Use It or Lose It Challenge - Use It or Lose It

I’ve got a lot of stuff. It comes with the territory of teaching art workshops, being an artist in multiple mediums, and needing to have an inventory of supplies since I create things to sell. And, I’ve got a small house, and a small studio. That all adds up to too much stuff for my small spaces.

For quite awhile, I’ve been wanting to clear out the clutter. It stresses me out, makes me feel tied down (“move, how could I ever move? I’ve got too much stuff!”), makes my small house & studio seem even smaller, and it’s hard to find things (and sometimes hard to move around). It’s holding me back. My stuff is taking away from my life instead of adding to it.

Recently I was looking through some boxes in my studio, and found some art supplies I bought a few years ago while I was teaching in Seattle. They were still in the bags the different stores put them in when I bought them. When I got home, they were never used, and forgotten about!

In my book The Art Journal Workshop, I have an exercise called Use It or Lose It. It’s a great exercise where you grab a small box and put art supplies or tools in it that you haven’t used in awhile. Then you work in your journal, or do some other artwork, using those materials. When you’re done, you decide which of those items to keep, and which ones to get rid of. The ones you don’t want to keep, you can donate, sell, or swap with friends (but swapping means you’d get more stuff).

When gathering up stuff, if you definitely know you don’t want something anymore, just put it in the “Lose It” pile. But if you aren’t sure, using it is a good way to decide. When I do this, sometimes I’m reminded how cool an art supply is that I have forgotten about. Then it’s like having new supplies without actually buying more.

Even though I’ve got lots to go through, I’m going to do it a little at a time. I know if I try to do it all at once, or even in big chunks, I’ll get overwhelmed, and I won’t get it done. So I’m challenging myself to go through a little each week. And each week, I’ll decide what gets pitched, donated, or sold. I’ll post the things I’m selling on my blog, and I’ll sell them on eBay, or in my shop, depending on what it is.

I know I’ll be so much happier without so much crap! I’ll feel lighter and it’ll be easier for me to work. Plus, it’ll be easier to keep my house & studio clean(ish) and I won’t get frustrated trying to find something that I want to use. Want to join me?

I’ve already started! I’ve been meaning to sell my Diana Mini camera for awhile now. So that’s what I started with, and I put it up for sale on eBay. - diana mini for sale


Here’s a great video that’s from the TED Talks series, on getting rid of your stuff. I’m not going to go to the extreme that this guy did, but it’s a great video to watch, and very inspirational.


I hope you’ll join the challenge! You don’t need to sign up for anything, but I’d love for you to leave a comment letting me know. (Plus, making a public declaration always helps me stick to something.) Decide what your own rules are that are doable. At this point, my only rule is that I’ll put at least one item up for a sale a week (not counting the usual things I sell). I might give myself some more rules later, but that’s it for now.

Posted in call to action, use it or lose it and tagged , , , , , , .


  1. …turning a twist on your idea: what about packing everything up (like you are going to move) and only pull out stuff as you need it. Anything not used within a certain time period gets donated/sold etc…

    I saw your Diana Mini listing – I wish I could justify adding it to my collection, but alas not at the moment 🙁

    Your idea is awesome. Good luck 🙂

    • Beka, I think if I tried that, I’d end up having to buy duplicates of things I had, but couldn’t find (because they were in one of the boxes). Plus, I’d need room for the boxes.

      I unintentionally did this when I moved out of my huge studio in an old warehouse, into my little studio in my back yard. I didn’t have time to unpack some of the boxes and they got stuck under my big table. Fast forward a few years later when I started to go through them . . . most of the stuff I was able to get rid of because it was really old paperwork, or things that were no longer important. So in that case, it made it easy!

  2. Oh I know how you feel! my basement is so full i have only paths to move around in. The problem is, that after I spend good money on something I have a hard time getting rid of it! (beginning hoarder)! Hubby just brought home a 4 drawer filing cabinet for me last night so this is a good time to clear the way for more storage! LOL I’m going to put all my paper in there and make room for “stations” so I will use the things that I dont’ have room for!

    • I know what you mean about not wanting to get rid of something because of the money you spent on it. But think about the amount of “real estate” it’s taking up, and the different ways it’s costing you. If it’s something you can get money for, sell it!

  3. Oh yes Traci, go do this! I started this journey over three years ago when my husband passed away unexpectedly. I literally took everything out of the house to remodel and as I was carrying stuff out, I asked the question “Have you used this in the last year?” If the answer was no, it did not come back in the house. I then sold or donated the item(s). There were hundreds on “things”. It was exhilarating to finally clear out crap! You go girl!! Hugs!

    • I’m so sorry about your husband. And I have to commend you for being able to do the purging during the remodeling–for me, that’s when I run out of time and everything gets thrown in boxes. Which is another reason why I want to do this now. If I would want to paint my walls, or have anything done to my house, I’d have a lot of stuff to move.

  4. I started a challenge like this in January for my rubber stamp “collection”. My challenge was “Use it or Lose It”. Just last night I expanded it to include other art & craft supplies. Reading your post this morning was serendipitous. Good luck to us all!

    • Yes! I plan on doing it with everything because I’ve got too much of everything. Some of it will be easier than others. And some I won’t bother with trying to sell because of the time it would take. I plan on making grab bags of little things, and selling those though. That would be great for stamps, and arts & crafts supplies.

  5. I’m in! Planning on doing the following this summer:

    + Selling books, CDs and DVDs back to Amazon for credit toward Kindle/ebooks
    + Donating clothes and knick knack thingies to Housing Works thrift shop in NYC; the money made from selling these will be put toward the homeless and folks with AIDS
    + Selling electronics and larger items like my stereo, speakers, camera, TV

  6. Yep, I made myself the same promise and for a few months worked on reducing my stuff steadily. Then I kind of ground to a halt, so thanks for the kick in the backside to GET ON WITH IT again. I know I’ll feel lighter and better if I do.

    • I do that too, no matter what it is–I start on something, and after awhile, stop for one reason or another. I’ll probably end up taking “breaks” on this endeavor as well. But if that happens, I’ll start back up again. I feel like my house and studio are getting smaller and smaller. I want some space back!

    • I know. There have been many times I’ve opened my studio door, and it crashes my mood when I see the mess. Or if I want to work on something, but it would take too long to clean off the table in my studio. Let’s change that! I’m reading a great book on organizing for people with ADD–I’ve just started, but it had a great tip. Think of cleaning up after yourself as part of whatever activity you are doing instead of a separate one. That makes so much sense to me, and I’m starting to do that.

  7. I totally relate. I’ve gotten a lot of help from Marsha Sim’s website and even took her professional organizer training course. As artists its a real double whammy…everythings is ART! I still struggle but have a better method and understanding of the issues. Thank you for posting that TED talk. That was totally motivating.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *