What if I “need” it someday?

My daughter has been contemplating the idea of moving out on her own and it got me thinking what would she absolutely need if she moved into a place completely on her own without any existing amenities that come with an already shared dwelling. The only things that are a must that I could think of was a refrigerator, a bed, some basic linen and enough kitchen items to put a meal together, serve it and eat it.

So if that is all she needs to survive on her own how many things should you be worry ing about getting rid of and “needing” later down the track when they are gone.

If you are considering it to be clutter it probably is. Rip off that bandaid! Take the plunge get those items out of there and once they’re gone you will probably never think of them again. It is that initial step out of your comfort zone, the “I might need it someday” comfort zone that holds you back from having a beautifully decluttered home. Stop and ask yourself will I every really “need” it. Will you one day say, I wish I had that __insert item here___ , perhaps, but that is only a fleeting wish not a need.

After two years of this constant declutter journey I still find I have to throw myself into  decisions to get rid of some things. I still feel those small pangs of anxiety a the thought of “What if I want this later on.” And yes every now and again I might think perhaps I should have keep such and such but it is soon forgotten again since it wasn’t life threatening.  Therefore I have never felt the “need” great enough to replace anything I have let go off either.

What I have discovered is there is still an awful lot of stuff I DON’T NEED, which is why I am still at it. The decision process is getting easier and easier as I go along, simply because my desire to minimise is greater than my desire to keep most things.

So keep at it, make those hard decisions after all there is nothing much that can’t be replaced and the chances are you never will anyway.

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter something you have been considering decluttering for a long time but just haven’t. Until now!

Today’s Declutter Item

Here is something that I have been contemplating decluttering since the very start of my mission. I figured we would use them all eventually but they seem to rotate around the house rather than diminish and I am sick of them wasting space. I took them to the thrift shop and most of them sold before I even finished my shift. There is one big empty box in the garage now where I need to do a come more reshuffling, for about the 10th time since my mission began. And that is probably a conservative estimate.

Photo Frames

Something I Am Grateful For Today

All my to-do list jobs outside the house today were in one area of town so that was a great saving on petrol/gas and quick to achieve.

“In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.” Brother David Steindl-Rast

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow


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  • The hurricane method of decluttering. Part 1 The hurricane method of decluttering, as Moni dubbed it, is when one rips through the house decluttering a vast amount of stuff all at once. A person's hand is often forced into this […]
  • Day 215 Declutter burn out Yesterday I received an email from Denise which raised some interesting decluttering questions. I have edited and reworded the email as I did not have time to contact Denise to get her […]
About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.

Comments

  1. For some reason, I’ve never understood the “I’ll need it later” train of thought. Once I consider something useless, or unnecessary clutter, I never go back and think “Wish I’d kept that.” If it really was something I needed again, I hardly doubt it would be an emergency since I survived for a time without it. Other than photos, letters or other keepsakes, nothing is irreplacable. The only times I have a hard time giving something away is if I spent good money on it (rarely) and have ideas to “force” myself to use it a few more times to get my money’s worth. Also ridiculous.

    • Yes Faith, even the things that later I might think I could use that now, which is rare, don’t bother me. They are never crucial to my survival or happiness.

  2. LOL Colleen, I too have a box of frames in the attic that ‘I am sure I will use up one day’. I think I know what needs to be done…

    • I am always suspicious of anything that is in a box in an out of the way place. My garage shelves are still mostly full of this stuff but for the most part it isn’t mine so my hands are tied.

  3. I’ve had a set of all sizes of knitting needles in a box unused for at least 16 years together with various other knitting related items (stitch counters, holders, etc etc). When I decided yesterday that they had to go, my husband said “What if you need them?” Thanks to the wisdom I have received from this blog I was able to say, “If I ever decide to knit anything again, I’ll buy the needles along with the wool and pattern”. It felt so good and today those knitting needles are in the charity shop. I like to think some sweet little old lady will find just the size she needs and the money she spends on them will go to help children with life threatening illnesses. It’s a good feeling 🙂

    • I have a box of similar items. Thanks for reminding me!

    • Tracey are you trying to tell me something. I was in the thrift shop the other day and a lady was looking for knitting needles and we didn’t have any. My thoughts instantly went to the ones at home that I haven’t used in a long time. Perhaps I will follow your example. That lady was the second in two weeks that came asking for something that I have unused or barely used at home. Perhaps the other thing needs to go too.

      • I have knitting needles – I don’t knit – bought for my daughters who wanted to learn from Grandma. Unfortunately Grandma shifted across the other side of the city and the girls haven’t mentioned it since. I’m taking this as a sign. Time to let them go.

      • Me and my boyfriend do knit occassionally (that is: in winter), so when we were to take what we wanted from granny’s home, we also took some needles with us. Seeing that, suddenly all our relatives wittered an oppurtunity to give their old knitting needles to us. We actually had parcels arriving full of knitting needles.
        What the ***?!?! I mean, we just stocked up to the amount we felt we could do with and we received even MORE?!?
        Needless to say, most of those needles are off to the thrift store. We kept one pair of each size so far, maybe still too many, I’ll see through them again.

        • LOL – I can just see the boxes an boxes of knitting needles arriving unsolicited! People are overjoyed to find them a good home

  4. Looking at the issue of ‘want versus need’ from this angle is a great exercise. Every item that is not a need should be considered carefully, keeping in mind the ultimate cost in money, time and energy that the item will require.

    If I could go back to the point where I began to accumulate things, I would do it very differently.

  5. Jennifer L. :

    Colleen, I agree with you completely on this post. In the 14 years I’ve been decluttering, I’ve never missed anything I’ve gotten rid of. Nothing. And, I’ve gotten rid of probably 90% of what I used to own. No exaggeration! Plus, it’s not like we’re getting rid of the refrigerator or washer and dryer and then have regrets two days later. It’s just a bunch of stuff that we can’t even remember most of the time. Just let it go! Like I said to GreyQueen on the last post, getting rid of stuff is very, very addictive.

    • Wow, 90% of your stuff. That just goes to prove how little we really need. When I look back at all the photos of the stuff I have gotten rid of I wonder what percentage it is that is gone. I suppose I will have some idea the next time we move and see the carton count and space used in the removal container.

      • I really really wish that when I started decluttering I had weighed things as they left. It would have been so cool to be able to say I have gotten rid of XX kilo’s of stuff.

        • Me too Moni.

          • The weight comment was really funny for me, I had lunch with my bestie that I don’t get to see as often as I would like and I was telling her how I wish I’d weighed everything that I had gotten rid of just to see how much ‘tonnage’ left the house! She replied with “oh I think my clutter weighs about 100kgs” to which I said “what the hell, what clutter have you got that weighs 100kgs”!!! Her reply was “MY HUSBAND” I nearly wet myself laughing! She was joking! I think!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

  6. Sometimes we save things “we might need” and sometimes we save them for others-say our children. Recently I spoke with a friend who is very happy she will be a grandma soon. Her daughter who is 30 is expecting a little boy. She saved all her own maternity clothes, baby girl clothes, crib, etc so that her daughter might one day use them. Well that day has come and her daughter does not want to wear 31 year old maternity clothes and she is having a boy, not a girl and is not likely to be using much of what her mom saved. All of these things were taking up room in the attic for the last 31 years! How much better it would have been to have given these things to someone who needed them-keeping only a few precious things to save and pass on.

    I know all of us keep some baby things-I have kept a christening gown, one special dress outfit for each child, baby book, birth announcement,
    and baby spoon to pass along. Everything else was consignment shopped to earn $ for other baby/child items that would be needed as they grew.

    • I entirely agree on this point Amy in NY. There is not even a guarantee that a person’s children will even have children. Like you I have kept a few things but even they could end up decluttered one day. The maternity clothes I don’t understand at all, it is as though the women was a little too attached to that period in her life. It doesn’t sound healthy to me.

    • Hi Amy in NY – my MIL can go one better…..she still has a big box of clothes in her attic that is clothes she had BEFORE she had her sons, both of whom are in their 40’s. I’ve tried to tell her that she’s not going to use them, but she just won’t let them go.

      • Hi Moni, that’s a good one for sure! Those clothes will never fit, are totally out of style and probably dry rotted to boot! Not sure why people do this! I think the older generation who lived through the depression era tend to hang onto everything, because during those rough times people needed to-and they surely thought that most things could be re purposed or re used in some way. The problem comes when people keep doing something ( like saving everything)
        long past the time when they need to do this and it’s terribly hard to convince them to stop!

        • And if only that was the only box up her attic……it will be a major undertaking when the time comes to clear it out.

          They still have their previous wash machine and dryer stored in the garage “just in case they need it” – to which I said, why would you need a worn out washing machine again? They said in case the new one breaks down. I suggested if it happened they can always use a laundromat until it is repaired, or visit a friend for a coffee and a cold-wash load. But the idea of not having Plan B on hand was quite distressing for them.

          Have decided its no use being the Evil Daughter In Law and so I’m just getting on with my place.

  7. Jennifer L. :

    amy in ny- Your story is a perfect example of someone living their life for what if. Like Colleen said, those clothes and things could have gone to help someone else who really needed help. Instead, they were left to rot in the attic for 31 years for “what if…my daughter needs them one day. Just like the mothers that save their wedding dress for their daughter to use. They never seem to want it, they want their own memories, their own dress. Good story, good lesson learned for those of us that haven’t gone there yet.

  8. I used to save kitchen dishes for our kids when they were going to go to college. I even had a few nice pots and pans. But, through experience, I have found that things get lost or ruined easily when they are living with several other kids their age and no one knows who brought what. I helped one of our kids as they frantically cleaned out their apartment with roommates and watched how they tossed tons of stuff to give away. I think their moms would have died if they had seen it. It was good for me to see, because then I realized that it is not worth it to spend money on nice stuff until they get married and have their own place. Until then, they can share what roommates have brought and buy what they don’t have from garage sales or a thrift shop. They may take better care of it if they have to buy it on their own, too. I usually don’t worry about needing something someday unless I haven’t left enough flexibility in our budget that month and feel like things are tight. Then I kick in frugal to the max mode. But, normally I don’t worry about it and just get only what I need. I can always borrow or buy something if I want it later. We could all survive on much less than we have now. I ended up cutting up my wedding dress to make a baptism dress for one of our daughters.

    • I wish I had learned this lesson before making the same mistake with my daughter. I bought a bunch of stuff before leaving America for when she got home and started university. She then moved in with her grandma and is only moving out next week into a share house where she still won’t need the stuff I bought. It has been cluttering up my garage for almost five years. If I get past the end of this year and it still hasn’t been claimed by either her or her brother I think I will donate it to the thrift shop.

  9. When I moved out of home (which is a misnomer, when I moved from boarding school to uni housing!) I didn’t really acquire much more. For first year, sheets, doona, pillows and one plate, bowl etc (as the place was catered for dinner with their china, and provided room with furniture). Year 2, I had to cook myself, so I got a fryer pan, a set of crockery (but I’m not sure I got cutlery, might have let another householder do that). But then again, in year 4 or 5 I then needed/gifted a toaster, kettle etc. Still much more truly needed for this latest move, 10 years since I finished school.

    • And it is amazing how quickly after “leaving home” that things accumulate. At least you have come in with the right mind set. Lets hope it sticks with you.

  10. This post is so timely for me. I decided the spot beside the wash machine should be the home of the vacuum cleaner, mop and broom mounted on wall etc. As I pulled out all the assorted bits and pieces I discovered an ironing board – miniature size and designed to sit on a table. We had it in our last house where storage was at a premium, and I replaced it when we bought this house with a traditional ironing board. So here I was yesterday, trying to find someone else in the house for it……it was like watching someone else…..I stopped and asked myself why did I need to keep it, I (a) have an ironing board (b) I hate ironing (c) my hope is to one day have one of those wall mounted/inset ones. But those words were running around my head “but what if I need it one day………..”

    The answer to that is, that if I ever need a miniature ironing again, which I don’t see why I would, is that I will go and buy another one from Kmart.
    It will go out in tomorrow’s delivery to goodwill. Thank you for the push in the right direction.

    • I hope you will never have need for it Moni and won’t have to resort to buying a new one.

      • I actively avoid ironing. I avoid clothes that will need ironing wherever possible, and its not unheard of for me to chuck something in the dryer for 5 mins and then give it a good shake and put it on. My mum used to iron everything – which meant she had me ironing everything. Lifes too short for that!

  11. This is a very timely post. For the past couple of weeks, I have been looking for a reference book that I believe I donated some time ago. I’ve been donating tossing stuff for a few months and I do feel bad for tossing this reference book that I now can use and do not want to spend more money to buy another. Guess you win some, lose some. Lesson for me is to be careful what I toss.

    • Hi Monique, they are mostly wins so be glad of that.

      • Thanks for your positive comment, Colleen. It’s human nature to miss seeing the big picture when there’s a hiccup along the way. In most cases, it’s the minor incident that sticks out above major accomplishments. Thanks for the encouraging remark.

  12. Hi all, whilst rushing about last night getting ready for comps I saw snippets of the news about the Twisters in Texas, really hoping it was no where near Cindy or our other Texans! I know it’s a big place but hoping it hasn’t bought any destruction their way. 🙁

  13. Hi Colleen,

    You sent me an e-mail that I couldn’t open I don’t know what happened but it quite possible could be my wretched computer giving me a headache with one thing and another!! Would you like to try again 🙂

  14. What a great topic. Now that I’m in year two of decluttering, I realize that I didn’t need those things that I saved last year because I might need them someday. It gets easier to declutter every day. As you said Colleen, “once they’re gone you will probably never think of them again.” I don’t take photos of what I get rid of, and I can’t even remember all of the items that have left our house. They couldn’t have been that useful to me.

    Another trick for finding out if you’ll need something someday is to put a date on it. This helps me if I’m not ready to get rid of something. I recently put a post-it note with the current date on one my frying pans. If a year or more goes by without me using it, it will be easier to get rid of it.

  15. . . . and out go two empty photo collage frames I had been saving for when I move out. One has a scratch I’ve never got around to fixing and the other can be easily replaced (got it at Target).

    One of the great things about reading blogs such as this is I know what the common clutter regrets seem to be and how to avoid them. Or rather, know enough to be on guard about potential disasters. I still have many things I don’t need, which seemed impossible a month or two ago as I have already drastically paired down.

    For those trying to off-load useful household or starter items on children, nieces and nephews, and neighbors: accept it if they decline and take their ‘no’ as a release. My parents still have some furniture in the garage for me even though I’ve told them time and time again I don’t want it (it’s quality wood end tables and coffee tables, but SOOO not my style – Victorianesque with glass tops so you can’t prop your feet up). Similarly, my grandmother likes to know her items are going to a good home and seems flummoxed when I say no. Thrift stores and Freecycle abound, they will find cheap or free furniture when they need it. In the meantime, let someone use the furniture now.

  16. Yesterday had a no effort declutter. Son’s girlfriend spied throw on couch and said it was exactly like one her new adoptive mother gave her (and her sister a different color) their first Christmas as her new children. She was seven and had kept it all these years and it was falling apart. My son immediately picked mine up and handed it to her, telling her I had another one (true). I told her I paid $2.50 at the thrift store, and that it had a small hole in the weave on one side and did at the time I bought it. So that left and now we have a new teddy bear themed one (which had been “too good to use”? I know, I know) in its place. So glad it went to someone who really wanted it.

    • How lovely Nana. I love it when the perfect opportunity presents itself to give you that shove in the right direction you needed. Especially when it has the added advantage of bringing pleasure to someone else as well.