How much stuff should we own? The ice-cream example

When we start decluttering, it’s natural to wonder about how much we should own.

That is why we usually start observing other people who figured out what works for them to try and apply the same rules to ourselves.

So if someone owns seven pairs of shoes and they seem happy about it, we might try that for ourselves to see if we like it.

But this can become very time-consuming and to be honest, it’s not the best way to asses how much we should keep.

Actually, there is a much better way of figuring out your perfect number, and the only things you need is your emotions.

But before we get started, we must acknowledge that the final numbers are very personal, which means nobody can answer this but you.

So if you have any pre notions about how little or a lot you should own, let these beliefs go.

Do your best to start with a fresh mind.

Now, let’s jump right in.

I believe we can actually measure what the perfect quantity for us is, and to do that I’ll explain all about what happens when we have too little, too much or just right.

And to make this easier and fun, I’ll explain everything with ice-cream examples, because, who doesn’t love ice-cream? 😉


One of the easiest ways to know that we have too much stuff is when we experience decision fatigue and overwhelm.

We all know how overwhelm feels, but what exactly is decision fatigue?

This happens when our brain doesn’t know what to choose from because it is presented with so many different options. We could say that we freeze and feel a bit defetead.

Decisions become very hard to make and whatever we choose, we feel a bit unhappy with it.

This can often happen later in the day or at night when we’re exhausted and we already made so many choices during the day, that we just can’t decide anymore. 

In a nutshell, the more decisions that we have to make, the quicker our decision-making abilities start to fatigue.

Let’s use the example of choosing an ice-cream flavour: imagine standing before an ice-cream stand and you have 50 different flavours to choose from.

How long does it take you to pick something out? Is it easy, or do you keep going back and forth between your decisions? 

And when you pick something, what are the chances that you’re 100% happy with it? Maybe you even feel a bit disappointed because you’re questioning if there is a better flavour that you didn’t pick?

Now imagine you have 100 flavours to choose from! 

I know that just thinking about that makes me not want to pick anything. And I love ice-cream, haha.

This is a fun and easy way to remember what decision fatigue feels like – we’re stuck and defeated, and decisions are tough to make.

Now let’s apply this to our lives.

All we need to do is take a look at a category to ask ourselves if the decision is hard to make?

If we feel a lot of hesitation, going back and forth or simply freezing, chances are we have too much stuff in that particular area.

I recommend you do this with small categories to get a very clear picture: instead of doing the whole category of accessories, break it down into scarves, gloves, hats etc. Instead of going through all of your jewellery break it down into bracelets, rings, necklaces, watches and so on. And break down your clothes into small sections like short-sleeve tops, long-sleeve tops, skirts, shorts etc.

Unlike with decluttering sessions, this doesn’t have to be a long process.

You can simply walk around your home and gently ask how you feel in specific categories.

You can also do a more generalised review using this method by picking a room and asking yourself how do you feel when you look at it?

Asses if you feel relaxed and joyful, or defeated and stressed?

If you don’t feel absolutely and completely calm (yes, that is indeed possible), there is probably too much going on.

Whenever we have too many duplicates or unused things, this almost always translates into overwhelm, which is a clear sign that we need to declutter.


Now, how do we know when we have too little?

This is a harder question to answer because we could say that the reason we bought so much in the first place was that we felt like we don’t have enough.

But I still believe that we can asses this, even though we have to do it very awarely.

And the biggest indicator of having too little is a feeling of deprivation.

This usually feels like we’re repeating ourselves and that our choices are boring. We feel a lack of joy and freedom.

If we apply this to the ice-cream metaphor, imagine walking down the street fantasising about all the different flavours there are. You’re excited and you can’t wait to pick something fresh and fun.

Then you finally find an ice-cream truck, but they have only two flavours. Now you feel a bit deprived because they didn’t have a selection big enough for you to make a decision that you wanted.

On the plus side, there was no decision fatigue, which means the choice was probably very straightforward.

It’s the same with our stuff. 

Now, this doesn’t apply to items we only need one of (because in that case, we should just pick our favourite and declutter the rest), but more to the stuff where we have more to choose from: clothes, shoes, perfumes, nail polishes, jewellery, accessories etc.

The truth is, days change. The weather changes. Our mood changes. Activities change. That is why we want to have some choice.

Because even when we love our stuff, if we use it again and again and again, we can become a little bored with it. 

That is one of the biggest why reason I love my capsule wardrobe because it allows me to change my clothes every three months, so I feel like I have new stuff every time I reorganise the closet.

So beware of feeling deprived because that is never the intention of minimalism

I made that mistake when I tried owning only three handbags (because that is what a minimalist should have, right?) and I felt super limited.

I am a bit of fashionista, so for me, that just didn’t work.

So listen to yourself and remember that the numbers look different for everyone!

But please, don’t confuse this with the feeling of not being enough.

If we see popular girls wearing new XYZ shoes, this might activate a feeling of us wanting them as well. And if we can’t afford them, this can make us feel deprived and inferior.

But this doesn’t mean we don’t have enough stuff and we should get more!

This means we have some insecurities we haven’t dealt with yet, so we have to look at them and ask why do we think this way?

Why do we feel we’re not as smart, beautiful, successful, ____________ as others? Did someone say those things to us? And are they true?

Also, who are these people that said those things and why do they have the authority to tell us who we are?

Remember that who you are is up to you to decide.

This also applies to the advertisement.

If they tell us we lack or need something, we need to think again and decide with our own head.

Their goal will always be to make us feel like something in our life is missing, or even that we are somehow inferior, so we need to become aware of their real purpose.


With all of this being said, there is also a feeling that accompanies the reality of having enough.

And that is the feeling of joy and simplicity. Feeling that making a decision is easy, but we still feel like we have the versatility that we want.

It’s like picking your ice-cream flavour, but now you have 7 different flavours to choose from. And because you decluttered, you love all of them!

So the decision, in this case, is still effortless, but without the deprivation. We feel free and joyful, and life is simple!

Remember that feeling because that is how you want to keep your house and life from now on.

And if you doubt this simple feeling is attainable and achievable, trust me, you can get there. Just don’t forget that it might take you some time.

I started decluttering around 6 years ago and I needed a good two years to feel like my home is entirely peaceful.

So be patient and remember to enjoy the process as much as you can – every time you learn something new, you’re closer to where you want to be. Any small step is a win 😉

I hope this helps you on your decluttering journey to find the balance that you crave for.

And remember, that minimalism is not the end-goal.

How our lives look like will always change, so use these three guidelines to always be in touch with how you feel.

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And if you want to read more, check out my latest posts!

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