"What If I Need It?" - How To Address The Uncertainty of Clearing Clutter

Today I love facebook!  I have a love/hate relationship with facebook.  Basically, I love how it connects me to my friends and family, but I hate when it sucks me into a black hole of cute kitten videos and political debates.  One cute kitten or one good article is great, 20 is bad... 

Lately I've been using Leechblock (a great free tool to regulate your Internet usage) in order to stay off of facebook during the times that I really should be working. This means that I'm on there a lot less than I used to be, but it also means that some interesting things can happen while I'm unavailable. 

Today, my friend Tammy posted a clutter question on my wall (something that happens as a clutter coach), and before I had a chance to answer, two of my friends jumped in with great answers to her question.  I wanted to weigh in too, but seeing as it's not time for me to be on facebook, I thought I would share her question, and my answer with you.

"OK, I have a palm sander.  I used it once or twice about 10 years ago.  So, should I get rid of it?  But I might need it.  I might have to sand something.  What if I get rid of it and then find I need it next month?  That's happened to me before.  Here's another one.  I love these clothes and maybe I'll fit into them one day.  The thing about decluttering is the fear goes like, 'Am I making a mistake?  Will I regret this?'  Cecilia, any suggestions on how to deal with this?" 

Dear Tammy,
This is a good one!  These are very common questions that come up when we're clearing clutter:

  • What if I need it?
  • What if I get rid of it and then find I need it next month?
  • Am I making a mistake?
  • Will I regret this?

In a way, it's kind of your job to ask these questions.  Remember, there is a part of you getting something out of the clutter and it's going to fight to the death to make sure that you hold onto it.  It can also be very convincing.  

First things first.  You want to be clear on your reasons for clearing clutter.  Because part of you is getting something out of it, you want to have a really good reason to let go.  What are you making space for? 

I also want to look at this practically.  Let's look at the palm sander, and let's look at the facts.  You've had it for over 10 years and you've used it twice.  TWICE!  If you had a friend who only contacted you twice in the last 10 years, would you consider them a close friend?  Would you ask them to come and live with you? 

It's important to make a distinction between things that you may/might/could/should use, and things that you actually use.  In this life! To be fair, tools fall under a different category, because we're not always drilling or sawing things, but the fact that it hasn't been used in 10 years indicates that maybe you're just not all that into palm sanding things anymore. 

You have to be honest with yourself!

I guess what I am curious to know is, how does it feel when you look at, or better yet, hold the sander?  Do you feel excited by all the things you could get to sanding?  Or, do you feel a bit of guilt or lethargy when you're reunited with your old friend?  Ask yourself how you feel!  The key is in the feeling.  

This is something that is important to note.  What do you think holding onto things from a place of fear and panic creates?  That's right, more fear and panic.  You hold on, because you're afraid that you're going to need it, that you're making a mistake if you let it go.  But what you're really holding onto is the fear and the panic, the very emotions you wanted to avoid. 

There are no guarantees in life.  It's true, if you let go of your sander it's altogether possible that you may need it in the future.  In fact, if you truly believe that you're going to need it after you let it go, your subconscious is totally capable of coming up with a great reason why you really need it the day after you wake up without it (says Karen Kingston). 

But then again, our subconscious is really great at doing this with unsavory ex-boyfriends, crappy friends and bad jobs too. 

On the more practical side of things, Kevin on facebook made a great point that you could probably sell it and rent one if you need it in the future.  That approach doesn't work quite as well with ex-boyfriends, friends and jobs, but there are always new ones of those to be had.  

The clothes...  Well, I've covered that before, but let me review.  Again, it's important to go back to the feeling.  How do the clothes make you FEEL?  Do they make you feel good in your body, good in your skin?  Or, do they make you feel kind of crappy about yourself?

Nick on facebook made this very good point.  He asks the question, "Well what could happen if I DID get rid of this stuff?" and comes back to that great old quote about how it's worse to do nothing than to make a mistake.  Life = change!

Tammy, this is what I want you to do.  When these questions come up, just ask yourself this:

"If this item were a friend, would I invite her to stay with me for a month or two?  How do I feel when I'm around her?  Does she champion me and my dreams, or does she bring me down?"

And remember, if you're holding on only out of guilt, anxiety or fear, what you're really holding onto are all of those emotions you'd rather not feel. 

I hope this helps! 
Now for YOU!  Are you holding onto something because you're afraid you might need it someday?  What would happen if you let it go? Do you really need it or are you just afraid/worried/anxious that you might?  You know that I want to hear all about it in the comments below.  

Take care,