See these boxes? They don’t hold diapers anymore, but instead, are filled with craft items that have occupied my closet for far too long. I am donating them this week to the Oakland Museum of Children’s Art, a local organization that not only provides art opportunities to paying members, but to inner city children.
We all have reasons for the things we keep. For me, it’s often some of the following:
I feel like I should do something with the things I have, because otherwise it would be wasteful. In reality, though, every day I don’t do something with it, I’m wasting an opportunity for someone else to make use of it.
Sometimes it’s a gift, and other times, a burden to have an imagination. When I see an object, I often don’t just see the object itself, but also several things I could do with it one day if I had the time. In Buried in Treasures, authors David Tolin, Randy Frost, and Gail Steketee observe that:
The thinking goes something like this: “I can think of some ways to reuse this item. Therefore, I am responsible for doing so, and if I fail to do so I am being wasteful. If I am wasteful, I will be a rotten person. However, because of my fatigue, stress level, time constraints, or other factors, I am unable to actually follow through with this plan. Therefore, in order to avoid being a rotten person, I will hold onto this item.”
Inability to decide
How often have I found myself sifting through things, trying to declutter, and then feeling overwhelmed because I just can’t decide what to do with a particular item? Maybe it holds sentimental value, maybe someone gave it to me and I feel bad that I’d get rid of it, even if I never look at it. Whatever the reason, the answer usually becomes “putting it back on the shelf” until a better time comes. But how often do those times truly come?
The thought that it’s “out of sight” so it doesn’t really matter
Sometimes, thankfully, I have space to put something, which makes it easier to just put off deciding about it. I’ve learned lately, though, that even if it’s out of sight, it results in a drain to my mental energy when I know it’s there but not being used.
Comfort from knowing that this object is still there if I want it
Occasionally, I have actually wanted to pull something out again and been glad that it’s there, but here too I am realizing that these occasions are few and far between. I’m coming to the place where I’d rather give it to someone else who will use it more readily and exchange the few dollars extra I might spend if I need it one day for more shelf space and a greater peace of mind.
Sometimes when it still seems hard to give things away, I remind myself of my experiences in going overseas to live for five years in Uzbekistan. I couldn’t take more than two suitcases could carry, and one of those suitcases was permanently lost by the airlines – I guess it was God’s way of saying I really could live without most things :). I also had to leave most of my things either in storage or with friends. Years later, when I returned, I remember my mom taking me to their storage unit where they were keeping my things and finding that I had forgotten I had half of them. I never missed them then, and trust that for the most part, if I give something away, I gain more in freedom than what I lose in the objects themselves.