Own This, Not That

A reader asked if we had ever seen the weight loss books Eat This, Not That and wondered if we might be able to create something similar for uncluttering:

Of course, uncluttering solutions are as varied as there are people, but I have to imagine there’d be a variety of things that would work for everyone.

We often do these types of suggestions in our Unitasker Wednesday posts when we encourage people to own multitaskers instead of 9,000 bizarre unitaskers that lack real utility. And, we thought it might be fun to come up with ideas on this theme for all areas of the home and office. Obviously, as reader Shalin mentioned in the suggesting email, these dichotomous scenarios won’t work for everyone, but they can still be entertaining on this first full day of summer (or winter, if you’re in the southern hemisphere):

What fun additions would you make to this list? Share your Own This, Not That suggestions in the comments.

39 Comments for “Own This, Not That”

  1. posted by mrsean2k on

    Own an eBook / Kindle, not a load of paperbacks

  2. posted by mrsean2k on

    Own a multi-port USB charger and short cable, not a load of separate chargers:


  3. posted by Mimi on

    own things that make you, in any way, feel positive: things that make you smile or that you just like to use.

    don´t own things that make you, in any way, feel negative: sad, depressed, guilty.

    it sounds a bit odd, but don´t you know the feeling of “oh, I should sew/clean/hang/repair/lose weight/ whatever…” when you see a thing? get rid of it!
    there are more than enough things that make us feel good.

  4. posted by JM on

    Own a few quality clothing pieces that fit and all go together, not a closet full of things you don’t wear.

  5. posted by Celeste on

    Measuring cup that’s a graduated tube with a plunger: it eliminates nested cups, it works even better for sticky or oily ingredients because it empties it all out, you can use it to form crabcake or other kinds of patties, and you can use it as a cookie cutter.

    I miss the bottle openers that were mounted to a cabinet; you never had to dig around for them or find the corkscrew that had the opener on top.

    I’m definitely for e-calendars. Addresses can be added to email contacts, and a separate computer address list can be kept for contacts who don’t use email or computers (elderly relatives, for example). Calendars and address books just don’t need to be on paper.

  6. posted by Meg on

    Smart phone — alarm, music player, clock, calendar, to-do lists, games, dictionary… and while it doesn’t fully replace a computer, I do find that I use it instead of my computer a lot of times to check things.

    There’s probably a reason in there why I am so glued to mine.

    I’ve also seen some musician buddies of mine use theirs with metronome and tuner apps. Maybe if I can find one for my phone I’ll do that.

  7. posted by Sarah on

    Quality, not quantity.

  8. posted by Pari on

    A digital photo frame instead of various picture frames spread all over the place. You get to see more of your photos instead of the same ones all the time, and you don’t have to dust all those frames! Also agree with the Kindle/other e-reader instead of all those books!

  9. posted by lucy1965 on

    Celeste, might this one do?

    One good pen instead of several mugs full of disposables which might or might not work.

  10. posted by Jenna @ NeatFreakWannabe on

    Fun suggestion, Erin!

    Appending to @mrsean2k’s suggestion:

    Or, own a library card, not a bunch of books you’ll only read once!

  11. posted by Shalin on


    @Mimi – agree with owning non-negative things.
    @Meg – agree on the smartphone.

    Going vertical for storage or desk organization instead of having your work surface turn into a storage surface / open face filing system.

    Good quality pair of shears/scissors – ones that will last and can be easily sharpened. Don’t get a pair that has a hingepin that seems too cheap to stand up to the test of time.

    A solid quality all-in-one home audio device like a Tivoli Hi-Fi. (http://www.tivoliaudio.com/pro.....tems.html/) If you’re okay with music that doesn’t have to be turned up so loud you can’t think straight, this is a great alternative to a rack system.

    If you enjoy going to museums – a membership level that have reciprocity at other museums locally/regionally/nationally can be a money saver and gives you an incentive to travel a bit.

    A “grab’n’go” bag/briefcase for fire, etc. emergencies in the home instead of…well, nothing.

  12. posted by Shalin on

    @lucy1965 – after my own heart. 🙂 I’ve used 1 pen for a while – Parker Jotter (actually, I purchased a 10 pack for the rare times I loose one – they’re kinda hard to find). 80% of my waking hours it’s in arms length of me. I like the Parker Jotter – worked for my Dad, works for me 🙂

    @Jenna – totally agree, get a library card and use the library! 🙂

    One more item: 1 decent pair of driving sunglasses (and probably 1 decent pair of sports sunglasses) – instead of a bunch of poor quality shades that’ll break easily.

  13. posted by Lee on

    Magazine subscriptions are available online (as are free ones), so having online subscriptions rather than paper subscriptions would eliminate clutter at my house.

    I’d love a yard of English Ivy, rather than grass. Once it’s established, the only upkeep is cutting back so it doesn’t cover the sidewalk. No anti-weed and grub treatments, no fertilizing, no mowing, and only watering in extremely hot and dry conditions. This reduces the cost of having it cared for and the time and cost of caring for it yourself. It also eliminates the stuff required to have on hand to care for it. I’d keep the trees and shrubs. My husband still isn’t convinced.

  14. posted by Rob O. on

    I’m all for minimizing kitchen clutter and avoiding single-purpose tools, but if you like mangos, a mango splitter is well worth the few bucks and small bit of storage space:


    Mangos are dangerously slippery and difficult to de-seed even with a sturdy, sharp chef’s knife.

  15. posted by Kenton A. Hoover on

    Own a couple of packing cubes, not a baby changing bag. We did our twins with one cube that contained a oil-cloth roll for changing on, wipes, diapers, and a knot-a-bag for getting rid of dirty diapers or packaging dirty clothes, another cube with formula and later snacks, and a third cube with a change of clothing in it. Three went into whatever bag one was carrying or into the back of the car. We’re down to just the change of clothes and small envelope with a snack or two in it.

    The only single-taskers that make sense for kids are cribs and strollers.

  16. posted by Kenton A. Hoover on

    @Rob O — mangos are not to be done using a chef’s knife, since you need the blade to flex a little. Use a sharp boning knife — simply, easy and as safe as boning meat.

  17. posted by Tomasz on

    @Rob O while I cut a lot of mangoes for my wife it take just a bit of skill to be able to do it with a knife. About 3-4 times is all you need. We could all use with a little more knife skills.

    Good instructions on how to do it.

  18. posted by Babs on

    @Mimi – Well put! That is a great perspective to bring to the decluttering table.

  19. posted by jesser on

    Own a scansnap and a subscription to Carbonite, not a filing cabinet.

    Own a smart phone and google calendar not a filofax/dayplanner.

  20. posted by Matthew on

    Own a re-usable water bottle, not cheap disposable plastic ones.

  21. posted by Cindi on

    SCRAPBOOK your old photos–only the good ones, give yourself permission to throw out any that are blurry or just plain dumb. Scan in or colour copy your old Heritage photographs so that you can keep the images in one album, not all the fading photos and frames.

    SCRAPBOOK your kids artwork! Take pictures of them, scrap them into an album, and throw out the original “masterpieces” knowing that you can still look at them 🙂

  22. posted by mrsean2k on

    Costco reusable bags. Excellent for organisation, cheap, versatile, tough.


    I use them for shopping, storing gear in the car, shipping games consoles around when needed, etc. etc. etc.

  23. posted by Kate on

    Have an awesome digital music collection you can load to a portable device and listen to in your home instead of a bunch of CDs, or subscribe to a service like Pandora for streaming music.

    Organize your software CDs into an album instead of storing the discs in their cases or boxes in your office.

    Digitize as much as possible… pare down the rest. 😉

  24. posted by Beth on

    Use Google Reader to keep up with blogs instead of having your inbox cluttered with emails.

  25. posted by Dave on

    @jesser I’m still concerned about storing anything personal/important online, doing online banking, online purchases, etc. It seems like every week, some company says that thier accounts have been compromised.

  26. posted by Laura on

    My friend used a pizza cutter as a mezza luna to finely chop basil the other day. I thought it was brilliant as I had registered for a mezza luna and didn’t get one. I’d love to see what other wonders that pizza cutter can do.

    So funny, at the beginning of the article the first thing I thought to get rid of was our mango slicer. Now I realize how dangerous it is to live without it!

  27. posted by Heidi Poe on

    Good call on the Netflix subscription. My bf and I still have tons of DVDs that we don’t want to get rid of, though, so I reused one of my HUGE CD case/holders and we put all our DVDs in there and threw out their boxes. Cleared up a bunch of space and our DVDs are in one convenient carrying case now!

  28. posted by Elizabeth M Gatti on

    Anything I use daily for me is of better quality.

    Expensive set of white Egyptian cotton sheets in white for each bed in the house.
    White towels, good pillows, got rid of all the others.

    I unpacked my china from years ago and I am using it.

    I am decluttering from years of storing 2 households merged into one.
    Also, I am the family photo taker and keeper of the old family albums.
    I am taking all the slides my father had and turning them into DVDs for each of my sisters.
    Scanning all the old photos and keeping them on DVDs also.

    It feels so good to get rid of so much stuff. I don’t want my children to have to wade through tons of things when I move to greener pastures

  29. posted by camellia tree on

    Some of my favorite multitaskers are the clear pyrex with lids. I have them in mixing bowl sizes (good for taking things to potlucks), baking dishes (good for taking casseroles or desserts such as cobblers to potlucks, and also for storing these things in the fridge half-eaten), and I also have smaller bowls (again…potlucks, but this time the bowl was for a dip…but these are also good for storing a multitude of things in the fridge). Somehow just having a tight fitting lid for a bowl or dish makes it so much more functional.

  30. posted by Barbara Bell on

    Can’t bear to part with your photos? Put your favorites into a photo album.

    You’d be surprised how that album becomes a conversation starter for the people who are taking a look through those pages.

    Think you don’t have time to throw these in an album? Invite a friend over and make a night of it.

  31. posted by Erin on

    Use QuietRead (https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/jcompkbkkcdgjigcmedmeggjbjelcojn)
    and Google Shortcuts (official Firefox port) (https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/baohinapilmkigilbbbcccncoljkdpnd)
    instead of keeping open a million tabs to remind you to do things or making a ton of bookmarks or shortcuts on your desktop.

    This has saved me OODLES of time!

  32. posted by Kelly on

    I have a Netflix subscription, a HULU subscription, have quite a number of items in my Amazon Video Library… and STILL have over 850 DVDs. Fortunately, my DVDs are fairly well contained in six (soon to be seven) Ziotek Media Carousels… pricey, but SO worth it! Because sometimes you just want to watch your favorite movie or TV show without having to rely on an Internet connection that may or may not be reliable at any given moment.

    Also, regarding books… I used to have nearly 3,000 books in my collection. I’ve pared it down to about 500, almost all of which are non-fiction books in my two favorite categories: art and religion. I have a growing Kindle library and visit the public library about twice a month (borrowing an average of four books at every visit). The library is my new best friend! I trade books with people on PaperbackSwap.com and I “rent” books from Booksfree. I do a book purge every spring, and will probably find another 50 or so more books I can comfortably part with.

  33. posted by Sylvia on

    Erin, I love this list! I have a question: where can one find a well-made file cabinet that doesn’t cost a grand or more?

    I’m a writer and despite being a minimalist in general, I tend to accumulate paper. Yes, I shred, and I’m beginning to scan. But there’s still a lot of stuff I really want to keep hard copy for–I don’t entirely trust the ethereal nature of bytes, and frankly, it’s often easier to lay my hands on paper copy than it is to remember where I’ve stashed an electronic file.

    So if anybody’s got a good rec for a filing cabinet, I’d love to hear it.

  34. posted by LIz I. on

    @Sylvia: My filing cabinets are by Techline. I have four sets of two drawer cabinets that, with a laminate top, form a credenza (which, with an extension, also becomes my desk). They are white laminate and cost an arm and a leg back in 2000 but they are just a sheer joy to use as they silently glide open and closed. The quality is just unbelievable. I live in a small cottage and these filing cabinets/desk are attractive enough to sit in my “living room”.

    Even with now digitizing all of my receipts and paperwork, I still have paper archives (which often contain things other than paper) as I am an artist. And for frequently used instruction booklets, etc, there is nothing handier than the paper copy.

  35. posted by Em on

    If you’re working on a MAC, toss the post-its, little notepads, scraps of paper and backs of envelopes and use the Stickies program to jot down the things you used to put on the various pieces of paper – thereby eliminating all those little stacks and scraps.
    I second the smart phone, too – phone, internet, camera, music, videos, calendar, recipes, calculator, google for researching, mapquest for finding, gps for directions, Evernote, all in one! Sure, it’s not the same as my computer and dslr, but when running around town….

  36. posted by gypsy packer on

    Own a garden and a fork or spade, not a yard full of useless grass, a string trimmer, a mower, and a grocery store full of useless expense.
    I might be a redneck…if I own many, many quart Mason jars and often can be found drinking Southern sweet tea or buttermilk in a jar instead of a glass. Give guests a vintage blue jar.

  37. posted by Jason on

    Save copies of program manuals on your computer. Much easier to find later and less space.

    I just converted all my CDs to mp3 and am currently looking into how to do the same to my DVDs.

  38. posted by Felipe on

    If you like to watch movies in your tv, and not in your computer, and does not have a modern tv (one with usb port or pc port), my suggestion would be to buy an dvd player with avi divx support, so you can convert your movies to that format and burn many movies in a single media (depending on each movie size, may lose some quality).

    One way to own less, IMO.

  39. posted by Claire on

    I also agree with using a library subscription instead of an e-reader. I’ve recently come into a very prolonged bout of insomnia, and have found that the light emitted by any electronic device (computer screen, tv screen, e-reader screen, etc.) can throw off your internal clock & make it difficult to go to sleep; good to know if you read before bed at night.

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