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Decluttering excuses and how to overcome them

Months before we were moving I started an important task of moving: decluttering. This time, however, it had to be extra thorough because we were going to move into a tiny house. In essence, I had to reduce all my possessions (and that of my family) by more than half. After about five months I had reached a state where I was happy with my decluttering efforts. Whether it was enough, I don’t know yet.

Today’s post is all about the excuses I made on the way, excuses not to declutter. Among them were

  • I loved that piece
  • It was my grandmothers
  • I might need it again
  • It was expensive

Let me unpack these excuse a bit and how I overcame to them.

 

Decluttering excuse #1 – I loved that piece

The excuse of long-lost love is typical for wanting to hold on to something. It might remind me of the past, of a feeling I had when I received the particular item, or it reminds me of the sacrifices I made for it. The key is that it’s a relation to my past.

There are many things anyone misses from the past and might hold on in order not to forget the past. I have a small box with particularly memorable items I keep which relate to some phase of my life.

The problem however with using the excuse ‘I loved that piece’ is the past tense. I loved it once, but not anymore. And if I don’t presently love it, there is very little reason to keep it. I opted for some form of digitalisation and then a memorable walk to the bin.

I’ll give you an example. Back in my teens, I was a big fan of the Backstreet Boys. I collected everything about them, from tiny pictures to posters, books, t-shirts, wall-hangings, you name it. In particular, I had created a folder with every single piece of magazine coverage I could get my hands on. I put many hours into making that folder. And then I carried it around with me to about seven different locations. I never actually opened the folder in the 2000s. Now, I decided, it was time to lay it to rest. I took photos of the contents so I could show my kids one day (if they want to see it) and then I took it all apart and carried it to the bin. My heart was a bit heavy but it needed to be done. And I felt lighter at the end of that day.

I will remember my love for the Backstreet Boys but I don’t need a 2kg folder to remind me of them.

 

Decluttering excuse #2 – It was my grandmothers

Remembering a feeling but without the things also relates to family members. My grandma passed away five years ago and I miss her dearly. And for that reason, I had a very hard time when I decided to sell some cups my grandma passed on to me. It’s a box I rarely open and I although I love them I don’t use them enough to excuse the space they take up. So, I’ve decided to let go.

The reason why I have decided to let go of it is that I have other things to remember my grandma by. She also passed on some cutlery which has gone into our general cutlery draw. Every time I cut a tomato I use a knife which used to belong to my grandma.

My point is that just because something belonged to my grandma doesn’t make it valuable to me. To hang on to something physical just to remember the person might even be the wrong kind of memory. Things cannot replace memories. My rule is to keep items for sentimental reasons only if I can actually use them.

 

Decluttering excuse #3 – I might need it again

My general reply to the excuse ‘I might need it again’ is ‘How will you remember you have it?’.

It has happened to me countless times that I looked for something at home, couldn’t find and decided to get it again only to find the item of question a few days later in a place I hadn’t looked. Even worse are those realisations of ‘Oh, I forgot I had that’.

Long story short, the excuse of potential future use is really bad. I made it a habit a while ago to throw away manuals straight away (you can find them online anyway) and to scan any receipts for items (they fade over time). This way I reduce the clutter and I know I don’t have a particular manual (or the scanned receipt).

As an aspiring builder, there is one area which I would exclude from the excuse: building materials. If you have space and want to save on building materials, I would always keep something. There will have to come a time though when that exception runs out and any extras are taken away for good.

 

Decluttering excuse #4 – It was expensive

And then there is the excuse that something was expensive. And it might still be expensive to replace but, truth be told, you don’t need it anymore.

This excuse is particularly invalid because although it was expensive to buy, you obviously did and the money is gone. It’s a sunken cost and the money for it won’t come back by keeping it. The opposite is true, it might cost even more to keep it.

I give you an example: when I was a teenager I got myself a pair of roller skates. I spent all of my savings on them but then only used them a couple of times. However, I was very reluctant to give them up because I had saved so long for them. They took up space and I kept them for about 10 years before they were thrown away. I was saddened but not because I had lost something precious but because of the money, I had spent on it. But the money was gone as soon as I walked out of the shop.

It’s a harsh truth. Once you decide to spend a lot of money on something, that money is gone. There are only very few things where it might come back.

Getting some of the money back is the only option to relieve the pain of having to let go of it in the first place. It might be an option to sell or trade the item for something else. And if you’re lucky you can get your money back this way (but you might not).

 

These are my excuses to stop decluttering. What are yours and how did you overcome them?

 

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