An Unused Item is Already Garbage

I recently hosted one of my live decluttering sessions where I was given the chance to do some one on one coaching. Mid way through our session, my client, Haley, referenced a stress ball that she struggled to get rid of. This is the same old struggle most of us face when it comes to decluttering. We have an item that we don’t really use but we try to convince ourselves that we will or that it might come in handy one day. Here’s the cold hard truth about those un-used items that you might need someday.

The stress ball

What we know about the ball:

  • It was free from a marketing event
  • She wanted to believe she would use it
  • Throwing it away felt wasteful

3 major issues we all run into when decluttering:

  • We don’t want to get rid of (or turn down free stuff)
  • Our brains try to convince us to hold onto more than we need (physically, emotionally, mentally)
  • Getting rid of things makes us feel like we will be deprived and/or unappreciative

So let’s talk about these 3 things a little more…

Turning down free stuff

There is something so alluring about free stuff.

I cannot tell you how many Pampered Chef, Pure Romance, jewelry and Thirty One parties I hosted over the years because there was the allure of getting free or discounted stuff when you become a host.

Did I NEED any of this stuff? Probably not.

Do I have any of it still? I think maybe a few things.

And of course, even though I signed up in order to take advantage of the free stuff, I always spent usually around $100 because there were so many added perks and discounts I just couldn’t turn down.

The power of FREE is strong. We feel like we are getting in on some amazing thing.

The same goes when we score a discount:

I had to get it, it’s normally $100 but it was on sale for $10

But did you want it?! Will you use it?!” – Probably not.

Caveman scarcity

They say this brain goes back to the cavemen days and our fear of scarcity. We would hoard things because we never knew if we would go through droughts where those things wouldn’t be accessible to us.

This, of course, in caveman days included things like food, and shelter.

However, not so long ago, for most of our families this might have meant The Great Depression which might have inspired people to hoard money and canned goods.

Without realizing it our upbringing and the beliefs passed down to us by our ancestors can have a major impact on our desire for “FREE.”

The thing is, we are living in times of great abundance and most of us, living in a country of great affluence, where we don’t need to hoard things or take what we can get. And what we don’t often realize is that this belief can actually keep us closer to a state of wanting.

Throwing stuff away when we declutter can be so difficult. Here's the reality about unwanted items and things you "might use" someday...

The freebie mindset

Just like I used to get tempted by the allure of free stuff from in-house parties, I would usually end up spending at least $100 every time, the same went for my clearance shopping and thrift store deals. My freebie mindset usually left me broke at the end of every month – and filled my house with more clutter.

By living in that mindset of free/on sale, I continuously kept myself living in a state of scarcity. I felt like I needed to scoop up every deal I could get my hands on as fast as I could.

Then when my money would be scarce, it furthered that belief in my mind that I had better hang onto as much cash as I can because I have nothing.

It’s a whole complicated thing, but our stuff and our mindsets go hand in hand more than we know.

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Believing we’ll use it “someday”

It’s a really great thing to truly want to put to use the things that we have in our home and I think it’s because on some level we understand that not using something really is already wasteful.

We don’t want to be a wasteful person, so we convince ourselves that we will make good use out of the things we have in our home.

This again links up with that fear or scarcity side of our brain that says, “What if I need this someday?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the more we live in that fear/scarcity side of our mind, the less purposeful living we will actually wind up doing with our life.

Now, I won’t pretend like I haven’t kicked myself for getting rid of a thing or two – but here’s the kicker – the stuff I usually have regretted getting rid of I got rid of because I was living in a fear-based belief.

I believed I needed to sell more to make more to pay off debt faster. I was afraid that if I held onto too much I would be drowning in clutter again.

So, if you’re struggling to get rid of things, my biggest recommendation is to put all of those thing in a box called the Maybe Box, this is something I will do during live declutter sessions sometimes when people aren’t quite sure they are ready to let go of something.

Put these items in a box and store them away out of site and out of mind.

This allows you to almost instantly clear your space (therefore putting your mind at ease) and you didn’t have to push your comfort zone and declutter more than you were ready to.

Throwing away feels wasteful

Back when I first started my minimalist journey I remember reading the book, You Can Buy Happiness and It’s Cheap!

This was a book about a woman and her husband and how they downsized from a 2 bedroom apartment to a tiny house. After downsizing, she now writes full time from her tiny house and lives an all around wonderful blissed out existence — or at least compared to most.

In her book she talked about how she began to long for a simpler way of living so she started by decluttering, closing out one of the bedrooms in their apartment to see if they could make due with one room, and then closing off the one room to see if they could make due in just the common space. How to Downsize Without Moving.

I loved her simple approach to “testing out” downsizing and it really inspired me to pursue it myself.

However, one thing she said gave me a pit in my stomach. Something she said went a little something like this,] “If you are going to downsize, you have got to get comfortable with throwing stuff away.”

Throwing stuff away when we declutter can be so difficult. Here's the reality about unwanted items and things you "might use" someday...
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Her basic philosophy was this:

  • Sell what you can
  • Donate what you can
  • Throw away what is garbage

I also can’t help but feel like this is very much a first world problem. Throwing things away feels wasteful and at least for me – is a reminder of my privilege that makes me feel icky inside.

Remember hearing things like, “Eat all your food, there are children starving in Africa!” 

Well, number one, maybe the solution to this would be to dish up less food in the first place. I don’t want to over-stuff myself. Also, over-stuffing myself isn’t going to do shit for the starving kids of the world. Me eating more will never feed someone in need.

The thing is, a lot of us grew up with that mentality, and that awareness that we have a lot more than other parts of he world and it feels really gross to just toss things aside when other people may not have that option.

All we can do…ALL we can do with this icky feeling is use it to help us be more aware of what we bring into our home.

If most of what we own isn’t being used, could be easily stored in a box for a year or more, or is straight up garbage, maybe this is a sign that we need to slow it down, pump the breaks and take a deeper look at our consumption.

What I shared with Haley during our Virtual Declutter, and what I want to share with you is the reminder that if you’re bringing home free or cheap items simply because they are free or cheap, if something is going unused in your home… it is already garbage.

I know it feels icky and wasteful but hear me out…what is going to happen to this stuff after you’ve checked out of planet earth?

Throwing stuff away when we declutter can be so difficult. Here's the reality about unwanted items and things you "might use" someday...

What happens to unused items?

Every unused item in your home will go through the following process:

  • Be sorted through by your loved ones
  • Potentially sold at an estate sale for way less than you would want to charge (that’s a topic for another day)
  • Or…
  • End up in the garbage

What is unused will continue to go unused.

Find homes for what you can, and be willing to admit what is simply waste.

There is no need to carry around guilt, shame or regret about this. That won’t serve you or change your circumstances. All you can do at the end of the day is show up better tomorrow.

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Throwing stuff away when we declutter can be so difficult. Here's the reality about unwanted items and things you "might use" someday...