How Downsizing my Stuff Downsized my Pride


My wife and I have decided that we have too much house. Funny thing, too much house usually means too much stuff. Over the last couple of weeks, we have gotten rid of books, clothing, knick-knacks and a set of china we don’t use anymore. And there’s still stuff everywhere, hiding in boxes, lurking in drawers. Why do plastic cups and earbuds seem to multiply like rabbits?

We’re doing thClutteris because we want to move into a smaller place next year. Maybe a modest townhome or a little bungalow. We might even rent until we can figure out what we want and where we want it. What I don’t want are a large yard, swimming pool or anything else that requires my blood, sweat and tears– but I’m not giving up air conditioning.

In the excavation process, I came across some awards that I’ve been hauling around for years, as well as reviews of plays that I’ve been in. The plaques were tarnished; the reviews torn and yellowed. It occurred to me that I’ve been keeping these as subtle ego-builders — tangible proof that others thought I had done a good job or I was a fine fellow. I had never once thought of getting rid of them – until now.

Let’s admit it: we all have an ego. Some are big, others are damaged, but we all want people to credit us for the wonderful things we do. Even the low man on the totem pole tries to find someone even lower so he can feel a little bit better about himself. But as Ernest Hemingway said, “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”

The Bible warns us against pride; in fact, it repeatedly tells us to humble ourselves. I’m not talking about being someone’s foot scraper or pushing around a wheelbarrow of shattered self-esteem for everyone to see. No! I’m talking about living in the glorious reality of knowing who God is and how we should serve Him. We don’t have to trumpet ourselves or hope that others will exalt us; if we stay small, pure and simple in God’s presence, He will lift us up in His time.

I had no idea that in downsizing my possessions I would be downsizing my pride, too. But the Holy Spirit has a knack of confronting us in ordinary things and everyday circumstances. Now … should I keep that old cap collection?


  1. Reply
    Laura Winter says

    We’ve only scratched the surface of downsizing our stuff, but I already feel like I hear God louder and more clearly with each garbage bag that goes out to the trash or off to Goodwill. By reducing the “things” in our life and the care and attention that goes along with these items, we will have more time and resources to serve Him well.

    And to answer your final question…nope. The caps go!

  2. Reply
    Rosemary says

    Nailed it again Mark. THX!! Just cleaned out my clothes closet, which was no small feat. Now have other closets waiting which I admit are getting their 4th or 5th cleaning because they’re the closets that have books, CD’s and tapes. That’s my most painful process. Know a ministry who needs them? To date I’ve been giving those teachings to a ministry that sends them to pastors in Kenya. They’ll even take cassettes! 🙂

  3. Reply
    Rene Stoltje says

    Our children have told us we can never die, not because of their eternal love for us, but because they do not want to deal with all out stuff. Considering the size of our home, we potentially have 3x the amount of stuff as you have. Ugh!!!

  4. Reply
    Elene Corder Ondo says

    Mark and Laura,
    I believe this ‘winnowing’ is age-related. Many friends/age-mates are involved in this process including ourselves. Thanks to your comments, I will be more thorough.
    Would love to see you two!

  5. Reply
    Eve Roberts says

    The thing is…our entire generation has too much stuff. Some of us are, for the most part, a product of those who had very little (our family who lived through the depression) who wanted us to have so much more than they had. I can hear my mother’s words as she described certain precious belongings, i.e., a piano, “now your grandmother bought this during the depression and paid it out ‘on time’ – when they didn’t have any money at all”. I have somehow gotten mixed up with what is really precious and what is only mementos, plastic tupperware, etc. Those things that I have which are not a diamond or special have outgrown the things that do have meaning, therefore, it is difficult to even find, sort, or organize the keepsakes we might actually be able to enjoy because of the mounds of “stuff”! I want with all of my heart to downsize and live minimally. I do not want to burden my children with my “stuff”. I applaud your efforts and possibly they will help motivate me to move forward in the same direction as you and Laura. I think of Jesus Christ and his life of minimalism and I believe that if we were supposed to have had some of his mementos or belongings, He would have made a way for those to still be around…and yet HIS WORD is what He left and what we cling to. Perhaps, it would be a much better idea to make sure our words and actions to our children, family and friends, are more meaningful than ten thousand pieces of junk we want to “leave to our children” (which they probably don’t even want) and that that will be what they treasure and remember most.

    • Reply
      Laura Winter says

      Eve, you have SO captured my thoughts on all this. This has already been a powerful, spiritual journey. With every bag ‘o stuff that goes out the door, I honestly feel a bit closer to Him. I can’t explain it any better than all this stuff is like “white noise” that, while seeming innocuous because it just lives on shelves and behind cabinet doors, but it has to be sorted and moved around from time to time, therefore it’s not innocuous at all. Confronting the inherited knick-knacks has been the most interesting. I went through a giant pile of jewelry the other night that I inherited from my mom (nothing very expensive) that I’ve shoved around for 10 years. I realized only 2-3 things were important enough to me to actual wear. I ceremoniously piled all the rest of that, and the things of mine that I don’t even wear, into a pile…out it went (some in a garage sale pile, a couple things set aside for my daughter, but most in the trash). I knew it was the right thing to do. And bonus, now I can get a smaller box to store my jewelry in. One small step at a time…

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