5 Excuses We Use to Hold Onto Things

Purging our homes of unneeded items can be a challenging task. Marie Kondo makes it look so easy to know what should stay and what should go, but the reality is it can be difficult to part with things we don’t find are useful or bring us joy. There are several excuses we use as to why we keep items. I will share with you a few and the truth about why it’s okay to let go.

Money

One of the most common reasons we tend to keep things, in spite of not using it, is that we spent money on it. There are many areas in our homes where we keep things because we spent money on them – clothes, home decor, toys to name a few. We may even keep unused toiletries or cleaners that didn’t work out because we spent money on them. The truth is, holding onto these items that we are not using is not going to get our money back. It might even be wasting our money because if we gave the item away, it could get new life and be used again instead of sitting in the back of a closet or cabinet.

Gift

Another reason we keep things is because it was a gift. I think it is a universal feeling to feel guilt getting rid of something someone gave to you. Even if you are someone who doesn’t attach sentimental value to things readily, it is difficult. I’m sure it’s even more difficult for those who do attach sentimental value to items. The truth is, when someone gives you a gift, that item now belongs to you which means you can do with it what you please. You can appreciate their gesture and experience the joy of the act of giving in that moment, but if this item is not useful to you or does not bring you joy then it is silly to hold onto it just because it was given to you. If the person who gave you the item would be upset because you didn’t use it or you gave it away – that is a boundary issue they have, not you. Usually, your friends and relatives would not want an item they gave you to cause stress or clutter in your home. I think most people would rather the item that they spent money on be given to someone else to be useful than to sit in a drawer or closet in your home.

Some people keep things because they might need it someday. This one is tricky, because certainly there are things we keep for the future – perhaps you just had a baby and you are keeping your pre-pregnancy weight clothes until you settle into your post baby weight. Maybe you are keeping clothes or toys to be passed onto younger siblings.The truth is, many times we hold onto things because we think we will use them in the future when these items will never get used again. Maybe there are those jeans you hold onto as incentive to lose weight, or a home decor piece that is really no longer your style but you might like it again. For these items the 20/20 rule, created by The Minimalists – Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus – works well. If you can replace the item for under $20 within 20 minutes of your home and you are considering parting with it, then it’s okay to let go.
Some people keep things because they might need it someday. This one is tricky, because certainly there are things we keep for the future – perhaps you just had a baby and you are keeping your pre-pregnancy weight clothes until you settle into your post baby weight. Maybe you are keeping clothes or toys to be passed onto younger siblings.The truth is, many times we hold onto things because we think we will use them in the future when these items will never get used again. Maybe there are those jeans you hold onto as incentive to lose weight, or a home decor piece that is really no longer your style but you might like it again. For these items the 20/20 rule, created by The Minimalists – Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus – works well. If you can replace the item for under $20 within 20 minutes of your home and you are considering parting with it, then it’s okay to let go.

Sentimental photo albums


Many times, we keep things because they are sentimental items. Obviously we don’t need to get rid of all sentimental items. It’s okay to hang onto items that have meaning and remind us of events or times that bring back positive thoughts. However, we need to evaluate how many things we hold onto. It’s good to give yourself limits on what you keep as far as sentimental items. Choose a box or two, and keep only what fits inside those boundaries. Some items, especially large ones can be kept digitally by photographing the item(s) prior to letting them go. Typically, the picture of the item will bring back the same memories as the item itself. Also, if you have sentimental items that cause negative feelings, I would recommend letting go of those items. There is no need to hold onto something that causes you pain.

Lastly, people often keep things because they have the space for it. I relate well to this one. I used to not purge things that were difficult to purge because I had the space for it, so why not just leave it. The truth is, physical clutter can cause mental clutter. If every time you open your cabinet and it is filled to the top, your brain has to process everything that is in there. With less stuff, it’s less the brain has to process. I am beginning to enjoy having empty cabinets! For me personally, I realize that one day (maybe sooner rather than later as number two of three children is headed off to college next fall), we will likely downsize and live in a smaller home. I like the idea of being able to slowly over time purge my items rather than being forced into it when we do choose to downsize. Even further down the road (or not since we never know!) when we leave this earth we will leave our things behind, and our family will have to make choices about what to do with those things. I don’t want my stuff to become a burden to my children or family members.


This is certainly not an exhaustive list of reasons why people keep things. What are the reasons you keep things?


American Accumulation

One of the biggest obstacles in staying organized is the amount of items coming into our home. I’d like to think I am a relatively organized person, however I began to notice that really I had just become what I like to call an “organized pack rat.” Yes, I had boxes neatly labeled – but they were stacked high and I often did not open or look through any of those boxes.

A few years ago I discovered the idea of minimalism. Really, I have always been one to purge things. Once my youngest entered elementary school I began to find ways to purge things and organize the important things so they were on display and I could enjoy them daily. But, learning about this idea of owning less in order to live a more fulfilling life intrigued me. I began to read blog posts and watch YouTube videos from people who were pursuing minimalism and what that looked like for them. So, over the past three years I have been slowly decluttering my house.

Through some of the minimalist blogs and YouTube videos I began to learn about more important reasons to pursue a minimalist lifestyle, like the impact our consumerism has on the earth and on the people who make the products we purchase. I recently watched a documentary on Netflix, “The True Cost,” which was very thought-provoking. This documentary revealed some of the poor working conditions people in third world countries are experiencing in order for people in America and Europe to have cheap clothing. Not to mention how these factories are polluting the communities of these individuals, which is impacting their health. The fashion industry is number two in the pollution of the world, only second to the oil industry. Our planet has natural limits and cannot continue to sustain the impact consumerism has on it. It’s not just the clothing factories that are polluting the earth, but the clothing itself once it is discarded. According to the documentary, only 10% of clothing donated to charities are actually sold to a customer. The other 90% ends up in a landfill or shipped to a third world country to be sold there. Again, most of that ends up in polluting their communities. Many of the low-cost, fast fashion items are made at a price.


Back to accumulation… recently, after cleaning out my closet AGAIN I began to think about why I seemed to still have SO much stuff in spite of decluttering. It can be easy to bring home a new shirt here, and a piece of home decor there; but over time it adds up. My closet was an example of this. A couple of years ago I reorganized our closet, decluttered it and bought the number of matching hangers we needed for the remaining articles of clothing. I proclaimed I would do the “one-in-one-out rule,” but somehow that went by the wayside. My accumulation could not keep up with my decluttering! So, believe me, I know this is easy to do! And this was just my closet. There are so many areas of our homes that we are accumulating and not decluttering. What complicates things more is when you have other people living in your home. Spouses and children also bring things into the home.

This is embarrassing, but I have a feeling I’m not the only American who struggles with accumulation. THIS is a pile of things I recently took to the Goodwill. It was a pile I had been accumulating for the last three months until I could take it in, but this is still A LOT.

I decided that it’s best to not get rid of my husband’s and kids’ things without their permission, but I could make a significant impact on our home by decluttering my own things. This impact would be even more significant if I slowed the inflow of stuff. In 2019, I am choosing to do a “no spend” year, in hopes that by focusing on not accumulating our home will STAY decluttered. Once we declutter and slow the inflow, then organization has the impact we were hoping for. Organization systems set in place work best when everything has a home. It can be difficult to stay on top of incorporating new items if they come in faster than we can find homes for them. Of course there will be ever-evolving needs in our homes as our children grow and our hobbies change, but if we are intentional about the day-to-day things we allow into our home, it can have a lasting effect on the organization of our homes.