaim control of our possessions. For example, you may choose to keep three pair of black pants and give away six. Think of socks. Basically, if you do your laundry once a week, you really only need seven pairs. The same goes for coffee mugs. What’s the point of having 30 if you wash your dishes every day? For collections, keep one or two representative samples and photograph the rest. Or, donate two sets of dishes and keep one.

Another example of a boundary is intending to discard or recycle 10 objects every day. You might set a timer for 20 minutes and whittle down that paper pile until the bell goes off. When buying things, the one in, one out guideline would also apply. Boundaries break things down into manageable tasks; otherwise, our life with stuff becomes mentally and emotionally bigger than we are.

Begin to cultivate a more practical and temporary relationship to your things.  Face the hard, sometimes painful truth that buying and keeping stuff you don’t want or need will never satisfy your deep inner longing for fulfillment and satisfaction. Then, armed with your boundaries, you can reduce the clutter and free yourself to enjoy a more spacious life at home.

Kater is a professional organizer and home stager, yoga teacher and self-published author who inspires others to live better. Visit her website at or email [email protected]


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