I firmly believe that everything we own should add value to our lives. Our possessions should be beautiful, loved, or functional. But as I look around my home, not everything falls into those categories. And I am OK with that.
I live with three other people. There are things that add value to each of our lives that do not add value to the lives of the other people in the house. I make an honest effort to really consider what I bring in the door. I host a huge multi-family yard sale each spring and each fall. As I am cleaning or resetting my house, I make a point to pay attention to the stuff as I go. I am always looking for things that have outlived their purpose or that we have outgrown to add to our table at the yard sale. There are many little things I do frequently for the sole purpose of culling things. There are also always things that I choose not to let go of just yet when I’m clearing the clutter. It is enough that I consider the keep triangle often because I know we are consistently working toward keeping our things in check. We want to keep our stuff, we do not want our stuff keeping us.
We acquire things for many reasons. We genuinely need it. We currently have a use for it. We want it. We enjoy the act of getting it. Some believe we are programmed to purchase it. Whatever the reason, I would like for each of us to hesitate before we cross the cash register to evaluate each purchase. (Your wallet will thank you.)
The evaluation is up to you, but here are the questions I suggest you ask yourself. If you need it, have you reviewed the alternatives? If you currently have a use for it, will it really add value to your life? If you want it, will you still want it next week/month if you wait to buy it? Can you enjoy shopping without having to actually make the purchase? Could you find another hobby that would be just as enjoyable that would give you more long-term satisfaction?
This week we have talked a lot about recycling. I love finding new ways to reuse items. I like being able to reduce the amount of trash our household regularly contributes. But I am even more against hoarding things in case a use can be found for them later just for the sake of keeping it out of the landfill.
If you are hoarding an abundance of stuff “just in case” you are turning your home into a mini dump. Many people avoid throwing things away because they feel guilty for being wasteful. But if an item is not being used isn’t it being wasted despite our hanging on to it? Instead of keeping stuff just to keep it out of the trash work on reducing the consumables brought into your home. An ounce of prevention…
There are many things around our homes that we keep for sentimental reasons. It was a gift from someone. It represents a person or event in our lives. These are the hardest items to scrutinize.
When you give someone a gift, you give it to make the other person happy and because it made you feel good to give the gift. You are giving an item that you hope will bring joy to the other person or make their lives easier. You would not want them keeping something that they no longer enjoy or need out of obligation to you. And yet, many of us have a very hard time letting go of gifts we have received.
I often recommend taking a picture of the item to keep the memory and release the actual gift. Giving it to someone else who can benefit from it also helps. Let them how you acquired the gift, what you got from it, and let them know that you hope they, too, will benefit. (Do not re-gift on occasions. Let them know you are letting go of a few things and thought of them. Then ask if they would be interested in having the item.)
What about things that are not really gifts? Cards from loved ones, kids’ drawings & crafts, your baby’s clothing… so many things that cries out to your heart. I do recommend you keep a few of these things. But be selective. Pick the ones that mean the most to you. Everything else, while special, just dilutes the importance of the most special. This article may also help with perspective.
If that doesn’t work, there is one thought that really makes it easy for me to let go of things. If you have ever had to deal with someone’s estate, you know how hard that can be emotionally. Keep in mind as you start to keep something – is this something that you want your loved ones to deal with while sorting through your estate? The piles of stuff that you avoided tossing during your lifetime will be left for your loved ones. You will no longer be available to suggest alternative uses or point out the value. Let go of the unnecessary and take the time while you can to point out the meaning or value to your loved ones.
If you can think of another use, immediately put the “reuse” line into play. If you can find someone else that has another use, give it away. If not, then throw it away.
If you or someone you know has trouble letting go and is unable to express why or is uncomfortable talking about letting go of the extra stuff, there may be some bigger issues at work. I think each of us have a bit of the hoarder in us and each for our own reasons cling a little too tightly to some possessions for comfort. But there is a point where the attachment crosses a line to the point it becomes disruptive to our lives or even dangerous in some situations. There is a special group of people that can offer proper assistance and coordinate special services including counseling if needed.