I might need this some day

I know these words have crossed your mind, and maybe your lips, when you’ve been going through the piles, the stacks, the racks, the cupboards, the closets. Amazingly, those words have the power to paralyze forward movement, and make you fear an imagined life where “needing it” occurred, and you were left, without it. 

Now, people come about this from lots of different paths.

  • you grew up in a home that had very little, and you learned to scrimp, save, and make the most of everything. You wasted nothing
  • you live like that now, because you have no other option
  • you live like that now, because you choose to
  • you’ve lived through loss, like a fire or a flood
  • you have a spouse who feels this way, even if you don’t
  • and so on

As a result, you probably think that thinking “I might need this some day” and holding onto the item is about being smart and being practical. But it’s actually not. This is really about WORRY. You’re a worrier about a future you cannot predict, and you cannot control. You feel that holding onto an item somehow helps you fight that imaginary need of your imaginary future, and you’ll feel prepared, smarter, resourceful, valuable, and just plain better. This worry causes stress, and the act of decluttering and considering letting things go creates conflict and stress between your desire to live a freer life, and your fear that you will face a time in the future or regret, loss, or waste.  

I’ll also bet that, if you’re reading this, you’ve known for a while that you’ve wanted to get more organized, live a simpler life, feel less chaotic, waste less time and energy and money.  So, maybe you already know that these items, and this paralyzing worry, is standing in your way of living that new imagined life.  

When these two sides come into conflict, your desire for a better life today vs. your fear of what may come tomorrow, who will win? Who do YOU root for? 

As always, I want to make sure you are solidly planted in your goals:  how you want to live your life, and what kind of space you have to dedicate to “stuff”.  If you could think about what the right ratio of things in your life, in your home, might be for these three categories, what would you come up with:

  1. Memories of my past. They have no practical value, other than making me reminisce about my former moments in life
  2. Things I need, love and use TODAY, in my current lifestyle, and in the forseeable future. 
  3. Things I don’t need right now, and am not using now, and cannot honestly say for sure if I’ll ever need them.  

What would the percentages be?  5% / 90% / 5%?  Something else?   Whatever your answer (I don’t judge), does the math add up?  Does your “stuff portfolio” match your ideal ratio?  Or has it tipped into the past or future buckets more than you think it should? 

There are ways you can talk yourself down from those moments. 

  • What is the real probability that the “some day” scenario will come about?
  • What would I do if that scenario came about and I didn’t have it? How would I move forward? 
  • Is this something I could borrow?  Rent? Use something else to do the job? Or even buy, inexpensively and easily enough?
  • Truly, what is the worst thing that will happen if I let go of this item?
  • What will I gain if I let go of this item? 

Here’s the thing that needs to be said, if I’m being fully honest:  You may actually let go of something that you could have used again. If you let go of one hundred items, you’ll regret 2 or 3 of them. A moment will come up, and you will say, “Ugh! I had that, and I got rid of it!”  You will be upset with yourself, because you’ll be in a moment and say to yourself “I could have been more prepared for this than I am right now.” What you will also likely discover quickly is that what you needed is replaceable, borrowable, or substitutable for someone else.  (And let’s keep in mind that there was also a good chance you wouldn’t even have FOUND the item you needed when you needed it, even if you “know it’s around here…. somewhere….”)

But between now and that moment, you’ll be living a more peaceful, more enjoyable life, in the home you’ve created around your goals for how you live. The moment of regret? It’s fleeting.  And you’ll never even know all the regret you’re not feeling from letting go of all the other things, that you never ever think of again…

Consider some brave choices today, and continue to move forward on the path you truly want for your home, and for your life.