When you buy things that turn out to be a mistake…

…and it is way too late to return them for your money back, what do you do?

When our lodger left in the summer, I took the opportunity to revamp the room and change how I furnished it as things were getting shabby after 10 years. I dithered for ages over the best storage solutions for the range of people we tended to attract. My dithering drove me mad so in the end I just went for it, but then ended up with some pieces that were not the best solution.

So I got it wrong, despite lots of thought. So, after more re thinking I did get the right pieces for maximum space and storage, but had an armchair and brand new storage cupboard left over.

I had 3 choices:

  • keep them (only available space would be the attic) as ‘they may come in useful sometime”
  • keep them as “I can’t get rid of them; that would be so wasteful”
  • sell on/give away at a loss to get them out of our small house.

I chose to attempt to sell rather than beat my self up for my mistake and hang on to them for ages as:

  • keeping them, unused, would not compensate me for the money I had spent anymore than giving them away for nothing would.
  • keeping them in our small house would compound my error by their constantly getting in the way, forever reminding me of the money I had wasted.
  • someone else could be making good use of it.

It took 5 weeks of trying to sell the chair until I realised I would have to give it away to get rid of it. But the woman who collected it was delighted with it and her bargain made her day. It was great being the source of someone else’s good luck.

The cupboard has just been put on our local online selling forum. I’ve put it on for nearly half what I paid for it and know I may have to drop it in price. I’d like to keep it – I love nice wooden storage, but we have a small house that I have already maxed out with good suitable storage solutions.

Getting things out of the house did put me in the mood to try and sell a food dehydrator I bought a few years ago that is enormous and takes up a third of our kitchen counter space and I have only used 3 times. That did sell well for over £200 (close to my original purchase price). So win some, lose some.

What do you have lurking in your home that you can’t face getting rid of because it would be a waste of the money you spent on it, even though:

  • you never use it,
  • it gets in the way
  • maybe you don’t actually like it any more either
  • it reminds you of your ‘mistake’ in a way that always annoys you a bit?

This post was written by Doodle one of your fellow 365ers.

Today’s Mini Mission

Choose a drawer in this room and declutter it. If you have no drawers choose a small area that is out of sight. A box under a bed, a shelf or a small cabinet.

Eco Tip for the Day

Sweep your outdoor areas rather than hosing them down.

For a full list of my eco tips so far click here

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


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  • The problem is acquiring Clutter is very much about being keener to acquire than to let go. We acquire things we need or want but once their usefulness to us has expired we hang on to them. I feel that there are […]
  • The Norm My surname is Madsen, that's M A D S E N. It is simple, two syllables, no extra letters that have no purpose, easy to read. So why do you think that most people, when confronted with this […]
About Colleen Madsen

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

Comments

  1. I find this one of the toughest situations to let go in, especially when I have tried really hard to be thoughtful about my purchase, and it is still a mistake. Thank you for the post!

    • You’re very welcome Calypso: I think we just need to keep learning from our mistakes, minimising them were possible and then not beat ourselves up about it. I agree it is hard to let go and to keep trying to find ways to justify the original purchase.

      I have found this time I have been much quicker to deal with it, get rid an move on – this is definitely a result of several years of building up my ‘declutter muscle’ and becoming more aware of the ties that bind me to stuff I don’t need or want. Knowing why I struggle to let go of different ‘stuff’ helps me process it in my head better and let go quicker.

  2. Doodle, your story reminds me of a near miss we just had. My husband was going to be putting in a clothesline at our new home last week and said he needed a pole digger to do the job. He then went on to explain, that he could see another time next spring when it would come in handy as he needs to fence in our garden. He knows I am not anxious to acquire things so this last point drove home that this “item” would have two uses in the near future. Then, he spoke to my step dad and told him of his purchase, when he said, we have one you could have borrowed! And my step dad’s is the one my grandfather owned which is much better made than what he bought. I asked my husband if he had the receipt and he did, so back it went to the store, unused and money refunded. I think we both learned a lesson….ask around to family and friends when we have a need .

    • What a great opportunity to hammer home the lesson to your husband Kim! I’m so glad he still had the receipt and was proactive in taking it back.
      I had to laugh that he knows he has to justify any purchase with showing that something will be useful more than once: you’ve been doing some excellent training 🙂

      • Thanks, Doodle, for that last comment…..”you’ve been doing some excellent training”. I guess I should look at this as a “half-full” kind of moment. 🙂

  3. Doodle, this is so like us. Mom wants something NOW and so we get whatever we find. Unfortunately, usually she isn’t happy with it and then all I hear is “I wish we had something better.” I have told her over and over that I would rather wait until we find exactly what we want because if we get something just to have something then she usually is upset about getting rid of it because we “paid good money for it.”

  4. Lol. How to tie you up in knots eh?
    I’ve actually become really good at not getting things ‘right now’ (particularly with new hobby/craft ideas ). But I was under time pressure to sort out an awkward shaped room to get it re let out and I wanted the stress of an unfinished job to go away. I also was resisting spending a lot of money on the more expensive item and trying use more simple ideas.
    And I do love good storage!

  5. Great post Doodle, we certainly all find ourselves in this situation, usually more than once. I don’t even like it when I put a lot of thought into buying something, and it serves me well, then circumstances change years down the track and it is no longer appropriate but still in perfectly good condition. I suppose I ought to be proud that I look after my things so well but I would prefer they would remain suitable and wear out rather than become unsuitable for me. We may encounter this issue with our current sofa set which is only about four years old. It may prove to be too chunky for the living space in our new apartment (when we finally buy one).

    • Thanks Colleen. It is frustrating that something in good conditions loses so much resale value once it has left the showroom.
      But oversized furniture can shrink a room, so I hope if you find it too chunky for your new space-to-be you can find somewhere to rehome it for a reasonable sum.
      At one point I was having to consider dumping the (2nd hand)chair I had been trying to get rid of – 1st on ebay then for nothing on freecycle. It seemed so wasteful that a good chair could not be rehomed. Having said that, it was my refusal to put it into landfill that made me keep going, even though space wise I was desperate for it to leave the house. As luck would have it, I had two requests for it on the same day after 5 weeks of trying!

  6. Doodle, so many points in here that ring true. I am happy to let things go rather than hang onto them for possible future use. But it has taken work on my thought patterns. My husband still hangs onto things for two of the reasons you listed:
    *keep them (only available space would be the attic) as ‘they may come in useful sometime”
    *keep them as “I can’t get rid of them; that would be so wasteful”

    Unfortunately in Australia we don’t have attics. Things get stored under our house or in the garage. And I have found they rust and perish and grow mould. And then eventually we have to throw them out. I tell my husband it would be better to not have rubbish (for that is what it has become), or clutter or stuff hanging around. We should donate or sell before we “store” it, so someone can get use of it. Better all round, including for the environment, and for the tidiness, order and cleanliness of our house and our peace of mind. I am chipping away here.

    Well done on your action, Doodle.

    • Thanks Lucinda. I’m a great practitioner of the ‘chipping away movement’ when it comes to Husband’s hording/attitude to keeping things…like forever 😀

      I think having attics can be a mixed blessing. In the UK people often have garages as well as attics. Unless like us they live fairly centrally in an old town when there is no room to build garages in the modern car world. But we don’t tend have storage ‘under the house’. Of course, it’s great that attics tend to not be susceptible to mould but are such a way-too-handy dumping ground for ‘deferred decisions’. And let’s face it, most clutter is deferred decisions.

      In our own personal case we would serious struggle without our attic, as we met in our 40’s, we let what would be our sitting room to a lodger and had to join two households and many adult years of individual lives and hobbies into one and while my declutter journey these last few years has come on in leaps and bounds, but dear husband finds letting go of anything very difficult (though he too has become better than he was, thanks to my aforementioned patient chipping away skills).
      Our attic is going to be my next big project. I am getting closer to getting rid of all my ( note ‘my’ not our;) )excess stuff up there (which would just leave practical stuff like DIY materials and xmas decs) I will probably write a post about it in due course.

  7. Good post Doodle. Because furniture can be pricey we tend to want to get our money’s worth out it and if we’ve made an unfortunate choice or if its purpose passed in far shorter time than what we had hoped…….as much as it galls me, it is better to cut the losses and move on.

    Furniture is really only a solution, whether for storing clothes or a comfortable nights sleep or to relax on in the evening or eat dinner off. If the item isn’t fulfilling that solution, it is better it gets moved on.

    There are companies which hire furniture, we looked into it recently as our eldest was going to fly the nest which was going to leave us short a double bed to be used for guests arriving this weekend. The urge to run out and buy another bed was there but I talked myself out of it by assuring myself that I could buy a bed right up to the day they arrived (we have a vehicle that we could collect it on) if I hadn’t come up with a plan. I am one of those people that need to cross things off the To Do list so this wasn’t easy. Well, our son hasn’t left, his bed is still in the room, we were able to borrow a camp bed that he can use and just 5 mins ago I got a phone call to say that the guests may not be able to make it after all, so I’m very glad I didn’t rush out to get another bed.

    • Thanks Moni – I can so identify with the ‘one of those people that needs to cross things of the To Do list”. If it sits there to long it can feel an uncomfortable pressure can’t it. Also, I find I have to catch the wind of energy in my sails as it passes, to do a particular task, and putting something off can mean it will be a while before it comes round again. I guess the wisdom is in knowing which things can wait and which things really can’t.

  8. Great post – this is something have struggled with lately! First off was some nice furniture (that just never worked in my home), that despite me listing it for a low price on Craigslist – didn’t sell after multiple tries. I finally gave it away to a relative, and it sort of hurt watching them load it up – thinking of what I paid for it and how it didn’t work out and ultimately I had to give it away to get rid of it. Of course they had the proper room for it, and it looks great in their house. But I admit, I feel better with it gone – not mocking me of my bad (but seemingly good at the time) decision.

    Then came the coat – which I had ordered online and never fit properly. I would have sent it back, and I had shopped this one site many times – but I didn’t notice how returns went back to CANADA (I am in the USA). The cost to ship it back was almost half the cost of the coat, and I was so aggravated about it I shoved it in a deep dark closet and recently found it (after four years!), tags still attached. I ended up donating it, which it hurt to stuff it in a bag with a bunch of other old coats and hand it off to the donation taker. But once again, I am relieved it is GONE. Not mocking me of my bad decisions, or money wasted. I hated looking at it, and it made me mad at myself LOL.

    I really try to make better decisions now. If I bring something home and it doesn’t work – it goes BACK. I don’t try and lie and fool myself anymore. All my receipts go in one box and I get to know my return policies the best I can before purchasing. I guess we have to screw up sometimes to learn our hardest lessons . . .

    • Thanks Michaela. It’s so frustrating how difficult it can be to sell 2nd hand furniture that is in good condition. But like you, I feel so much better with it gone and much ‘lighter’. And I have a cute little receipts box too. And then any big purchase or electrical item, I staple the receipt to the book of instructions and they all live in a drawer (which gets weeded every so often).

      With clothes I really try and only buy what I feel good in, and yet mistakes do still slip through. I love Kimberley’s “what was I thinking” hanger mentioned below. I no longer buy 2nd hand clothes because I find that is where I made most of my mistakes, had most pressure to buy because “it mightn’t be there tomorrow” and although each item didn’t cost much, they were adding up over the year.

      • That is funny about the second hand clothing . . . I had the same problem so I quit shopping second hand. When I finally cleaned out my closet, those were some of the first clothes to go – it was sort of eye awakening! Now I only buy new clothes, hang them in my closet with the tags out, and if for some reason I don’t wear them after two weeks – they go back. I also had to enforce the one in out out rule, so four new shirts makes four old shirts go . . . and if one or two items get returned, the old shirts are gone at that point. Plus I only have “so many” hangers (still probably more than I actually need, but my closet covers all four seasons so that is my excuse) . . . I’ll just say I’m doing better now than I was about four years ago when I could barely open my closet door . . .

        • Ooh, it’s great to hear that someone else has found the same re charity shop clothes, because it always feels a little scandalous and indulgent to say I only buy new. But I now do only buy new, but have a small capsule wardrobe and have really enjoyed the experience of always loving what I wear now. I also rarely clothes shop: bliss.
          (Disclaimer: some people are very gifted at clothes buying from charity shops, so I am very pro the concept if it works for you, or indeed that is what your budget absolutely only allows.)

          • I imagine it does sound indulgent to say I buy only new clothes, but I do a lot of shopping using discounts, watching sales, and I like places like TJMaxx where I can get name brand clothes at cheaper prices. I also wear a lot of American Apparel (plain basic clothing) – most items from there I wear out before I get tired of them. I am also thankful for my best friend, who wears nothing BUT second hand. Since she is smaller than me, if something is too small for me it still fits her. Yesterday I cleaned out my sock drawer, and she took all the socks I didn’t want LOL. She is great like that . . .

            I guess the worst part about second hand is I would try it on and all would seem good. But later I would seem to find that one imperfection that probably caused someone to probably donate it and it would drive me batty. When I shop now I look for plain items that all go together so if I’m having a rushed day I can quickly get dressed and know I most likely match. My biggest indulgence would be Black Milk Clothing leggings. Even though they are expensive, I justify the cost with the fact they get worn every chance I get. Sorry to go on and on, but clothing is something I have struggled with over the years. Blame it on being a woman LOL!

        • Michaela – I too have found that some people have the art of second hand clothing shopping and I don’t seem to have it, I’ve generally ended up donating it back within a fairly short time frame. So I’ve decided for now, it doesn’t really fit with my wardrobe strategy.
          I really like your idea about putting on a hanger with the tag facing out, that’s brilliant I will adopt that idea too.

        • Hi Michaela, secondhand clothing isn’t for everyone so don’t feel bad if you aren’t prepared to outfit your wardrobe that way. Being mindful about the frequency at which you buy clothing is more important. And buying well made items that last is also important when it comes to reducing the frequency at which they need replacing.

          I have found though that I encounter new clothes to be just as susceptible to your secondhand clothing issue. That is they seem OK when you first try the on but soon after it is discovered that they are unsuitable, uncomfortable etc etc. This unsuitability isn’t always a viable reason to guarantee a refund. Mind you I will always attempt to get that refund if I feel the clothing design or construction is at fault. Not only for my own satisfaction but because I think companies ought to be held to a certain standard when it come to the quality of product. Clothes are not throw away like paper towel after all and should have a reasonable wear life. If more people insisted on refunds for shoddy clothing then the disreputable manufactures would rightly pick up their game or go out of business.

    • Great stories, Michaela.

      Reminds me of a quote: ” Good judgment comes from experience.
      Experience comes from bad judgment.”

      Makes me smile — we do the best we can at the time, don’t you think?

  9. I currently have a desk that I purchased for the purpose of using it in my bedroom as a place to write or study. After I got it, I realized that it did not seem very practical after all, since I have another area that can be used in the same manner. I am thinking that a family member would appreciate this desk as a place to put their laptop or perhaps as an area to do makeup, since they have only one sink/mirror in their bathroom. Either way, I want it to find it’s way out of my door :).

    • Hi Jen, I like your practical acceptance that you made a mistake, but you can benefit from gifting to someone you care about.

      It’s funny how something can seems so right for your space, until you actually have it! I acquired a desk once that I thought would be perfect for my creative stuff. Took me a year to realise I always actually sat in my armchair with a large tray to work on instead!

  10. The best gift we can give ourselves is to realize that at the time the purchase was made, we thought we were making the correct choice. We learn by trial and error. Even if you end up giving it away, give yourself a pat on the back for letting go and letting someone who could really use that (fill in the blank) a hand-up. As I mentioned before, my daughter and I have one designated hangar in the closet with a tag that says, “What was I thinking?” for a clothing mistake. Carry that through to furniture, housewares etc. After all, it’s just stuff!

    • Lol, I love the “what was I thinking” hanger!
      And you’re right, no one was born all wise: we learn in life through trial and error. And those of us on this blog are enriching our lives by focusing on how to make good decisions about the things we own much more than if we had never starting thinking about it in the first place.

  11. I almost didn’t post on this topic because I am so absolutely embarrassed. I see that nobody is as big a fool as me. 🙁 My husband and I have been wanting a new(er) vehicle. My truck has 235,000+ miles on it. We mentally determined what we wanted (a Jeep Wrangler), but we were going to wait until next year. My goal was to hit 300,000 on my truck first. On the spur of the moment, we test drove and bought a Jeep. Less than 30 minutes after we bought it, we discovered something that is apparently common in Jeeps. . . an experience called The Death Wobble. I cannot tell you how exhilarating it is to be driving along at 35 – 45 mph, go over just a minor hump in the road, and the Jeep begins violently vibrating. We immediately took it back and told the salesman that the vehicle of dangerous. Blah, blah, blah. Purchased “as is”. We did buy the warranty (probably mistake #2) which does not cover non-factory installed modifications. Long story short: It is at an actual Jeep dealership today to determine what the problem is, if the warrant is going to cover any part of the fix, or how much is it going to cost us to fix.

    We did not get rid of my truck as we plan on becoming vehicle hoarders. KIDDING!!!! It would not have had much trade in value and it is a great little truck, so we’ll see. I am sure that Colleen would like to reach through the internet and give me a swift kick in the behind, but I’ve already kicked myself in the behind!

    • Ah Michelle, I feel your Pain! Sometimes we are just human, and sensible ,well thought out plans can vanish in a puff off smoke at the sight of something shiny! You have now confessed so feel bad no more! I am quite sure every one of us has tales we could tell.
      We just bought another car after 10 years and buying 2nd hand is a bit of a mind field. Fortunately for us we have built up a relationship with the garage we bought from and they wouldn’t want to sell us a problem car…(I hope that’s not famous last words!) But you never really know until you’ve had it a while.

      • Thanks Doodle! Wallowing in my misery is not going to make the situation better. We just have to get it fixed and get on with life. 🙂

  12. It is so hard to let things go, especially furniture. But sometimes we just have to do it. Circumstances change, as well as our likes and dislikes, our needs, and our energy to keep up with everything we have accumulated through our lives. I find furniture and collectibles the hardest to part with. The furniture in my home are over 50 years old, solid mahogany. The living room is traditional style, the dining room is an art deco style chairs with a table base and a big round solid marble top, plus a buffet or sideboard. They are both beautiful and in mint condition. They were my parents furniture. They were always sitting pretty, because my mother never allowed anyone to sit on them. I upholstered them twice to keep up with the times. Sometimes I think about selling them but no one would be willing to pay their worth. I had several other furniture before this ones, but it was easier to sell them because they were mine. This is harder because they are part of my family heirloom. Likewise with the collectibles. I sold a lot of them at excellent prices on ebay years ago, But now they are only paying pennies for them, unless is a one of a kind item.

    • Hi Maire, if no one is prepared to pay it I wonder if some things ‘true worth’ is only in our head. I do totally get what you mean though: it’s hard to believe something old and beautifully crafted isn’t ‘worth something’, even if no one else agrees because fashions have changed.
      Inherited things from family are hard, and probably a whole other topic. Memories and a sense of obligation creep in that overwhelm our actual true desires as to what we might have in our home if we could start from scratch.

  13. I agree, Marie L. Family furniture is so difficult to part with, plus if it is good quality and functional for you, there would be no reason to get rid of it. I have a few pieces that are no longer really our style, but they are very functional so I plan to keep them. PS: LOVE art deco!!

  14. Michelle, I love Art Deco too. But since they are solid,they are very heavy, I can’t lift them alone. The dining chairs are the only ones I’m able to lift. The sofa and chairs weighs a ton. And the marble dining table with the buffet needs a couple of weightlifters to handle them. Lol.
    Doodle, maybe the value of something its just in our head. I haven’t tried to sell them yet, so I don’t know their real value. When I get the courage to do so, I’ll let you know. Meanwhile I’m happy doing my decluttering missions. Love the posts!!!

  15. Just remember it is a “sunk cost”. The money has already been paid for it, so you are no worse off if you get rid of it. I think this is why a lot of people don’t get rid of things. They know they will never recover the amount that they spent. But, it is better to just move it on and get what you can and have the unwanted item removed that reminds you over and over of the bad purchase.

    • And that is a very good point spendwisemom: ultimately you are no worse off if you get rid of it, the money has gone.

    • Spendwisemom – ‘sunk cost’ is a good way to describe it and an excellent way to accept the situation, the loss has already occurred, all that remains is to improve the situation.

    • I totally agree spendwisemom. Chalk it up to experience and use that experience to guide you in future purchases.

  16. REPLY TO MICHAELA (blog won’t allow to reply straight after your last post )
    Well it might not sound indulgent to many that we no longer consider 2nd hand clothing – many of my friends don’t give it a 2nd thought. I think it’s for me presumption that people might think it indulgent but is not greatly grounded in fact.
    And you weren’t going on Michaela – I feel the same passion for the subject because it has been ridiculously transformative to get on top of my wardrobe issues, since roughly following the principles of the 333 project. Building a simple capsule wardrobe has saved me time energy stress and helped me dress better. When you find ‘the right answer for you’ to freedom from clothes stress you can’t help but want to share.

  17. When I started, getting through that sunk cost concept was the hardest part of decluttering for me. I am so glad you moved through it on this occasion, and I hope you continue to make great steps in that direction 🙂