“I know one day eventually, Yeah I know, One day I’ll have to let it all go, But I keep it just in case.”
– Demi Lovato
Nearly all of us keep some things just in case. We start to toss something then think, “But I might need it someday.”
Sometimes that’s true, and you should probably hold on to it. Usually, though, you really should get rid of it.
How can you tell the difference? What should you keep?
Stuff You’ll Probably Use
There are things we’re almost certain to eventually use – we’re just not sure when. And if you cut your finger or the power goes out, you don’t want to have to make a run to the store for bandages or candles. Most of us think it’s a lot more convenient to keep these small items at home all the time.
There are some bigger things you might want to keep as well because they’re expensive and/or difficult to replace on short notice, such as a generator or a dark suit to wear to a funeral.
So long as you have a reasonable number of these things and room to store them, don’t worry about getting rid of these items.
Emergency Supplies You Hope You’ll Never Need
Then there are things you keep around in case of emergency, like fire extinguishers and ID cards with your kids’ fingerprints.
You doubt you’ll ever need these. In fact, you hope you’ll never need these.
Does that mean you should get rid of them? Of course not. You should always have emergency supplies on hand (in reasonable quantities, of course).
Unidentified Found Objects
Sometimes I find things around the house that could be really important, like keys, odd-looking bits of hardware and cords, but I have no idea what they go with.
I don’t want to keep them forever, but tossing them out immediately doesn’t seem very smart either.
My solution has been to put UFOs in a Ziploc-style bag, label it with the date and put it in a drawer. After several months have passed, I know it’s pretty safe to throw the stuff out, since, if it were important, somebody should’ve needed it by then.
I don’t have a plan for reviewing these bags. So far, it’s worked fine to see what’s in the drawer each time I add something new to it.
Keeping Sentimental Items
For many people, sentimental items are the most difficult to deal with. See my earlier post for tips on decluttering keepsakes.
The “But I Might Need It Someday” Excuse
How many other things do you keep just in case that you probably will never use and aren’t something you’d need to have quickly in an emergency?
What about the wardrobe that’s three sizes too small? The popsicle sticks you’ve been saving for years just in case your kids want to build something with them?
The stiletto heels you can’t stand up in – much less walk in? The bread maker you haven’t used in 5 years? The motorcycle gear you still have even though you sold your motorcycle 2 years ago?
There are many reasons we keep this stuff, all emotional rather than practical.
“And what if we get to the point of having thrown it out, and then wanting it? What then? What’s the worse that would happen?”
– Cheryl Kempton
With the exception of sentimental, emergency, expensive and hard-to-replace items, this shouldn’t even be an issue.
So what if the month after you gave away a pack of paper plates you’re asked to bring some to a potluck picnic? Does it really matter if you need to buy more?
Each time you hesitate over getting rid of something you’re pretty sure you’ll never need, ask yourself what you’ll do if it turns out you need it after all.
If you probably won’t use it, and you can easily and inexpensively replace an item, get rid of it now.
Most people will have more difficulty disposing of expensive items, even ones they’re practically sure they’ll never use again. Consider selling them instead of giving them away and set aside the sales proceeds so you’ll have money to buy a comparable used item if you do need it later.
If it’s really hard for you to get rid of things you’re almost positive you’ll never need, try boxing up these items.
Tape the box shut and write the date on it. Store it somewhere you won’t see it often. If you need something from the box, you’ll have it. Otherwise, after several months (or even a year), get rid of everything in the box.
If you still can’t bear to declutter this stuff, consider exploring the reasons by journaling, joining a support group (online or in person) or seeing a therapist.
What do you keep just in case? How do you decide what to keep and what to let go?