De-own. Don’t just declutter.

Chris Lawton

Joshua Becker was the first person to introduce me to the idea of de-owning, and initially I found it quite challenging to understand. Surely isn’t decluttering the same as de-owning? I’ve let go of these things, I no longer own them, therefore I’ve de-owned, right?

Not quite.

In SLOW I write about this realisation:

When Ben and I first decluttered, we did a fantastic job of recluttering almost immediately. We’ve made space! Great! Let’s fill it with better stuff. Stuff we need. Stuff we’ve always wanted. Stuff we deserve. Stuff that will identify us as successful and thoughtful. Stuff that will tell others we’re creative, mindful and intelligent.

Why did we do this? Why did we declutter, only to spend the next few months slowly recluttering? Why were we convinced that we deserved shiny, fancy new things? Why did we find it difficult to maintain the space we worked so hard to create? For us it was a combination of:

    • convenience


    • ego


    • expectation


    • habit


    • boredom


    • discontent


    • comparison


    • advertising


    • status


    • aspirations


    • identity


  • insecurity

Honestly, it doesn’t feel great telling you that. It feels shallow. But it’s also the truth. And until we were able to wrap our heads around de-owning, not just decluttering, it was going to remain our truth.

We spent time slowly letting go of our need to own things, and throughout the rest of today’s episode we walk through different ways you can gradually de-own, as well as declutter.

It includes sharing, hiring and borrowing things, and thinking outside the box when it comes to our needs versus our convenience.

Tell me, do you have a crew of friends or family who you share things with? Perhaps you’ve got a local tool library or a library of things that you use? I love this idea of the sharing economy and would love to know how you’ve learnt to de-own too. Let me know.



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7 Responses to De-own. Don’t just declutter.

  1. So many parts of this section of the book resonated with me. I often get caught up thinking “We should get a new lounge.” We already have one & it does the job perfectly. And your idea of sharing is a fantastic reminder to just be organized & ask around. People love sharing their things. Thanks for the pep talk today guys.

  2. I love the idea of a shared tool library. None of my friends actually live close to me otherwise I totally would start that up. I’ve always felt that the investment of power tools would be fantastic but because I use them infrequently, it never seems worth the investment.

  3. This episode came and just the right time. I was thinking of replacing our TV unit and now I have completely rejected that idea, even deleted the saved searches I had on my PC. The old one is the bottom of a kitchen hutch that is 100 years old. Can you believe I was thinking of getting rid of this to replace it with something fresh and less beaten up? I now see the character in this piece and appreciate the history. My mother-in-law owned it before me, her Aunty before her and her mother before her. The top was long ago lost in someone’s garage but the bottom has been housing my TV and videos and whatnots since I was married 30 years ago.

    I have no idea why I thought I needed a shiny new one. Thank you for reminding me to de-own.

  4. I’ve found the sharing economy tricky…if everyone doesn’t share the same mindset. Friends who aren’t minimalists seems to think I, the minimalist, am using them for their stuff. Any thoughts?

    • This is a great question June. I think that there is very little we can do to change people’s minds, we can only live by example. Being generous and open with our own belongings, offering them to friends and family to borrow as needed, will likely (over time) establish and develop a community of sharers who know you’re open to it, and that you will respect their belongings as and when you do ask to borrow them. Plus, they’ll get to see the benefits first-hand: saving money, saving space, not feeling the pressure to own everything etc, and will be more likely to want to extend those benefits. Not everyone will be open to sharing, for loads of different reasons, and that’s fine, but I think by being the ground-breaker in our friend and family circles we can show them what it looks like to share, and just how much there is to gain.