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5 Things I Realized I Could Live Without

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Over the course of my career, I’ve learned that most people own things just because they were told somewhere along the way that they should own them. Today’s the day I break some great news: you don’t actually have to own anything you don’t want or need! And, if you slow down and question the things that surround you, you may be able to dramatically lighten your load.

things live without

Here are just five of the many things I realized I can happily live without:

Microwave

We nixed the microwave when we opened up our kitchen and lost an entire wall of storage space. I thought it would be the end of days, but turns out we’re all ok. In fact, my kids noticed that reheating food in a skillet, or on a baking sheet, actually makes the food taste better. Good-bye soggy leftovers! Since we’re on the subject, it might be time to let those other space taking, occasional use appliances go – waffle makers, ice-cream machines, panini press, rice cookers, juicers… Consider how often you use these bulky beasts, and make sure they are worth the space they take up in your kitchen or pantry.

Umbrella

This California hot take is sure to be controversial, but I must speak my truth. Other than doing a mediocre job blocking the rain, an umbrella’s number one job is to be left behind or to break. That is literally all they do. I, for one, would rather occasionally get wet than spend the rest of my life buying and misplacing umbrellas every winter. The end.

Formal Clothes

Funny story: I spent full decades of my life suffering under the delusion that I needed to own a pair of khaki slacks in order to be a professional. The funny part is, I never ever wore said khaki slacks – not at any of the jobs I had, nor for any more formal occasions. I think someone must have told me at some point when I was young and impressionable that a good pair of khakis are a critical wardrobe staple – and it stuck. But, once I realized I was an adult and I could wear what I wanted, I donated them and didn’t look back. Same goes for formal dresses. I just don’t feel like myself in a formal dress, nor do I really have any occasion where they are required anymore. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area where most people are aggressively casual, and I’ve survived the period in life where everyone around me seemed to be getting married. I’ve owned the same black cotton maxi dress for years, and I can dress it up when necessary, or just wear heels and a blouse when I need to step it up a notch. No gowns for this lady.

Specialty Glassware

Much to the disappointment of most people in my life, I am not much of a drinker, but I do love to host and entertain. Instead of cluttering up our cabinets with a massive array of specialty glassware, we keep it super simple and use this simple set of glasses for everything from water to cocktails (even if someone wants to make a martini on a whim), and these glasses for both red and white wine (judge if you must!). The moral of this story is that if people are drinking in good company they are usually pretty happy and don’t care what vessel you provide.

Ten Thousand Skincare Products

My mom’s all natural face looks amazing, and she has been using good old fashioned soap, SPF, and inexpensive moisturizer her entire life. When it comes to skincare, I truly believe that genetics rule (a good diet, being conscious of the sun, and lots of sleep probably don’t hurt) and most beauty products are a total racket. I used to have a massive bin overflowing with all the products and samples, but now I stick to a simple regimen of staples I can count on one hand. Even if you love a good serum, face mask, or under eye cream, you can pare down your daily regimen to a handful of high quality products. Using less products means you can invest in the best and – bonus – they’re easy to pack, store, and make keeping your bathroom organized a breeze.

Take a few minutes (fifteen minute win?) and look around your home with a curious eye. What items are you hanging on to simply because you feel like you have to, or because some random person advised you to? What items could you let go of without really feeling the impact? I’d love to know!

Photography: Vivian Johnson Photography

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29 comments on “5 Things I Realized I Could Live Without

    1. Ha! I’ll have to ask about current brands but my mom has been using SPF and basic soap and moisturizer from the drugstore for as long as I can remember. Xx

  1. Shira, I would be so very sad without my cooking machines ie, coffee maker, panini press, crockpot!! I’ve been wanting to add a Belgian waffle maker and I’ve figured out what I’ll give up for it and who would want it (I just ask her!!). My skin routine has gotten simplier with age but NOT less expensive but more!! What I use for my face really shows now in my mid-fifties!! I wish I could figure out things to give up but alas I haven’t any!! You are such a inspiration to me!! Our houses are the same!! Amazing!! I have a horrible time giving up clothing!! Your book ‘MINIMALISTA” truly inspires me!! I’m making an effort!! My best friend is helping me!! I could never do it without her because I’m so disabled at this point!!

    1. Oh no, we don’t want you to give up anything that will make you sad! The idea is to identify what you can happily live without – not to feel deprivation. I’m so glad MINIMALISTA has inspired you and that your friend is helping you put it into action. Cheering you on! Xx

  2. Your list makes a lot of sense. I have to say that I did invest in a nicer umbrella that is compact and has air vents so it won’t break. I attach it to my purse so I don’t forget about it. My husband still wants to keep the waffle maker, but we were able to get rid of a bunch of stuff in our kitchen. I’ll have to see what I can still give away.

  3. SHIRA how true about your mom’s skin. I also think most of the hype does not compete with good genes and spf and everyday moisturizer. How lucky are you?
    Love,
    Auntie

  4. Agreed. Less is more. We own a winery and we use the same lovely Made In wine glasses no matter the varietal. My winemaker spouse highly recommends them.

  5. Amazing read. I’m finally at a point in my life where I feel not only am I ready for this… I actually need it. I need to SEE the simplicity of less, as it feels so much more relaxing and organized to my brain! YAY!!! 57 years old…. It’s never too late!!

  6. I’ve been trying to find the ideal storage place for umbrellas maybe since I moved here 15 years ago… growing up in London I realize how essential they used to be but you’re right that we could likely now get by with just good rain jackets. I wonder what other items I’ve held onto purely from habit. Thanks for the reminder to routinely re-establish what counts as essential! Xo

  7. Oh Shira Dear,

    You are as always such an inspiration. Alas, I agree with the other comments about their stuff. I too, have much conflict. But, I do think what is most important, is you TRULY found out for yourself. I want to so much for my home to be like yours, but boy I do love my shoes, my books, my clothes. I did for the very first time in the USA travel with a carry on like you do last week. I still had too much but am trying. I think as far as skin products, simpler and fewer is definitely better for all of us, and our planet.

  8. I’m so with you on the specialty glassware. My husband drives me crazy with his red wine glasses that don’t fit in any normal shelf location and are still stored in the box for that rare occasion!! I do believe in very high-quality skincare. But, you are right, genetics, good clean living, and SPF are the true foundation of aging well. I’m still trying to figure out living in a world of agressively casual. It’s nice!

  9. Tools! We just had floor to ceiling white garage cabinets installed, and our (my—who am I kidding?) rule is that nothing goes in them that hasn’t been edited, sorted and cleaned first, and the tool box and larger tools and garden implements were major space hogs. We kept the basics—hammer, screw drivers, shovel, broom, etc, and donated duplicates and specialty tools. We are not DIYer by any means, and our lovely handyman gets the jobs we don’t need those tools for! We have had closet organizers in the house for decades, but had somewhat neglected our garage. It’s pure joy to go out to the garage and see a place for everything, and everything in its place!

  10. Specialty glasses: I have one set for all – water, juice, cocktails, wine. Hate stemware – pain to clean, store, and they break often. I do have a compact microwave though. Use it all the time so it stays.

  11. Your focus on simplifying is refreshing. Bigger and more, more, more is not better. Your suggestions help us trade in more stuff for more peace, clarity, and contentment.

  12. I am in this situation now, just moved into small home from large one, small kitchen, no pantry, limited storage, and boxes piled high in spare room, l have already culled furniture and stuff but more needs to go, looking to your posts Shira for inspiration 😊

  13. I asked myself recently: why do I have inscent sticks all over the house (toilet ok, but kitchen and livingroom too)? They didn’t really exist untill a few years ago and now they are a booming business en it is not that my house needs them. So I will clear them out.

  14. I’ve learned that I don’t NEED a umbrella!! Over the last 12 years I’ve been on a walker so I can’t hold a umbrella. It’s very hard for my husband to hold a umbrella and keep us both dry!! I figured out to buy rain coats with hoodies to meet my need instead. We have heavy rains called monsoons in July and August!! I still love and want my dressy clothing though!!!!

  15. HI Shira, I read this list with my 7 year old daughter, I am trying to instill in her the good habits of letting go of things, thinking about what she really needs or likes and of course of putting everything in it;s place. It’s slow going but it’s moving in the right direction. I love our microwave and we use daily so that one is staying, as for glass wear, we don’t own wine glasses any more, we moved continents almost 3 years ago and donated all the different glasses we had, now we just have short glasses, they do all the jobs, water, juice, wine. beer. We are very casual in our house. As for skin care you are right about good genes, my mom is 9 years younger than my MIL and has way more wrinkles, she spent much more time in the sun, with no SPF and never moisturized, she is also thin whereas my MIL is the opposite , the extra weight helps to keep the skin more plump and less wrinkly. As for the umbrella it really depends on where you live and your lifestyle, I used to live in Cape Town South Africa and we had rain, but I never walked anywhere, the only time I might have gotten wet was picking up my daughter from preschool or walking from the parking lot into a store, but that was rare. Now I live in Porto, Portugal, it is a wetter climate and I walk much more so I do need an umbrella, we where in Paris at the beginning of October 2021 and it rained everyday, even with umbrellas we still got wet, mostly because we didn’t have waterproof shoes, so for now that umbrella has to stay. I have never lost one, but I did manage to break 2 in the space of about 4 months, they were cheap, now we have good quality ones that have done well in wind and rain, you get what you pay for. I still have a few pairs of heels and a couple of dressier dresses, but they have not been used in 2 years, thanks COVID!

  16. My dermy (head of dermatology at a major hospital) said the same thing, your mom’s regime is all that’s needed.
    The$kincare/beauty industry has exploded because none of it needs FDA approval.
    Sorry, off subject here. Great blog post tho! : )

  17. I keep 2 small umbrellas in my car (one in each door pocket) because I hate to get wet going into places. This may inspire me to get rid of tge 10+ umbrellas in my front closet!

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