I’ve been decluttering for a long time now, and have pared down my possessions to quite a minimal level. Consequently, people often ask me if I’ve ever regretted getting rid of certain items. Surely, in over ten years, there must be something I wish I hadn’t purged.
It may seem unbelievable, but to be perfectly honest, I have no regrets. I can’t think of a single thing that I long to have back in my life. I don’t miss any of the clothes, the books, the heirlooms, the tchotchkes, the shoes, the handbags, or the kitchen gadgets I decided I could live without.
Perhaps I just have a short memory. Maybe if I had photographed each castoff, I’d look back through the memories and wax nostalgic about a long-lost sweater or hastily-decluttered pasta pot. I highly doubt it, though. If these things truly had a special place in my life, the least I’d be able to do is remember them!
One of the biggest barriers to decluttering is the nagging feeling that you’ll regret giving something away. Take heart in the fact that the odds are pretty slim. Chances are, you’ll forget about that item pretty quickly once it leaves your premises. I’d have a hard time listing what I decluttered last year, let alone five or ten years ago.
And in the off-chance that you do, what’s the worst that’ll happen? You’ll have to go out and buy another? Sometimes that’s not such a bad thing. Recently, I’ve been toying with the idea of buying a digitizing (drawing) tablet, so that I can illustrate my future books. Several years ago, I owned (and decluttered) one—but no, I’m not pining for the old thing. I know that even if I had it, the technology has advanced to such an extent that I’d probably find it inadequate anyway. Even if it were sitting here next to me, I’d be browsing the internet for one with better features than my 5+ year-old model. And it certainly wouldn’t have been worth dragging around with me (or storing) all these years in the interim.
Still finding it hard to let go? Here are some tips on minimizing regrets:
1. Photograph sentimental items. In the fog of nostalgia, sometimes we remember objects as nicer than they actually were. A digital pic can be a great reminder that that velvet Elvis was no masterpiece. Photos also make great substitutes for such items—a snapshot of your aunt’s snowglobe collection brings back the same memories as having them displayed across your mantel (or packed away in your attic!).
2. Consider technology. Are you saving that old cell phone, monitor, or digital camera in case your new one bites the dust? At that point, will it really be up-to-snuff (or even functional)? Perhaps it would be better for someone else to use it now, and you can acquire a new and improved model when you need a replacement. I know I certainly wouldn’t replace a defunct laser printer with a dot matrix from the garage.
3. Do a trial separation. Box up questionable items for six months (or even a year, if it makes you feel better). If you haven’t missed them in that time frame, you probably won’t miss them at all. Consider donating the contents, unopened, so you won’t need to go through a new round of deliberation.
4. Get some money for it. Whether it’s a tech gadget you no longer use, a designer outfit that no longer fits, or a piece of jewelry that’s no longer your taste, sell it. That way, you can use the proceeds towards a (new and better) replacement if the need arises in the future.
5. Do good with your clutter. Donate your castoffs to someone in need. You’ll be much less likely to regret purging something if it’s brought joy or assistance to another person.
6. Value your space. Sure, if you get rid of 100 items, you might find need for one of them down the road. But look at all that glorious space you’ve enjoyed in the meantime! Much better to acquire that one replacement when needed, than keep drawers and closets stuffed with scores of “just in cases.”
7. Put it in perspective. Do you rue the day you decluttered your apple corer? It’s really not the end of the world. Go out and buy a new one—and think of the new appreciation you’ll have for the value it adds to your life.
So, what about you: do you have any decluttering regrets? Or do you find that once something’s out of sight, it’s also out of mind? Please share your experiences in the Comments!