What You Gain By Living With Less

What You Gain By Living With Less


Kim Shippey is a regular guest blogger for Ingrid Peschke’s blog Changing Tides of Health. As an international journalist who has relocated with his family many times during his career, he offers helpful insights when he writes about reducing clutter. Although the treatment center for hoarding he mentions is not in Southern California, we all can recognize the benefits of letting go.

A noticeable effort is being made these days to improve mental health among people of all ages, cultures, and communities. For example, depression and its effect on health, on people’s well-being, and even on their physical condition, has been the focus of much research. Less well known is the attention being given to many other psychological disorders–including something called “compulsive hoarding syndrome.”

There’s even a center for its treatment in Sacramento, California, which was established by a clinical psychologist and social worker, Robin Zasio. She and her team help people who have difficulty in letting go, “helping them to begin making decisions that support both their emotional and physical wellness.”

And there is an increasing flow of books available to help people gain sound perspectives. One of the most helpful books on hoarding to have come my way in recent weeks was written not by a psychologist but by a mother of four grown children, who for more than 30 years has worked in family ministry in her church, Susan V. Vogt.

This slim book (her sixth), titled Blessed by Less: Clearing Your Life of Clutter by Living Lightly (Loyola Press, 2013), describes what a year of giving stuff away taught Vogt about life, relationships, and what’s really important. As the blurb puts it: Cluttered closets. Crowded minds. How do we begin to lighten our loads?

The book’s 122 pages are packed with practical tips and spiritual wisdom, including ways to consume and hang on to less, become more generous, let go of burdens and intangibles, waste less, save energy, worry less, laugh more, and, as you win, eliminate the “smug factor.”–

Taking a more spiritual perspective, Vogt says, can lead to abundant blessings we might otherwise miss. The search for God and a spiritual core is universal. She writes that the “deeply-rooted instinct to live more lightly upon this earth transcends any one religion and abides in conscientious people of good will.

”Vogt speaks of the role played by prayer in the culling process, and doesn’t hesitate to share passages of Scripture that have helped her worry less and have enriched her own increasingly uncluttered spiritual journey.

By happy coincidence, one of the passages she quotes (from First Corinthians, chapter 13) was key in restoring perspective, peace, and well-being to my own life when I was required not just to downsize my home, but relocate  to another country thousands of miles away. I had to learn in a hurry to be less preoccupied with things and center my attention more on thinking — wise, God-inspired thinking.

I had to sort and ultimately abandon decades of hoarded material — from rusty bikes to sagging armchairs, to thousands of books I believed I could never live without! — belonging not only to me and my wife, but also to five children. Our peace of mind and even our physical health took some severe knocks until we realized fully that no matter where we lived, and how many our material possessions, what would “abide” (among many other spiritual qualities) were “faith, hope, and love.” And they would always be plentifully available.

Eventually we learned — with gratitude — the lessons that Vogt was to provide 25 years later in her book, which is a good read for anyone.


About the author

Guest We are pleased to present Notes from the Field authors, who are assistant committees and church members in the Southern California region; and Notes from The Mother Church authors, who are Committees from the United States and around the world, as well as the Federal Committee on Publication office.


  1. says

    Couldn’t be more timely. From my pantry, refrigerator, closets to my carport storage, I’m asking – does that item have a reason to be there? If they have been there for more than a reasonable time – dispose of. Not needed. Perfectly good clothing that is not being worn – goes out. Thanks for such a potent subject. It’s surprising how such clean-outs provide time for inspiration and good deeds.

  2. Bob M says

    I like this a lot. I learned that if you haven’t used something in a year it is subject to getting rid of.

  3. George says

    Great message and reminder to clean out any mental clutter. . .anything that would try to pull us away from seeking and finding God as this weeks lesson points out.

  4. Pamela says

    Thanks for this blog, as Evelyn said this is very timely. We all have more than we actually need and to learn how to let go and get rid of “things” is healthy. I too feel that if something has sat for a year and not been worn or used its time to get rid of it. Thanks also for sharing the title of Susan’s book I am sure it is a good read with helpful ideas.

    I remember reading in a book called “We Knew Mary Baker Eddy” one of the writers, Martha Wilcox, talked about how strict Mrs. Eddy was about being precise in our daily activities and that she (Martha) learned that to be precise in her actions was to be precise in her thinking. So clearing out clutter from our consciousness is just as important as clearing out clutter from our house and garage, probably more so.

  5. says

    Having just this minute finished going through some boxes of hoarded things and sorting almost all of the contents into the recycle bin or the trash bin, and then reading this article, it was as if it said simply: Amen!

  6. Sue says

    Thank you for this timely article. Yes, every day is a good day to let go of “things” and find new ways of doing things, find fresh ways of helping others and discover new spiritual insights into how to live and express those valued qualities such as grace, kindness, thoughtfulness and love for God. Letting go of the limited sense of things, sorting out old things and old ideas, lets us find new and spiritual ideas. This activity lead us to be better people, better friends, better partners and better members of the community which blesses everyone!

  7. Rhonda says

    For some time I have had the desire to live more simply with less “things.” I’m going to get the book you mentioned and hope it helps spur me into action! And I’m sure in Mary Baker Eddy’s books I will find inspiration to clear out the mental clutter. Thanks for the nudge! (=

  8. Anne says

    Today’s blog has given me so much encouragement, and I appreciate everyone’s honesty in speaking up about eliminating h/her clutter.

    I have been guilty in this area but did give away several bags of long held clothes recently. But I’ve got a lot more to unload, and this article has spurred me on to finish the job. I’m intrigued by the title of Susan Vogt’s book.

    Thank you for this important reminder to live lightly and with less.

  9. Julie says

    The biggest surprise for me with the little un-cluttering I have accomplished is how much better I feel (and don’t miss the stuff) after clearing the way. This is a great subject to consider. Thank you.

  10. Sharon says

    Thank you for sharing this book with us. One thing about lightening our possessions is in finding someone or someplace to give. How wonderful it feels to know that the things you haven’t used are being used by someone! My sister and I recently took a collection of small empty boxes to the local Boys and Girls Club and the joy on the faces of the workers made our day!