Want, Need, Wear, Read - Decluttering Before Christmas

Something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read is a great way to simplify present buying at Christmas or birthdays. Some families limit their children’s gifts to just 4 items, choosing an item from each of these categories. I wish I'd adopted this philosophy of gift buying years ago when my boys were small. There were several years when we were overwhelmed by the amount of new stuff entering the house at Christmas, most of which they ended up not using, enjoying or appreciating. Spending time identifying just a few items that they really wanted and needed in terms of clothes, toys, books and practical items would have saved a lot of money and resources. 

Oh well, we can all learn from our over-buying and over-wanting past, right? There's no better time than Christmas to become more mindful of our consumption. I've been using this idea of want, need, wear, read in reverse to declutter before Christmas. As I've tidied and organised different areas of my home I've been asking myself some tough questions about what I want, need, wear and read. I've learnt a lot. 

1. Want. Do I still want this item in my home? Does it add any value to my life? Why did I want it in the first place? Is there someone else who might want it more? Do I have to keep this item just because someone thought I wanted it? This month I've decluttered quite a few Christmas decorations in an attempt to get down to just enough festive ornaments to suit my simple style. Giving them to a charity shop will help a good cause; I'm sure my snowman figure will raise a smile as well as some money when he ventures off to his new home. Sometimes people buy us things they think we want and get it wrong. I believe it's OK to let these things go especially if this means others will benefit from our donation. These days I'm better at recognising the difference between arbitrary wants and genuine needs. And I've learnt that the best way to conquer my wants is to wait a designated amount of time between wanting something and making a purchase. Keeping away from shops and glossy magazines also keeps my wants at bay. Advertising is very shrewd and my subconscious shopping diva can be easily swayed by seductive offers. I'm not saying you shouldn't treat yourself or others to luxuries sometimes but I think to get lasting pleasure out of something it's best if it's something you've wanted for a long time.
Decluttered items: Artificial Christmas tree, 1 glass vase, soft snowman figure, snowman candle and a set of gold baubles.

2. Need. Do I have more than I need? Why did I think I needed this? How often do I use this item and could I use something else to do the same job? Have my needs changed? If my basic needs are met should I be helping others more? Despite minimising my wardrobe a few months ago I still feel that I have more jewellery, scarves and bags than I need. It's time to give some away, experiment with less and see if I can find the right amount to meet my needs. Decluttering teaches you that having less is very freeing. However, it takes a lot of work to get down to owning just the basics that you need.  Ahem, I'm not there yet. 
Decluttered items: 1 handbag, 2 scarves and 3 necklaces. Plus, I've made my first donation to Crisis at Christmas which will help a homeless person over the festive period and beyond. It feels good to acknowledge that my needs are less than I once believed and realise that I can be more generous now that my spending is under control. 

3. Wear. Do I still like this? If I wear it only occasionally is it still worth keeping? Do I feel great in it? Do I have too many duplicate items? I've asked for vouchers this Christmas from my favourite clothing store so I've decluttered a couple of items to make room for anticipated new purchases. I know what works in my wardrobe and I'm still weeding out items that make me feel ugh for whatever reason. Piece by piece I'm streamlining my wardrobe and defining my style. 
Decluttered items: 1 t-shirt, 1 pair of boots. 

4. Read. Why am I keeping this book? Will I ever pick it up again? Is it just for show? Could someone or some charity benefit from me donating this book? Could I give it to my friend to read and ask her to pass it on when she has finished it? How many recipe books is enough? Are my bookshelves overflowing? I have decluttered many, many books over the last few years but there are still a few that I'm keeping for the wrong reasons. 
Decluttered items: several fiction books that I've read for book club, two recipe books and one holiday guide book. Plus, I have 2 books that I have been lent that I will probably never read and I should really return them. 

Want, need, wear, read can be a useful tool in identifying past consumerist mistakes and helping to define an ideal amount of stuff to own. Applying this simple philosophy to both gift buying and decluttering should help us feel calmer and more content.



  1. I love this post! I do some regular decluttering but I still like to be reminded. I love this light approach to Christmas and by gifting my family with experiences, consumables or things they actually needed/wanted, I just simplified the whole Holiday season. I didn't even hit the shops in December avoiding all the craziness!

  2. A brilliant post. I am trying to do something similar with my decluttering, after a mammoth first push to declutter and purge it has now slowed down and I think over things that are leaving the house a bit more now. But it feels so good to let things go.

  3. I love this post. I only started reading about minimalism recently and I'm trying to adapt my life to have less 'stuff' and more time. My husband isn't quite with me though and doesn't understand why I want to go through everything and de-clutter, just before Christmas. We have 2 children and although, compared to some, the number of gifts our children will receive from us is modest, I am still stressed at the thought of all the extra clutter in the house.

  4. Another good strategy in the war against clutter.

  5. Claire I have cleared my shed, most of my garage and most of my attic. You would be proud of me! I've just stopped for air. De-cluttering will resume soon.X

  6. Made me think, so many things in the house neither of us have used / worn for years, really need to get a grip and have a massive sort-out.

    Freezer's the same, God only knows what's lurking in the bottom of it. And the cupboards, stuff at the back probably been there for years.

  7. We've only ever given our daughter one gift on Christmas. She receives so many other gifts through extended family including gift cards and money, so if she wants, she can herself by several gifts she wants that way. She is an only child so we could easily over do it on her birthday, etc... I'm so glad we've stuck to the one-gift only idea through the years (for her birthday too)!

    I also have begun giving only one gift per couple or person rather than several not so great gifts on Christmas or birthdays. I used to buy tchochkies (sp.) and things I have never seen them use, but now I buy only one gift of quality (but within my budget) and it is also typically a consumable. This way I feel I am not cluttering up anyone else's lives!

  8. I use this approach too Claire, I would rather buy one decent gift, money better spent. Xx

  9. Another excellent blog post Claire!! I am in the midst of decluttering before Christmas, and have asked for practical gifts for Christmas. I have made a mental note of the want, need, wear and read and will apply this to future gift purchases for everyone and also for my simplifying/decluttering life too. Wishing you and you're family a relaxing and lovely Christmas xx

  10. Love it! Will be pondering on this x

  11. Love it! Will be pondering on this x


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