How Much Stuff Is Too Much Stuff?

This blog post first appeared over at - you can read more about Allison there! 

I had to get out of town this past weekend — away from the city and the noise and the busy-ness of my life. I needed some space and quiet to think and pray and get my heart right again.

I was starting to lose perspective, to lose sight of what I really want.

I think this is what happens when we have too much stuff in our life. We start to lose sight of what really matters.

So I went hiking...

My husband came with me, which is unusual for us. We've hiked together twice in our marriage, including this time (because, as he says, "Why would you climb up a mountain just so you can climb down again?") But I think he could see how much I needed it, so he graciously agreed to come. We ventured out with rain clouds looming and a backpack full of snacks and water and rain jackets and a not-so-helpful map of our trail.

photo: @allyvest on Instagram

And as I wandered through the woods I started to think of a question several people have asked since I released Packing Light almost two months ago, and one I haven't been able to answer yet.

The question goes like this: How much is too much?

How do you know how many shoes is too many pairs of shoes? How much furniture is too much furniture? How many sweaters, or shirts, or belts, or cars or pairs of jeans can you own before you reach the threshold?

When do you reach the point of diminishing returns?

It's a hard question to answer because I see such a wide spectrum. It's easy, in the small sphere of my daily life, to feel like I'm packing pretty lightly. My home is modest and my wardrobe is nothing to speak of and my husband and I share a car.

But then other times I meet someone in need and see how my life is full and my closet is full and my heart is so full I can't help but wonder if there's more to give.

When I look to my right and left for answers, the question seems fuzzy and confusing.

How much is too much?

But yesterday, as I wandered through the woods and thought and prayed about what it meant to really live life with less, to clarify, to downsize, to take only what fits in my suitcase, I realized the answer is so much easier than we think it is.

How do we know how much is too much?

We just know.

It's the same way I knew, last Friday, I had to skip writing something new to post here. It was the first day I've missed in at least a year and, to be honest, I felt like a huge failure for skipping it.

But by the time midnight rolled around, and I still only had a few scattered thoughts haphazardly thrown on the page, I knew I was trying to do too much. I knew I needed to let go of the notion I am superwoman, that I can never let a ball drop.

I just knew.

It's the same way I knew I needed to go hiking yesterday.

Nobody had to tell me to get away. I didn't go because a friend told me I should. I didn't go because I compared my life to someone else's and realized mine had too much noise, too much activity, too much chaos.

I went because I knew I needed to go. Because I know myself, and because I could see and feel that it was all too much.

If I didn't let go of the schedule I was keeping, the exhaustion and pain and even depression I was experiencing wasn't going to get better. It was going to get worse. I just knew.

I think most of the time Packing Light is like this. It looks different for each of us, and might even look different in different seasons of our lives. But, most of the time, I think, we know when we need to let go.

The problem is, it's hard to let go, even when we know it's good for us.

That's one thing I'm learning about Packing Light. So often I hold onto things (like possessions or friendships or relationships or schedules or to-do lists) because I'm compensating for something.

I'm covering up, trying impress people, to protect myself, to hide. It's so hard to come out of hiding, to drop the act, the costume, the facade.

It's so scary to put my baggage down.

But it's always healing, and always worth it. It's the only way to get what I really want.

What is "too much" in your life right now? What do you need to put down?

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