If you’re going to be honest with anyone, be honest with yourself.
Be honest with yourself
I am not always honest with myself, especially when it comes to my hoarder tendencies, which is why I’m writing this series on stuff. If you missed my previous posts, you can catch up here and here and here.
For years I have been storing my possessions in a series of boxes in apartments and my mom’s basement. And with each apartment move, I would bring my boxes of “things I might need someday” to that apartment’s storage area. Living this way helps things accumulate over time. Add to it that while I was apartment living, my father passed, and I held on to many of his things as well. Then, we helped my mom sell and move her house, and all the things from the basement came to our house. Then, we bought a house, purged a great deal of stuff, and still manage to purge more things almost weekly this entire spring. Then, my inlaws sold their house and another influx of stuff came home. And the cycle continues!
Going through the process of unpacking, organizing, and decluttering our storage space (aka. the boxes that are still unpacked, a year later) has helped me to recognize the relationship I have with the things that I keep and the stories that I tell myself (and my husband) to preserve them.
And I’m particularly excited to share this with you because it’s a bag of nonsense and it has to stop or SO HELP ME..
Lots of stuff!
But I also want to share it because I think a lot of us tell similar stories of stuff-keeping obligation, even if we’re not living like hoarders. And when we run out of space, we get a storage unit. We say that it’s temporary. We say that it’s necessary.
These are the stories I told myself and how I counter them (daily) as I sort through the things we no longer need and simply live in the space that we have.
1. I don’t want to waste it.
I will keep things that I don’t like for years if it means that it “won’t go to waste”. Which, in actuality, is exactly what is happening when I keep it in a box for years.
2. It might have economic or replacement value.
Yes, sometimes items like lamps and used electronics do hold a small amount of economic value to someone else.
That’s exactly why you should SELL IT ALREADY.
There are so many different avenues for resale these days – more or less depending on where you live. Craigslist, resale shops, donation centers, and yard sales are just a few. And with most things, it’s better to get rid of it while it’s still relevant.
Remember: the economic value of an item is limited to how much someone will pay for it, which is usually much less than what you paid for it.
3. I might need it someday.
This is true: sometimes you do use the things that you store. In fact, a lot of what I kept was held until we arrived at this point in our lives: the day we we cashed our last renters check and started paying a mortgage. Even stable renting scenarios can be upended on short notice. Fine. These conditions do exist.
But 95% of it is crap. And you won’t need it. And you should just get rid of it already.
4. But it was a gift!
I have instituted an item-specific hold time on the gifts that were thoughtful, but that I never wanted or had any use for. To be fair, I don’t get them very often. People in my life seem to know that I would rather have wine than pretty much anything else. And if they know my husband at all, they know better than to gift frivolously (because he’ll just put it on the curb).
But occasionally an item passes through our house and I feel compelled to keep it. I like to place those items in a pretty hat box where I keep other things I’ve been given that I keep because they’re special (like grandmother’s jewelry or my middle school mood ring). These items are stored in a cute box, which is as much decorative as it is functional. And I open this box so infrequently that when I do (it also serves as a place to store jewelry I don’t wear often) and see the gift I don’t want, it’s usually time to give it away. And good riddance!
5. It has sentimental value.
You know those things you cherished growing up, that you keep just because? Don’t. I did and it was such a pain. Instead, I take a picture of the item on a neutral background (even better if you can put it in front of the place, or a picture of the place, where it used to be) and either throw it away or donate it.
If you want to cherish it more, take the time to make an album with the picture. Write a story about it. Remember it. But don’t leave it in a box in your basement where it gets eaten by mold. Mold gets people sick. You don’t want your grandmother’s heirloom teddy bear getting your kids sick. Move on, Julie. Enough already. (can you tell I’ve been through this before?)
I hope this post has helped you think about the stories you tell yourself about the stuff that you keep. Now go to your storage unit and empty it already!
Next week I transition to talking about reuse: how to get rid of things and how to acquire things for cheap (or free!).