In industrialized cultures, stuff starts to accumulate the minute a baby arrives. Most of it is practical. It is intended to solve a logistical problem, like keeping the baby’s head warm or safeguarding them in a car.
Even the most practical item can edge into the realm of luxurious, depending on embellishments. Expensive fabrics and other enhanced materials drive up the items' price, making them more costly without adding to their functional value.
Cheese sandwiches are tasty, whether grilled in a pan made of aluminum, cast iron, steel, copper, ceramic, pottery, and yes, even gold.
What happens when you no longer need or use something? Babies grow out of clothing and car seats. Chefs tire of old cookware and want to try newer pans.
The more expensive something was to buy, the harder it is to let it go. The ‘extra’ enhancements that made the practical items we purchased especially pleasing contribute to why we feel we must save them.
“I can’t let that go! Do you know what I paid for that? It was expensive!”
The purchase price or original practical value is not the only reason we hold on to things.
We become emotionally attached, and the list of reasons to keep things lengthens. It’s hard not to be defensive when someone else is irritated by our attachment to things.
Letting go of our bonds to people, situations, and things can be challenging.
If it were easy, it wouldn’t even be an issue.
But spaces are limited, and relationships are more valuable than stuff. Releasing our hold on what no longer serves us well can be more comfortable and attainable when we figure out the underlying reasons for our loyalty.
Here are common reasons I've heard people depend on to keep their stuff, coupled with a bit of reality to think about.
"I can use this someday. This will come in handy for [insert creative idea]."
Maybe. Maybe not.
Do you have enough room to store it without it infringing on your daily space and life?
Does it require repair that you just can’t seem to get to?
"I remember when Aunty Em used this in her kitchen before she died. I miss her."
This is a difficult one. It can feel like an endless grieving for someone we miss.
What would Aunty Em say?
"This has served me well for 30 years."
If it still serves you well, then continue to enjoy it.
But if it doesn’t, maybe it wants to serve someone else.
"I can’t think of a good reason, but I feel like I should keep this because letting it go makes me feel anxious."
Change can provoke a sense of unease and doubt.
Free-floating anxiety looks for a place to moor itself and can masquerade as healthy doubt.
It might be time to review this with a therapist if it stalls your life.
"This looks so cool!"
Yes, it does!
Appreciation for creativity is highly individualized. What looks enticingly decorative and incites your sense of whimsical intrigue is unique to you.
Unfortunately, we have limits on our spaces, especially if we share them with other people who don’t share your definition and enjoyment.
How can we meld your pleasure with what you see with the practical aspects of daily life and available space?
"Do you know how much I paid for this!? or I don't want to waste it!"
I call this false economy. What you paid for something has little bearing on what it’s worth to someone now. And even if the restaurant-sized chili powder you bought at Costco was a bargain, it's now 4 years old and doesn't fit in the cabinet anyway.
HISTORICAL AND COLLECTABLE VALUE
"I’ve been collecting these for years."
Antiques Roadshow has shown us how capricious markets can be. High value depends on how unique something is and the available quantity, coupled with the buyer's interest and whim.
Marketers love to smack the 'collectable' label on mass-produced items. In time, some of the products actually do become more valuable. The keyword here is some. How can they predict what future collectors will want?
Don't be seduced by the claim of buying a 'collectable' for the investment value. The odds are neither you nor your next few generations will live long enough to make it worth the storage.
"I enjoy that I can afford to buy so many expensive things that most people can’t."
Wealth can become a burden when it gets mixed up with how you value yourself—and others.
Owning and showing off your wealth can drive away people who have less because they may feel inferior. Does that make you feel prestigious? Remember lonely King Midas?
"I can’t figure out where I should store this."
Practical storage is based on both on function and how frequently you use something.
If you rarely use something and it’s in the way of daily living, it’s time to move it or let it go.
"My memory is not so great. If I put it away, I’ll never find it again. Out of sight, out of mind."
Weigh that against the realility of if everything is out on the counters and floors, then your mind views it as similar to wallpaper. Initially, you see every detail, but then the design becomes a generalized pattern.
Group similar things and leave space between them to reduce visual clutter.
"I’m afraid that if I donate it, they might trash it. I’ll keep it until I can find someone who will enjoy it as much as I did."
You can easily spend your life as a private social services agency dedicated to placing your unneeded things with precisely the best recipient. By all means, if you can easily find that person (and they want it), go for it.
If you don't have enough time, though, remember: charities that take donations for resale strive to sell them at realistic prices and turn the profits into deliverable social services like food, jobs and housing.
"Landfills are overflowing!"
Rather than subdividing things you don’t need into endless recycling categories when you’re finished with them, think about how you will dispose of an item before buying it.
"I can sell it online at a profit!"
Yes, you can, and many people do. Online auctions have made it relatively easy for sellers and buyers.
Weigh that against the reality of if everything is out on the counters and floors, then your mind views it as similar to wallpaper. Initially, you see every detail, but then the design becomes a generalized pattern.o the post office.
Stuff, stuff and more schtuff. Enjoy the things you have! Value them for all the reasons you do. It's your life and your space and your relationships. Your choices.
When the time comes that you no longer value them as much, when they become a chore to take care of, or weigh down your time, spaces, and relationships, take a minute to consider what you’re thinking and feeling. Maybe you’ll reconsider.