Fighting the “I Might Need It Some Day” Force

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. 

 

.

 

Previous

Next

26 Comments

  1. Nancy Haworth

    Excellent tips! “I might need it someday” is something I often hear from my organizing clients. The ‘ways to talk yourself down’ questions really do help with the process of letting go of an item.

    Reply
    • clevergirlorg

      Thanks, Nancy!

      Reply
  2. Ellen Delap

    Love this post! It’s often just a feeling – not even a real scenario – that makes you keep stuff. Keeping it real is an important part of this.

    Reply
  3. clevergirlorg

    Thanks, Ellen…. We all do what we can to help keep it real! 🙂

    Reply
  4. Ellen Delap

    One more word on regret – regret is associated with sadness, shame and fear. Sad because of loss. Shame of not using an item enough or wasting it’s value. Fear of making a “wrong” decision. It’s in facing these emotions that you can move forward too.

    Reply
  5. Janet Barclay

    You hit the nail on the head with “what is the worst thing that will happen if I let go of this item?” I’ve gotten rid of lots of things, and I regret some of them from time to time, but nothing bad happened at all. It’s just an “Oh well” kind of thing.

    Reply
    • clevergirlorg

      Thanks, Janet! I find that’s one of the most powerful questions I get to ask anyone… helps introduce perspective and reality, and shake out of that worry space!

      Reply
  6. Sabrina Quairoli

    Great post, Kathy! “What will I gain if I let go of this item?” I love this question, it’s so important to look at the future when you are struggling with getting rid of stuff right now. I like to ask, “Will this be something that will add value to my future plans?” Thanks for sharing. Great topic!

    Reply
    • clevergirlorg

      Thanks so much, Sabrina! I like your “add value to my future” question, too! I’m going to borrow that one 🙂

      Reply
  7. Diane Quintana

    Wonderful post, Kathy. I love the way you talk about keeping it real and doing the math.

    Reply
    • clevergirlorg

      Thank you, Diane! I think the math really brings it from the theoretical to the realistic quickly… hard to argue with the evidence!

      Reply
  8. Autumn Leopold

    This is such a great post that everyone can relate to Kathy! I have this issue with my own home and I know better. I don’t do it on the large scale that I did when I was younger but it still happens. As I get older I don’t want my son to have the same mentality so we actually work with him and make sure he understands it’s okay to throw things away, recycle and someone else can reuse it.

    Reply
    • clevergirlorg

      Thank you! I was *just* talking about this with a virtual organizing client this morning: “What are your kids learning from your habits of holding onto things?” It’s such an important way to get perspective on your own habits, and how you want to guide their learning! Thanks for sharing!

      Reply
  9. Seana Turner

    Great that you pointed out how often people can’t even find the thing they had been holding onto! How often do you go out and buy what you know you own but can’t find… defeating the whole purpose, right?

    Reply
    • clevergirlorg

      Exactly! How often do you hear during decluttering, “So, THAT’S where this was….”? You just know that it’s perfect example of what will happen when you “need” the item in the future. Thanks for the comment!

      Reply
  10. Sarah Buckwalter

    Great post! I get this question all the time from clients. Usually couple with a story of how they got rid of something and then needed it. I am sharing!

    Reply
    • clevergirlorg

      Thanks, Sarah! So glad you enjoyed this one!

      Reply
  11. Jamie Steele

    I recently went through the what if I need this someday scenario when cleaning out my office closet. I asked myself how long I had had the item. If I had had it for over a year and not used it, then to charity or in the trash it went. Great Post!

    Reply
  12. Sarah Soboleski

    Well written post, Kathy! I love that last paragraph admitting that we might actually have needed an item we got rid of, but that it will be okay. You remind us that, after all, regret is fleeting. Thank you for sharing!

    Reply
    • clevergirlorg

      Thank you, Sarah! Glad you liked this one!

      Reply
  13. Hazel Thornton

    You know I’m a sucker for considering the actual probability of needing something again someday, so I love your percentages! I also weigh that against the replacement cost, and how much space would be recovered, in graphic form in my own blog post — Keep or Toss? “But I might need it someday!”

    Reply
    • clevergirlorg

      Hazel, I know and love your graph on your post about the same topic… I’m so glad you appreciate the math in mine, too! Thanks for commenting!

      Reply
  14. Elana Kleinman

    I love that you were honest about saying that there may be a few things over time that we “regret” getting rid of. True but still worth it in the long run.

    Reply
  15. Hilda Rodgers

    This is a great post Kathy! I love that you mentioned that people may not even be able to find the thing they need even if they do keep it. When we have too much “what if I need it” stuff, we can’t really live in the present. In today’s society, it’s not usually hard to replace something if “someday” ever happens and we actually need it.

    Reply
  16. Amy Bowles

    So well written! Right on point, Kathy! Thank you for this thoughtful and accurate post!

    Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Finding Your Path to Decluttering - Living a Better Life - […] above is an excerpt from Fighting the “I Might Need It Some Day” Force. You’ll benefit from reading the…

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.