How to Let Go of Stuff You Don’t Need

Jon Fesmire | January 7, 2019 @ 8:00 AM

Over the years, we all tend to accumulate stuff we don’t need. This can include clothes you rarely wear, drawers full of mismatched silverware, old computers you’ve shoved in the closet or home decorations that are no longer your style.

There are many reasons why it’s tough for us to let things go. One of the biggest is that many of our possessions have sentimental value. Perhaps that second sofa you really don’t need belonged to a loved one who passed away. Maybe that old t-shirt that no longer fits is from college and has good memories attached. Another big reason is thinking you might need a particular item again. You may feel guilty about getting rid of something you spent a lot of money on, or something that was a gift from someone you care about.

Let’s address each of those concerns, and help turn your thinking around.

Sentimental Value

It’s common to attach sentimental value to our belongings, because they bring back fond memories. Realize that the thing isn’t the memory, and unless it’s something you have out on display or that you use fairly regularly, maybe it’s just taking up space. That sofa or t-shirt are just things. Consider taking photos of them as reminders, or writing about the memory, and getting rid of the items.

Future Need

Unless you’ve used a particular item in the last six months or so, there’s a good chance you won’t need it in the future, either. There are exceptions, such as seasonal items, certain baby items you’re holding onto for your next child (when you plan to have another child), tools for occasional home repairs, and the like. When you find older items you think you might conceivably need in the future, ask yourself the likelihood of this. If you don’t think it’s very likely you’ll use it again, let it go.

Money Guilt

Guilt can make it tough to let things go. Maybe you spent $200 on a painting and now have nowhere to put it, or you spent a lot on a bed frame, but now have a better one. It can be really tough letting go of expensive things you don’t need.

In economics, there’s a concept called “sunk cost.” This refers an expense already incurred, and how it can hold you back. In short, a sunk cost is no excuse to hold onto something you don’t need. Besides, depending on the item, you may be able to recoup some of that cost, though, if you can’t, let go of the guilt, and the item.

Gift Guilt

Again, don’t let your guilt hold you back. If you’re holding onto a gift you don’t want, that’s taking up space, realize the person who gave it to you probably would rather you be happy than worried. It’s okay to let it go.

Things to Keep

There are some things you won’t use or look at often that you’ll want to keep. Typically, these are sentimental, one-of-a-kind items. Keep your baby books, your photo albums (though you might also consider digitizing these), print copies of your published works, your collectibles (including print books, cards, and so on), and the like. As you go through your things, you’ll know what to keep.

Recycling, Throwing Out, and Donating

All those items you no longer need have to go somewhere.

Old papers, metal and glass items, electronics, and even clothing can be recycled. You can donate many items that are still in good shape, from furniture to dishes to clothes. Thrift stores like Goodwill, St. Vincent de Paul, and Salvation Army are always taking donations, and you can deduct the value of those items from your taxes.

Some items, due to damage and so on, simply need to be thrown out. You may need to call your local waste management company to get them, or take them to your local landfill. Even then, you may find they have areas set aside for certain items, such as extra wood and so on. Always opt for recycling or donating, when possible.

The Advantages of Self Storage

Even after you’ve cleared out stuff you don’t need, you may find you have plenty that you do need, but don’t have room for. This is where self storage comes in. Your off-season wardrobe, your important sentimental items, your collectibles, inventory if you run a business, and items you know you’ll need in the near future but don’t at this moment can all go into a storage unit. Depending on where you live, you may want a unit with climate control to keep your belongings in top shape. Check a number of facilities to find one with great security and fair prices.

Help for Hoarding Disorder

Most of us just need a friendly push to start getting rid of excess stuff. For some people, it’s considerably difficult, and they may be diagnosed with hoarding disorder. If you suspect that you, or a loved one, might suffer from this, see a mental health professional as soon as possible to get it under control.

When you’ve cleared out things you no longer need, we bet you’ll be surprised at how comfortable you feel. It’s great to have just what you need most, and what makes you happiest, in your home.

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