How to Own Less: The 10/10 Possessions Theory

Our material possessions mean a great deal to us.  After all, we work hard for them.  We buy them (and maybe we spend a lot of time planning and researching those purchases).  We clean them, fix them, store them, insure them, and take them with us whenever we move house.

They must be pretty important, right?


How valuable is that stuff – really?

The 10/10 Possessions Theory is a challenge suggested by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, the writers, filmmakers, and public speakers known as The Minimalists.

They ask us to determine if those things we spend so much of our life energy acquiring and maintaining are really as important as we think they are.

Step 1  

Grab a piece of paper and write down your ten most expensive purchases from the past decade.  These are probably material items, such as your house, car, furniture, jewelry, technology, or some other possessions you own or have owned in the last ten years.  Maybe your list will include a wedding gown, hobby equipment, or new appliances.  Think of the ten biggest-ticket items.

Step 2  

Now turn the paper over and make another list: ten things that add the most value to your life.  This list might include beloved people, special places, or favorite rituals and experiences like early morning walks with a loved one, watching your child play her violin, a dinner or other get-together with the extended family, or something else.  Take time to think of the ten things that make the biggest positive contribution to your happiness every day.

My ten most valuable things include my husband, kids, and grandkids, some dear friends, writing this blog and my books, singing Mozart, visiting the northern California coast, going to the theater, green hills and blooms in the spring and crisp weather and color in the fall, and a couple of other intangible but essential items.

Be honest with yourself when you're making your lists.  You're going to put the Minimalists' 10/10 Possessions Theory to the test.

Your conclusions

Did you find, like I did, that your two lists have almost nothing in common?  Then you've helped prove the 10/10 theory.

Now... what are you going to do about it?

Are you ready to downsize?  Whether you actually move from your current home into a smaller living space, or simply undertake a radical declutter, it's a challenge.  But it's also a chance to reinvent yourself and carry just the essentials into your new life.  By releasing decades'-worth of accumulated items, you can emerge with more energy and freedom.  You're ready to look ahead, not back.

Downsizing can be hard, or it can be easier.  My book Downsize Now: The Joy of Decluttering for a Fresh Start,* will give you the tools and inspiration to get the job done so you can start enjoying all the benefits, such as

  • more space
  • more ease
  • more focus
  • more energy
  • more gratitude
  • more time and money for what matters most to you

Get your copy of Downsize Now so you can start discovering these good things (and more) today!

* This blog is reader-supported.  If you buy through my links, I may earn a small commission.


  1. Our lists match amazingly well. Guess we finally got this minimalist stuff down. :)

    1. Hi again, Linda! Maybe we do - but I always need the reminder!

    2. For many years I have been decluttering, but cannot get rid of gifts my grown children and grand children gave me. I had the chance to give away my china cabinet after I donated my 12 piece set china dishes, but because i did not know what to do with all the beautiful items that were in there. Lenox platters, pitcher, bowls, vases and expensive wine glasses and more. I do not want to seen ungrateful, but part of me want to tell my children to stop giving me GIFTS...
      ps: the display in my china cabinet reminds me of the old Fortunoff at Willowbrook mall

    3. I've asked my grown children to give me gifts I can use and use up -- so they give me gourmet foods, fancy candles and lotions, pretty note cards, restaurant gift cards, etc. It works for me, and they still get to give me something when they want to. Maybe your kids will go for the same idea.


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