Ryan Howes

Ryan Howes PhD, ABPP

In Therapy

Happy Pruning Day

Does your stuff own you?

Posted Dec 23, 2013

No actual shears required

Pruning Day (To the tune of Jingle Bells, of course)

Pruning Day, downsize day, the best day of the year,

Sort through all your junk and make some room for your new gear.

Pruning Day, giving day, the best day of the year,

Help yourself and others while your clutter disappears.

From my family to yours, we wish you a happy Pruning Day. Every year, the day-before-the-day-before-Christmas is a day we confront our rampant consumerism and “prune” away the clothes, toys, books, appliances, furniture, artwork, and tools that no longer bear fruit. Believe it or not, it rivals Thanksgiving as our favorite holiday. Even my young kids get into it. They like thinking about other kids enjoying their toys and clearing out their own play space.

Open up your drawers. Take stock of all your crap.

Use it?

Need it?

Love it?

And if not it’s just a trap.

It’s not like we give away everything. Some of our stuff has meaning or purpose, and we respect that. The mantra “Do I use it? Do I need it? Do I love it?” is a common refrain throughout the day, and makes decisions fairly simple. The crock pot? Yes, I use it all the time. Birth certificates? Needed. That old photo album? Beloved. If any of the questions earn an honest “yes” the object stays put. But the 7-up cookbook? Those NKOTB cassettes? Our cherished Furby? Nope, nope, nope. They collect dust and take space in our house, surely someone else can make better use of them.

Oh, Pruning Day, streamline day, the best day of the year,

Make a choice about those slacks and cherished souvenirs.

Pruning Day, offload day, the best day of the year,

Stuff you own will own you, it’s excess that you should fear.

Pruning Day is our not-so-subtle yearly reminder that the value of things pale in comparison to relationships and experiences. It’s handy that it happens to fall immediately before our most consumer-philic holiday each year. In the words of philosopher/martial artist Bruce Lee: “It is not a daily increase, but a daily decrease. Hack away at the inessentials.” On December 23, we hack.

Put old stuff in bags,

Donate to charities.

That coat you hate is something great,

To people with more need.

Curing several types of constipation

Pruning Day may be a new concept for you. It’s believed that Pruning Day originated in the mediterranean agricultural climates where winter is considered pruning season for crops of roses and other plants where dead, damaged, or diseased stems are removed to improve plant health and prevent the spread of disease. This idea of pruning moved from the gardens and vineyards into the home where "dead" and damaged goods are ignored and become a nuisance. Fortunately, many of the pruned toys, clothes, and goods within the home can be donated to find new life elsewhere. The pruners benefit, as well as the recipients.

Oh, Pruning Day, downsize day, the best day of the year.

Living with this junk can make your headspace much less clear.

Pruning day, focus day, this mess is your nadir.

With fewer presents maybe you’ll be more present this year!

With fewer presents maybe you’ll be more present this year!

The psychological benefits of simplification and offloading cannot be overstated. There’s something wonderful about letting go of stuff, which is ironically the same stuff we work so hard to obtain. In a world plagued by deficit as well as excess, I invite you to join us in the act of pruning. May your presence be your present this year!


Before you get into the spirit of downsizing, please add me to your facebook likes and visit my website. Who knows, you might use, need, or love it.

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