Uncluttering regrets

In the comments section of Tuesday’s post “Asking the better question,” reader Cheryl asked:

Have you ever gotten rid of something about which you later regretted making that choice? What was it? If itโ€™s happened more than once, what object or person or habit was most regrettably gone?

In my personal experience, the only things I’ve regretted getting rid of are things I didn’t know I was tossing. During my first major purging process, I got impatient and just wanted the clutter to be out of my life. So, without opening the lids on some of my boxes and sorting through my things, I just blindly disposed of a few boxes. Included in one of the boxes were my social security card and passport. Both items were able to be replaced, but it would have been much less of a hassle had I not thrown them away in the first place. Rushing through the process is what led to my regrets.

Otherwise, I’ve never regretted getting rid of something. In fact, I’ve always felt better about getting rid of the clutter than I have felt about any of the things I’ve purged.

A couple people responded to Cheryl’s questions in Tuesday’s comments, and I’m interested in reading even more people’s responses here. Have you ever regretted getting rid of something? I think this is a wonderful question to ask. Tell us about your experiences in the comments.

95 Comments for “Uncluttering regrets”

  1. posted by Senora H-B on

    I am a pretty ruthless purger and I sometimes wonder if I will regret getting things out of my life. Knock on wood, that hasn’t happened yet. Will I someday regret not holding on to every. single. birthday card? How about that hideous sweater I bought in Peru and never wore? Maybe that dish my grandmother gave me that I never use? I really doubt it.

    That’s not to say I don’t keep *anything*. I have saved a few really important things (letters from the 18 months I lived abroad, a small scrapbook of wedding photos, and lots of well-organized digital photos) that mean a lot to me, but that’s it.

  2. posted by Another Deb on

    I sold a beautiful quilt frame that my father had made for my 21st birthday. It was done in a hasty cross- country move, and I know that he noticed and asked my mother to check on it. It is one thing I wish I had not done because it hurt him.

  3. posted by Ann on

    I do actually regret getting rid of some letters/notes from highschool. This was prior to getting a scanner. Now I could just scan them all and have them digitally forever.
    I have always found pictures the toughest thing to get rid of. Thank God for digital media!! Let’s just hope it doesn’t go out of style too soon.

  4. posted by Lose That Girl on

    In a rush to make room, I tossed out a scrapbook that I lovingly put together as a kid. I regret tossing it — I think about it often and how I would have enjoyed looking through it again. It was rather large and I felt at the time that it was just too much. I shouldn’t have been so hasty.

  5. posted by crunchycon on

    Not too many things, fortunately. I do regret purging my old Revereware cookware, some of which I inherited from my mom (hers was ’60s-era, mine was early ’80s). The stuff out there now is just cheesy by comparison, unless you want to go out there and buy restaurant quality, which can cost an arm and a leg.

  6. posted by deborah on

    If you get rid of a baby bed, for example, and have a wonderfully clean extra bedroom, and 5 years later, find out another baby is on the way….well, start saving up for a new bed, and appreciate that you had a clutter free area for five years. The time you had usable space is worth the price of a baby bed.

  7. posted by Michele Connolly, Get Organized Wizard on

    Each year I ditch or donate anything not used, worn, etc in the previous 12 months.

    I *occasionally* need something again and have to go buy it. I *rarely* wonder about some memento and have to rely on the memory instead.

    But I *always* enjoy the lightness, clarity and freedom of living without clutter. The benefit far outweighs the small emotional or financial cost. I strongly recommend it!

  8. posted by KateNonymous on

    Generally, no. However, I still regret getting rid of two childhood school projects during a bout of cleaning when I was around 12. No doubt I would have gotten rid of them between now and then, but I didn’t really want to at the time.

  9. posted by Caroline on

    I am a pack rat by nature, and purging is usually a process that exhausts me emotionally. I’m getting better… This uncluttered thing is not an overnight process, is it? *wink*

    Tip for hoards of Birthday cards/Christmas cards etc… Get a scrapbooking album, pick 5 (or 10, your call) of your favorites from each “event”, and paste them in with a wee note about the date, who sent them, their relationship, an anecdote about the time of year or your favorite memory etc. I did this for our son’s birth, and our wedding, and our Christmases, and it makes remembering that much more fun, and does not clutter up your closet with a whole box. Some of the cards are quite beautiful, and deserve to be displayed more than just for the season/event!

    I am better at purging my files on a computer when I have to re-load an OS, or back up a large amount of files. Sometimes I delete a file or a picture, that later, I wish I hadn’t, simply for its sentimental value, or a passage I wanted to re-use in other writing that I realized was in the file I deleted. Regret? usually fleeting, since I can likely recreate it if I really need to.

  10. posted by Stephanie on

    I don’t regret anything I’ve gotten rid of but wish I could let go of more. Handmade things are hard to purg because I know how much work went into them.

    Any ideas of getting rid of art or handmade items in a way in which they will still be value? I refuse to host a yard sale because the option of doing it makes me hold on to stuff I would’t otherwise keep because it might be profitable later. But how do I pass along art or handmade items instead of lumping them in with the good will bin?

  11. posted by Rebecca on

    Generally no for me too. I often purge clothes and sometimes I’m disappointed when the style comes back a couple years later. But the good feeling of having a clean closet is worth it.

  12. posted by Carrie on

    I regret getting rid of two things…the rocking chair that my mom rocked me in as a baby and I rocked my baby girls in. My mom died three weeks after my second daughter was born and it made me feel closer to her. I sold it at a yard sale for $5 and I would pay hundreds to have it back. I also threw out a whole stack of notes that my husband and I wrote to each other when we were 14 and 16 years old. We worked together and were interested in each other back then but my parents wouldn’t let me date until I was 16. We met again through mutual friends 8 years later and got married. I would LOVE to read those notes today. I threw them out because of a jealous ex-boyfriend.

  13. posted by Craig on

    @crunchycon

    Restaurant don’t buy “restaurant-quality” from Target or Bed,Bath and Beyond my Budget. They get their supplies from restaurant supply stores. You can shop there too, get better stuff and it’s much cheaper then even the low end stuff at chain stores.

  14. posted by Karen on

    I’ve encouraged my mother to give things away that she isn’t using. After I moved, I had a big blank wall that would have been filled perfectly by the oil painting that hung over the TV when I was a kid. It was “starving artist” quality and had been in her basement for years. So, the next time I visited home, guess what had happened? Oh well, I’m happier that she is happy with letting things go than if I had that old painting on my wall.

  15. posted by chzplz on

    No regrets, and I’m a ruthless purger.

    Rebecca – even when something comes back in style, there’s usually just enough change that the old stuff won’t look current. Unless you’re talking about vintage clothes…

  16. posted by martha in mobile on

    No one has mentioned this, so perhaps it’s just me.

    When I go through a drawer and purge out stuff, I will often perceive a use or need for that item a few days later and kick myself for getting rid of it. I console myself that the only reason I perceived a use/need is that now I know I had the item (because I had most likely forgotten about it before I purged). Still, it is a strange little disincentive, and perhaps a reason why clutters hold on.

  17. posted by OPTED Magazine on

    I’m a pack rat, I admit it! And I’m sentimental. What I decided to do during my decluttering process is to set aside in separate boxes things for trashing, donating, and selling and I’d wait 1 week to deal with the content of the boxes. I know that means clutter remains in my house for another week, but it gives me piece of mind by avoiding the regret of getting rid of something important.

  18. posted by Oliver Ruehl on

    Oh. I have a heartbreaking story.

    When I was much younger I used to build models from paper. Once I got a “Titanic” model for Christmas. It was huge. I was excited like the builders of the original Titanic. Took me about 3 weeks to build and 10 bottles of glue were used. I had blisters on my hands from the scissors. Everyone including me was really proud and the model was the sensation of our living room for years.

    Then I got older. I cared about cleaning things. Getting rid of things. The “Titanic” sank. Into my parents cellar.

    Then I got even older. I had to decide. Keep the dusty “Titanic”?. No way. Or should I? Yeah, whatever. Threw it away. I will never need it again, it’ll just waste space in my new fancy flat!

    5 years later… my mom visited my flat and asked: “Ah my son, I remember you building these paper models. Do you still have the Titanic?”. Both our hearts crashed into icebergs! NOOOOOOOOO! We heard Celine Dion cry in the background. It was not nice.

    I really regret throwing away the “Titanic” and I’m not making this up. Ask my mother.

    Kind regards to all
    Oliver

  19. posted by Sarah on

    I can’t think of anything I really regret getting rid of. In fact, I rarely remember things after they’re gone. Shows how much they needed to be around!

    If something is particularly important to me or hard to let go, I try to give it to someone I know will appreciate it. Freecycle is nice, but I still don’t *know* the freecyclers in our area. The first skirt I made for myself was too small for a couple of years and a baby later, but I still couldn’t handle just giving it away in a pile of clothes. I gave it away with one other piece of clothing to a friend that likes handmade clothes and I only thought of it because of this post.

    Also, if I am giving a bunch of things at once to a friend (like boxes of baby hand-me-downs)-I make sure I’m ok with knowing they’re probably going to be choosy about what they’ll keep. I always tell the receiver to keep or give away anything they want. I hate the guilt when I get a garbage bag full of hand-me-downs and the giver obviously expects to see them in use.

    Now, I think regret comes from losing stuff because someone or something beyond their control purged their stuff. I know my dad still regrets losing an antique german camera that his mother sold for 5 bucks at a garage sale without asking him. Not that he ever used it-it lived in a dresser drawer for 7 years after he moved out. My mom is also always trying to get rid of his clutter while he’s at work or something. I think it just makes the pack-ratness worse because he starts feeling out of control.

    Anyway, great post! I think I’ll go purge my give away stash today ๐Ÿ˜‰

  20. posted by Chris on

    When I went away to college, part of my self-invention was relentlessly purging anything that reminded me of the awkward, nerdy kid I’d been in middle school.

    One of those things was a school project: a full deck of regulation-size playing cards that I had hand-cut from oak tag, drawn 52 characters from the Lord of The Rings trilogy on (ranking and suiting according to characteristics), and then painted all of the tiny figures by hand.

    I threw them away because I was painfully embarrassed by being associated with anything “nerdy,” but I regret trashing a beautiful one-of-a-kind art piece put so much work and time into.

    If I’d held onto them, I’d have likely scanned-and-tossed them by now, but this all happened before scanners and digital cameras, so there’s no record they ever existed.

  21. posted by Kim on

    Yes, a little. I got rid of my high school diaries. I wish I had kept them, or at least the pages describing my prom date. Or had a scanner back then or a photo taken. I married the man I went to the prom with back then and I’d like to have my description of the event. When I moved in with him, I purged a lot of stuff and I was feeling frustrated and rushed so I dumped a bunch of stuff without thinking. All of my diaries was part of that.

    Second regret is a teddy bear I was given when I was 5. It was sold long ago at a garage sale when I was about 12. It was the only thing I had from my Great Grandma and I don’t even have a picture of it. My family teases me that when I pulled it out of the box, it hit me in the eye with its nose and I never forgave it so that’s why I sold it. I don’t know but sometimes I wish I still had it.

    Then again, I tend to keep things. I am not an unclutterer by nature. I am a collector. ๐Ÿ™‚

  22. posted by Caroline - SOS on

    I have been purging thing that came from generations of my family and I ended up with them. Mainly I am purging a mindset that they had, that those things were more important than the family members themselves.

    Several months ago I purged some heirlooms and put them in the garage in a plastic tub waiting to go to the thrift store. Rule #57 – when you purge – put the items in a box or bag and seal and label it. That way, you just throw the unseen items in the car and take it away.

    Unfortunately I forgot rule #57, and had to transfer the crystal and family heirlooms to disposable containers to take them away. I was appalled at what I had decided to get rid of (totally my family mentality, not mine) In essence, I had to redecide to get rid of each item. It was just as difficult as the first time, but I did it.

    Funnily enough, I never even noticed they were missing for all the time they were in the garage!! I will never forget rule #57 again.

  23. posted by Susan on

    Counter to most commenters, I almost always regret getting rid of clothes. I usually think of a way to use an old jacket or belt after I’ve given it away, or see a dress in a picture and wish I could wear it again. I’m sitting here mourning a Chanel bag I tossed in a fit of simplifying and wishing for the fabric from a few old business-y shirts to make a craft project…. This won’t stop me from purging my closet a few times a year, but I always feel sorry about it.

  24. posted by Beverly D on

    When I was married to my first husband, he made me get rid of letters from one of my boyfriends, which were full of fabulous poems, not just love things but others. I have kicked myself ever since, especially since the marraige didn’t last (DUH). One of the worst though was the Christmas my brother sent a box with gifts wrapped in it. I took out a couple of large things, there were lots of packing nuts, and my husband grabbed the box and set it out on the curb for the trash pick up. Later my brother asked how the girls liked their Calamara jewelry from Ireland, which were in smaller packages in the packing. I stopped crying a couple of days later….

  25. posted by Anita on

    I’m generally very good about not getting rid of things too hastily, so this rarely happens. However, I do regret having left some things behind in a big move across the Atlantic about 6 years ago. We only took the bare minimum, which meant letting go of an extensive library and music collection, all our furniture and appliances, and packing 3 people’s lives into 4 suitcases.

    There are lots of things I wish I hadn’t left, but the one that hurts the most is a stack of notebooks that my two best friends and I wrote to each other. It was an odd sort of tradition that got started in high school and just kept going. I loved re-reading them and remembering those times, especially since one of my best friends passed away in the meantime, and the other is over 4500 miles away.

    Most of my stuff was packed away (rather than purged) by relatives, so I’m hoping I’ll be able to retrieve them some day…

  26. posted by whyioughtta on

    I hastily gave to Goodwill a beautiful, classic silk wool sweater and lace skirt. What a mistake! Twenty years later, I STILL think about that giveaway with regret! I’ve since learned to trust my instincts when it comes to getting rid of things–if I truly love it, I will keep it–because I will use it.

  27. posted by Mario on

    I’ve thrown away many little things that really would just be clutter, but if I made a scrapbook when I was younger, it wouldn’t have been so bad, but alas, I didn’t. I started one, and it hasn’t brought clutter at all, so I’m glad I see the value in that now at least.

  28. posted by Michelle on

    All through college I made sketch/scrap books filled with every assignment received, preparatory sketches, finished projects, magazine cut outs used as inspiration, pages from books with admired quotes, photographs, elements from nature…etc. Basically, when flipping though these books you got a chronological sense of who I was and what I was thinking during the process of art school. By graduation I had about 7 books of different sizes, all filled to the brim and busting out the spines. After college I moved A LOT…like every 6 months or so, and I hated lugging these ridiculously heavy creations around with me, so I went through them and painstakingly cut out every piece that I still felt a connection with, and I created a new book with these pieces. In theory this mini-book should be the best of each of the notebooks, but in reality I can hardly bear to flip through it because each page reminds me of the missing items in each of the other notebooks. I truly regret my decision of convenience because now I realized it wasn’t about the finished products…it was all about the PROCESS. That is what made those books magical.

  29. posted by Kim on

    Not really regret. But I have found that some of the things I thought “might come in handy later” were things I actually did need later. But those few items were easily or cheaply replaced (or borrowed) when I did need them.

    And honestly, if I had kept the original, I might have needed a new one anyway because I either wouldn’t have been able to find it or would have forgotten I had it (both a result of having too much stuff).

  30. posted by Kathryn on

    A few things: a few items that belonged to friends now dead. And even if I never fence or spar again, I wish I still had my fencing equipment and karate sparring pads.

    The thing I most regret, though, is my grandfather’s upright piano, which became my mom’s upright, which became my upright for too short a time. On the one hand–lord knows how I would have hauled that thing through the 5 residences (including 3 third-floor walkups) I’ve had in the 10 years since I said goodbye to it. On the other hand–it is not only hugely symbolic (coming from a long line of musicians) but would have gotten used both by me and now by my kids. My mom asked me, in the conversations surrounding my dad’s death, if I wanted her grand piano when she was gone, and I would move heaven and earth to keep that one.

  31. posted by Louise on

    Nope. Not a thing.

  32. posted by kathleen on

    I freecycled some nice fabric that I couldn’t see an immediate use for. A year or so later, I needed to make curtains and remembered all those yards of really excellent fabric and regretted it. Also, I had a bunch of nice yarn and knitting needles…and since I hadn’t finished any projects in several years, decided to pass them along. And now, I am interested in knitting again.

  33. posted by L. on

    I wonder: do we consider the logical outcomes of our ownership? What happens to our belongings when we die? Do we care After seven generations, who owns all this… stuff?

  34. posted by Jennifer McIntyre on

    Yes I have – – that’s why i pretty much keep everything now. Things that were thrown out have been as simple as a hot wheels race track to the car registration sticker to a stack of drawings my son did on notebook paper when he was small. My time now is spent sorting, filing and categorising. With modern technology, I’ve been able to save things in different ways, for example, I now scan all of my sons artwork and stellar classwork. Then I save it – both the original and the scan. Once I create something with it, or use it in a project or scrapbook, it usually gets tossed.

  35. posted by Rue on

    I agree with those who have said that regretting getting rid of something is still worth having a clean, uncluttered space. There have been very few times where I’ve thought “Oh, where is so-and-so?” and then realized that I’d gotten rid of it. But I’ve never actually regretted getting rid of anything. If you’re careful when you’re purging and make sure that you really don’t need what you’re getting rid of, there shouldn’t be any regret.

  36. posted by Terry on

    My son had a nice collection of hardcover Star Wars books based on the movies. Several years ago (since he’s now 20), we donated them to the library. Who would have guessed my young niece and nephew would become HUGE fans of those movies? Just shelled out $30 at Amazon for a couple of those same books as birthday presents… ๐Ÿ™

  37. posted by Erin on

    In the past year I’ve lost two things that mean so much to me – both gifts from my husband – earrings and shawl that I wore very frequently. I lost them because I was disorganized and cluttered. I’m sure that my uncluttering has caused me to get rid of things that I occasionally “think” I need – but I don’t miss anything that I’ve purged the way I miss the two gifts that I lost.

  38. posted by susan on

    I never regret purging. I may wiffle waffle over some things for a while and then finally make the purge. Previous posters said do we care what happens to our stuff when we die? If I live to old age I want no more than a few prized possessions for my loved ones and donate the rest.
    The space, the calm and serenity is so much more important than hanging on to stuff.
    Like Rue I forget what I have given away.

  39. posted by EM on

    As posted on the other thread, yes I’ve gotten rid of many things that I regret. It tends to boil down to quality. If the old item is of high quality and there is even the chance I might use it or I have space to keep it I no longer declutter it at all. Haven’t had any regrets doing that even though there is lots of stuff not currently being used. I do make gifts of things that we have been saving when it’s appropriate. Usually to a person or business that really needs that item now and can’t afford to buy the quality version they want. Some of them are on loan some are outright gifts. Poor quality makes it hard to replace things you get rid of now and high cost for the junk just makes the pain worse.

  40. posted by Kari on

    No regrets here. As a matter of fact, the thing I purged that people had told me I would regret was the best decision I have ever made–I tossed my journals from my teens. Due to a variety of family issues, this was a pretty awful period of time for me, and whenever I saw the journals (much less read them) I got very depressed. Tossing them was a weight lifted off my shoulders and I have never regretted it.

    This has also given me more confidence that when I do make the decision to toss, it is the correct one. If I am thinking of tossing something I think may be a regret, I put it aside for a time–a few weeks, a few months, a year–and revisit that decisions later. By giving myself time, I can feel confident in whatever decision I make (and to date, the thing has always been purged…with no regrets later).

  41. posted by Jessica on

    There are a few things my mom uncluttered when I was a kid (and pack rat!) that I wish I had. I’m not even sure if I would have kept them this long anyways, but I wish it had been my choice and decision to part with them. That’s all.

  42. posted by Susan on

    I’ve had some enormous regrets, but they came from being way too hasty in my decluttering. Sometimes I get so frustrated with the clutter that I toss things that I don’t look at carefully enough. In two separate fits of decluttering, I’ve thrown away my grandmother’s original 1915 passport from Japan (aughhhh) AND a file containing my adoption papers, hospital records and original birth certificate, all completely irreplaceable since I was adopted. These two losses just kill me and I think sometimes hold me back from more decluttering.

  43. posted by JC on

    Although I really can’t think of any items that I truly regret purging, I do regret the purging others have done. My brother-in-law trash almost the entire set of his grandmother’s china because it “took up too much space”. She had 15 living children and he didn’t ask any of them if they wanted it. I have a teacup and saucer that I rescued from a back drawer. That, a side table and two photographs are the only tangible things my husband has of his grandparents whom he dearly loved.

    One of my biggest regrets is not finishing a project. There was a post about getting started and then finishing things awhile ago on this site. When in college, I promised my very best friend (neither of us married yet) a baby quilt with hand embroidered blocks of her favorite book character for her first born. She married a few years later and became pregnant. She knew that I was working on the quilt, but I simply did not put in as much effort as I could have, and was only about 10% along with the quilt before the baby was born. She was diagnosed with cancer shortly thereafter. I finished the quilt the week of her funeral, when the baby was a few months old. I gave it to her husband, explaining the story behind it. It’s been more than a decade, but I’ll always regret not finishing it before her death, and her never seeing any of the finished blocks since she lived several thousand miles away.

  44. posted by Vicki K on

    It’s a bit painful reading these reponses…

    Some things gotten-rid-of-long-ago still come to my mind and I feel rather wistful about them – a handwoven wool pillow, an elaborately embroidered scene that was meaningful at the time – both things I made. What I have to remember are all the years I didn’t have to move them, store them, maintain them or wonder whether it was time to let go.

  45. posted by KEP on

    I threw away all of my negatives from my high school photography classes. I remember thinking “I won’t want to see these again.”
    OMG. It feels like a punch in the stomach every time I think of it.

  46. posted by Sheryl on

    I’m a purger by nature and I can’t think of anything that I regret getting rid of, but reading this post prevented me from doing something that I realized that I’d regret later.

    My mom was a Marine sergeant back in the ’50’s, and I’ve still got her summer uniform. A while back I was cleaning out the downstairs closet and decided to donate it to the Woman Marine’s Association. Well, I never got around to doing it and it’s still hanging down there.

    I kept dragging my feet about getting rid of it, but didn’t know why. I just realized that I simply do. not. want. to get rid of it.

  47. posted by Jeanne N on

    I have been de-cluttering my house for about 2 months now, instead of regretting, I’ve been embarassed because apparently I kept buying the same things over and over, because they kept getting lost in the clutter. I asked myself, why did I have so many cleaning supplies?? Did I think they would march out from under the sink and clean while I was asleep??

  48. posted by Greg on

    I had a pretty good collection of “luggage tags”, back when airlines use to tag your luggage with tags with each airport’s three letter code. I had them from when I went to Europe, Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, etc. It was just a nice reminder and some of the fun places I had been. I tossed them. Looking back now I could have made a framed collage…oh well.

  49. posted by Rebecca L on

    Sometime in high school or college, I threw out my elementary school yearbooks. I can’t remember the reason behind it- they were small paperbacks and took up no space at all. They’re the only item I regret getting rid of since they’re irreplaceable…I’d love to see the notes written in them, esp. since I’ve recently reconnected with friends from that time.

  50. posted by Sky on

    Stephanie: one good the to do with your handmade things is to give them to an elderly person or someone that has lost everything. They would really appreciate it, especially the elderly who probably handmade things themselves.

    I try to think of another way to reuse an item before I get rid of it. Just because it is made for the kitchen doesn’t mean it won’t work in another room for a completely different purpose.

    I regret a few things that are gone but not enough to worry about it. It’s nicer to be uncluttered!

  51. posted by sandra on

    Before my cross-country move a year ago, I hired guys to haul away pretty much everything in my basement and garage, after doing only a cursory look-through. I’ve since remembered a couple of things I’d still like to have, like an old manger scene I’d gotten from my mom. But I hadn’t even brought it out at Christmas for a couple of years. There may be other things I’d regret tossing, but I hadn’t looked at all that stuff for so long I haven’t even remembered anything else.

    I’ve repurchased a couple of books I realized I still wanted – easier and cheaper than having moved a whole bunch that I might have ended up wanting.

    On Hoarders this week there was a woman who ended up with I believe 140 boxes of stuff she couldn’t bear to part with. I wonder if she’ll ever even open any of the boxes again.

  52. posted by momofthree on

    sandra–On Hoarders, it was 1,400 (yes over one thousand) boxes. most of what is in those boxes seemed to be “stuff” the crew just shoveled up and placed in those cartons. I am hooked on that show, and think about this site all the time while watching!!
    I am constantly purging in my small house. Haven’t really missed much of anything that I have given away. Most of what I have given away is outgrown or no longer wanted clothing.

  53. posted by Rachel on

    I got rid of a huge set of hardback Enid Blyton books (probably about 30) when I was 13 and didn’t think I needed them any more.

    Now I’m a little older, with two children, and am unlikely to be able to get hold of all those titles that I enjoyed so much and would love my children to read/have read to them, let alone in the classic editions that I had as a child.

    The irony of it is that I sold them (for next to nothing) to a distant family member who was compiling a collection of original hardback Enid Blyton books to give to her children one day…

  54. posted by Kalani on

    When I was a kid I kept EVERYTHING and loved little boxes of all sorts. Most of these were complete trash, but when I graduated I got rid all of them plus a couple jewelry boxes that I wish I’d kept. Luckily, my mom, who never keeps anything, kept the one from her childhood and gave it back to me during one of her own decluttering process. I don’t want to get rid of that one again.

  55. posted by Mletta on

    Those commenting bring up key points. The power of sentiment should never be underestimated–especially if you are clearing out after a breakup, family issue, etc.. Clearly, we can’t (and should not) keep EVERYTHING of sentimental value, but we do need to keep in mind our connections with those that came before, will leave and those who come after us. Sometimes, one item is truly priceless. (Yes, it’s attachment and we should all not be attached. But we are humans and we do attach to things. We can’t all be Zen about everything.)

    That was a very good point: Do you think about what happens to your stuff when you’re gone? Do you care?

    A whole article unto itself. The answer, IMHO, you should. Because you never know what something might mean to someone else, even if YOU can’t imagine anyone else wanting it.

    Value is a relative thing, regardless of the monetary price of something. (I have some truly great artwork. But I’m not sure my friend or family will love it as I do.) My nephew’s childhood drawings and those of my brother are priceless (thankfully scanning can save).

    In my will, the main provision is for the disposition of my library and certain pieces of jewelry, electronics, and artwork. I do want certain people to have certain things. And I hope they don’t just end up in a garage sale or on ebay.

    I do hope that my loved ones will want a “piece” of me to remember. I would want that from them.

    I hear all those who say an object is NOT a person, but seriously, when you lose someone you love, you’d kill for the letters, pix, items they most used/loved as a reminder. When their families just toss all that without regard for other friends and family, it’s heartbreaking.

    So when you toss things with a family history, it’s always wise to ask around if any other family or family friends might want it, BEFORE you toss.

    Regrets in tossing? Some clothing and furniture. They represented really important periods of my life and the people associated with them. (Plus so many of those clothing items have come back into styles, repeatedly, over the years.)

    It’s funny, if you live in a four-room apartment (one bedroom, LR, Kitchen, bath) and you have stuff, you’re hoarding.

    If you live in a huge house and stuff is spread out in garages and attics, you’re not.

    It’s all relative.

  56. posted by Christine on

    Oh man, I also got rid of yearbooks! Right after college (when I wanted a fresh start) I decided to get rid of 3 out of 4 of my high school yearbooks and all 3 of my middle school ones. There was a time about two years after I made that choice where I regretted it. Now I look back and realize that at the time, it’s what I really wanted. And I don’t regret not having to store them.

  57. posted by R. M. Koske on

    The only thing I can call to mind that I regret getting rid of is a piece of 60s vintage clothing. I found it in college at a thrift store and loved it. It was appealing, it was distinctive, and I never had the nerve to wear it. It drew attention to me in a way I wasn’t comfortable with, so with deep regret I decided to put it in a thrift donation. I reasoned that it was such a wonderful piece, it was selfish to keep it in my closet unworn when someone with more nerve than me could be loving it and showing it to the world.

    Two years later knockoffs of that style were EVERYWHERE and if I’d still had the damn thing, I would have felt completely up to wearing it. I regret getting rid of it, but I think the regret is more about not having the confidence to trust my own taste than it is about having given away a piece of polyester doubleknit, no matter how wonderful it was.

  58. posted by Lindsay on

    Like you, the only thing I’ve ever gotten rid of and regretted it later was a document. In my case, a bank deposit statement that I needed to give to an underwriter for my mortgage, not a passport. I find it’s worthwhile to just hold onto documents, they do not take up a lot of space and are easy to find if properly filed. If we ever sell the house we’re buying now, I intend to be able to hand the buyer a stack of papers saying “Here are all the repairs and upkeep that have been made to the house since we bought it. Here are all the manuals for the appliances.” As a buyer, that would impress me. That said, I do need to purge my documents sometimes, but I’ve found that as far as documents are concerned, “When in doubt, DON’T throw it out.”

  59. posted by chacha1 on

    My mom uncluttered my elementary-school scrapbook and a Steiff lion I loved. Still holding a grudge about those!

    I was forcibly uncluttered after a very bad breakup. In order to get him out of the house, I had to give him basically everything, up to and including the high-quality digital piano I had just paid off and which I was using to write a stage musical.

    Took up other activities with subsequent mate. Later, bought another piano at a university sale and have barely used it. The songs are moldering in the bench. Feel like an idiot every time I look at it.

    But: Haven’t regretted anything I’ve disposed of by choice!

  60. posted by Anca on

    All stuff I regret were things my mom gave away or threw away without asking me. One was a gift from an ex, another was my favorite game of Apples to Apples. It’s not so much the items themselves as not being able to decide for myself or say goodbye to them. (Though I sure wish I had that game for parties without having to buy it again.)

  61. posted by Kat on

    Oh. Yes.

    The summer that my mom passed on, I had to clear out her apartment, and continued on to purge every closet, drawer, and storage area of my own house. I was 37, mostly single, resigned to being the end of the family line (unwed only child of an only child), and I chose to dispose of many things with familial value – the family silver, photos of ancestors, keepsakes like my mom’s ancient stuffed toy, heirloom antique furniture, great-great-grandmother’s heirloom jewelry… I got rid of everything that’s value was in passing it on. I even got rid of the much-beloved porcelain cookie jar shaped like a canvas sack, because at my age I ate cookies out of the bag anyway. I would never have children to bake cookies for, so it had no value to me.

    Six months after my mom died, my “mostly” relationship had became very serious, and we found ourselves expecting little twin girls. All the treasures of my family that should belong to them now belong to strangers.

    And yes – I regret this to the point of heartbreak.
    Especially the cookie jar. ๐Ÿ™
    (To this day, if I can’t decisively judge something as “worthless” to me, I’m more prone to lend it long-term to a friend, than purge it.)

  62. posted by Sarah on

    I recently purged boxes of childhood relics. I posted photos of what I had been hauling around Australia with me on Facebook and received lots of comments from friends begging for this or that – but too late, they’d all gone into the donation bins!

    The one thing I regret from that purge is a very old knitted toy rat called Alistair. The only reason I regret throwing him away is that he wasn’t my childhood toy but my brother’s (how I ended up with him I don’t know) and he wasn’t too happy with me about it!

  63. posted by Natalie from Western Australia on

    Re Caroline and the cards. I bluetak all my sons birthday cards on their doors, where they stay for a week. I then take a couple of photos of the door, one or two arty ones and maybe one of something particularly nice that was written. Then I recycle the cards and keep the photos. The boys get a buzz out of having them on their door and we keep the memory.

  64. posted by Sheila on

    I regret giving away my 45s. Ok, I know I probably wouldn’t play them but I wish I had kept all those 70s sounds! I saved and saved to buy each one, which, as some of you remember, had two songs – one on each side. I even remember they were in a blue plastic carousel. At the time I was moving to a new state to a new college and a new job. Sadly, I felt I had outgrown these records.

    Last year I misplaced some 3×5 card acessories which are now hard to find. Yes, I know 3×5 cards are passe, but they come in handy – they fit in your purse, they’re lined for easier notes that on my iPhone, they come in colors, etc. I cannot find the Jan-Dec, 1-31, or blank file guides. These used to be so easy to replace. I am being optimistic thinking I misplaced them but with all my uncluttering goals I think I maybe gave them away. (I wasn’t using them at the time and they were just taking up space – clutter?) I am more upset about the 45s but I wish I had my 3×5 supplies back.

  65. posted by Another Deb on

    L wrote:

    Do we care After seven generations, who owns all thisโ€ฆ stuff?

    I know my stern German ancestors would think I am nuts, but I was recently overjoyed to receive a beer bottle from the family brewery 100 years ago. It had been dug up in an ancient privy (this just gets better) and by the time the owner mailed it to me, it broke in the mail.

    I spent hours gluing it back together and it sits on a high shelf where you can’t see the fractures too well. I have heirloom china from this ancestor but the beer bottle thrilled me because of the randomness of the connection. No one back then would ever have thought that 100 years later a great grand daughter would be holding (albeit gingerly) an object they had sent out into the universe so long ago.

    I hope a few of my students have saved some of the papers they wrote for my class. I spend a lot of time making comments and delighted notes on them.

  66. posted by Bakelite Doorbell on

    I was a severe packrat and perhaps a bordlerline hoarder. In two years I have sold, donated or trashed nearly 80% of everything I had collected in the past 40 years. I regret nothing.

  67. posted by Peter (a different one) on

    I have some regrets pitching things from ex-girlfriends, only because they were a part of my life for awhile. But my latest regret was tossing a disk drive tray that I thought belong to an old computer case I didn’t have anymore. Little did I realize it was a specialized tray that fits a case I still have and they don’t sell replacement trays, so it’ll cost me $100 to buy a new case ๐Ÿ™

  68. posted by Nancy on

    A couple of times I’ve wanted to wear an item of clothing only to remember I had gotten rid of it, but I wouldn’t say I felt anything as strong as regret over it.

    Like a few others, the thing I regret most is something someone else gave away. My mother-in-law had some beautiful pictures, including one I really loved and another that meant a lot to my husband. She was getting rid of them and my husband said we’d come and look at them to decide which ones we wanted. Before we did, she gave them away to someone she knew very slightly.

  69. posted by Soccerdawg on

    My only regrets have been books that I’ve lent to people and never gotten back. Some of them, I’d actually like to read again. (Plus a box of books that I’m pretty sure my ex-husband stole in the divorce. It mysteriously disappeared when I moved out.)

    But I still lend books out to people. If I enjoyed it, I want others to enjoy it, too. But I want them to give them back so I can let even more people enjoy them!

    I’m actually in the process of purging some books because I don’t want to cross the line into book hoarding. ๐Ÿ™‚

  70. posted by Mrs_Mo on

    I am finding more often than not that I regret *keeping* somethings more than getting rid of them.

    After moving this past month from my 13 year apartment, I found myself scratching my head in confusion over the junk I have kept over the last decade.

    We have since moved into a loft with literally no closet space. Everything we own is out in the open and we are loving it. Things we use is accessible and everything we don’t gets chucked/donated/vaporized.

    Clutter free lifestyle is looking good.

  71. posted by Michelle on

    I once painstakingly assessed every item in my memento collection from a year spent living abroad, dividing them up into a keep pile and a trash pile. The idea was to incorporate them into a scrapbook I was making to commemorate the time. But of course I accidentally threw *both* piles away.

    Ah, well. At least I still have the pictures.

  72. posted by grace on

    My original Thriller/Michael Jackson record that I listened to over and over as a kid.I wish i still had it as a momento.

  73. posted by Sam on

    I can think of one with happened recently. In a burst of virtuous keeping in control of my emails, I deleted the e-invoice for some ‘Really Useful Boxes’ after they were delivered but crucially before I had opened them. So when the contents wasn’t what we thought we’d ordered, I couldn’t check whether it was that we’d ordered the wrong things or they’d sent the wrong things.

  74. posted by Loren on

    I’m with the last commenter, the most ‘regret’ I’ve felt is deleting an e-mail that contained important information. Or chucking an envelope or receipt to later discover the address wasn’t in my address book, or the item I purchased doesn’t work that well after all.
    There may have been small moments of ‘man I wish I still had that sweater’ but they only last a moment.
    Someone else mentioned regretting keeping things. My boyfriend is planning on moving in the next month or so, and the room I’ve been using as a ‘craft room’ mostly for storage, is going to become our bedroom. (The dimensions of my current bedroom don’t allow for a larger be unless I want to give up ever opening the closet door again). So now I have to go through this wall of shelves and purge a lot of things that I thought MIGHT possibly be useful… at some point in the future. To make room for another person in my life.
    I’m regretting keeping every ridiculous scrap of paper.

  75. posted by ClumberKim on

    My only regret so far has been parting with my old girl scout sash. Two years after I got rid of it I was appointed to the board of directors of my local council. That sash was my only tie to when I was a scout. I should have kept it, but there was no way to predict at the time of that purge that I would ever become involved with girl scouts again. It was the right decision at the time, but I’m still feeling some regret.

  76. posted by gypsypacker on

    @Sheila–If you can recall the names of the A sides, it’s quite likely that a record collectors’ database online, or by mail order, will contain the names of the B sides. If you cannot download them, some nice collector might want to load the Bs onto a flash drive so you can have them.

    Frankly, you’re better off with mp3 downloads. I have ripped an extensive collection of LP’s to computer with Audacity, and the results, even with equalization, are not very good. Ripping 45’s is a task I’ve decided to take very slowly, and keep only the unscratched and unskippy. In a collection reaped from secondhand sources, those are rare. If you can afford to replace via mp3, do it. If you want the actual 45’s, 1970’s stuff is still very available in garage sales and at suburban or rural secondhand stores.

  77. posted by Marie on

    Constantly–not sentimental stuff, but it seems as soon as I purge some rusty crap I never touch, I immediately need it for the first time ever. This tends to happen with tools and building supplies particularly.

  78. posted by Sabrina on

    I purged a bunch of my books when I moved a few years ago and now wish I had some of them to read again. Other than that, no regrets. If only I could get rid of more of the kids toys!

  79. posted by heatherK on

    I’m constantly haunted by regrets of things I purged – both sentimental items and useful items. For both kinds, I’m perfectly fine purging them at the time. I haven’t seen them or touched them for years and finally want to be rid of carrying them around. But some time after they’re gone, a memory of that sentimental item surfaces, or a legitimate need or use for the useful item comes to mind, and I sorely regret having gotten rid of them.

    Somehow the act of purging kicks starts my brain into thinking of all sorts of reasons to keep the things. At times my brain has worked quickly enough and the memory or need or use surfaced BEFORE I purged so I was able to rescue some items and to this day, I’m greatly relieved I saved them (and yes, I do use these items). But even though I’ve gotten rid of plenty that I’m fine with, the pain of the regret from the other things I’m NOT fine getting rid of and knowing I use things that I once had in the purge pile makes me afraid to purge. I also have not kept a list of things I’ve purged, so sometimes I think of something and when I can’t find it, I don’t know if because it’s just stuck somewhere or if I actually don’t have it anymore. I hate that.

    And yet, I hate clutter and don’t want my storage space filled with mostly untouched items. I just don’t know what to do. My ideal solution would be to have a storage unit in a different dimension so that I know I have access to my stuff if I need it, but it doesn’t take up physical space in my world. But somehow I don’t think that’s going to happen. ๐Ÿ™‚

  80. posted by Paige on

    I’ve only ever regretted one uncluttering decision. I was going through my clothes a few years ago, and I decided to get rid of my high school marching band jacket. I’ve since wished that I still had it. I have other reminders of my time in band, but it would be nice to have my jacket. This hasn’t discouraged me from uncluttering though, simply encouraged me to think more carefully about what things mean to me, or might mean to me in the future.

  81. posted by Clare K. R. Miller on

    When I was a kid–I don’t know how old I was, probably less than ten–I decided to give away a doll I had. I’d been given that doll when I was almost two, when my sister was born. I thought I was soooo mature and I needed to get rid of my baby stuff (though I’m not sure if I got rid of anything besides this doll). Well, not long after that, I had a dream that there was a blanket with pockets hanging above my bed. Each of those pockets had a doll or stuffed animal and was decorated with the name. In the very center, however, was an empty pocket, bearing the name of the doll I wanted to give away! I was so sad when I woke up. Thankfully, the doll was still sitting in the house waiting to be given away. I took it back to my room. I still have that doll and will probably give it to my own children.

  82. posted by knitwych on

    Over a decade ago, I took the city/county police department’s citizens academy – which included a trip to the PD shooting range. We were allowed to bring home our paper targets. Mine had a cluster of shots in the heart, one in the head, and one in the groin. I posted this on the front door of my condo.

    My unit was the only one in the building that did not get robbed. I didn’t have a whole lot of proselytizers or “Buy a magazine subscription and help me go to Hawaii” peddlers, either.

    When I moved to another town, I pitched the paper target. I have absolutely no need for it, but damn I miss that thing!

  83. posted by Oraxia on

    Sometimes I believe I became a packrat in response to my personal regrets over my mother’s ruthless purging. (In reality, I’ve inherited packrattiness from my father.) I have regretted a LOT of the things she purged, including not once, but TWICE purging my homework which, of course, was due within the next one or two days. Those resulted in late nights of reproducing said work ๐Ÿ™

    Note to purging parents: Don’t throw out your children’s homework before they turn it in!

    I’ve also regretted my mother tossing a small hemispherical wicker wall basket, which would quite perfectly house a little orchid of mine which is otherwise in an awkward spot on my dining table. I have scoured the internet and local shops over the past year in search of a comparable item and have not yet found anything fitting.

    While I’ve rarely regretted the things I’ve tossed out myself (because I think pretty hard on things–I’m still a packrat!), I’ve had a lot of grief over things other people I’ve lived with have tossed. I guess the lesson here is that even if YOU aren’t going to regret letting go of an item, consider before tossing whether someone ELSE might. Especially in the case of homework items ๐Ÿ˜‰

  84. posted by Jeri Dansky on

    No, I haven’t regretted anything I’ve gotten rid of – including the yearbooks. I pulled out a few pages I wanted, chucked the rest.

    @Sheryl, I relate to your story. My mom died a couple years ago, and I still have the dress she wore to my brother’s wedding. There’s no logical reason for it; I just can’t make myself give it up, for whatever reason.

    @Stephanie, sometimes Freecycle is a good way to find a new home for a handmade item. With Freecycle, you know who the item is going to, and people often tell you why they want it, or how they’ll use it.

    It’s interesting how many people have regrets about things others got rid of for them – a good illustration of why de-cluttering someone else’s stuff is a bad idea.

  85. posted by Melanie on

    It really helps to have nice destinations for the things you’re purging. If you’re confident the recipients will appreciate the item you’re donating, you will probably have less remorse.

    I reduced my stash of art school sketches I really didn’t need by folding them up and placing them in library books.

  86. posted by Fia's mom on

    Paint cans. In a serious purge of our workshop area, we got rid of old custom color paint cans without getting either a sample of the color or taking a pic of the top of can w/color formula for future reference. Later, when we needed to touch up outdoor trim, it was next to impossible to match the color.

  87. posted by Nine on

    Things purged by others! I find I mostly regret losing things because others have made the decision for me to declutter those items and gave me no control to decide for myself.

    My mother gave away a set of books that contained my favourite fairytales and I asked her to get these back for me. They are currently safely put away in a box amongst other books from my childhood. I am sure someone with young children would be happy to get these books but I love to hunt through these boxes and spend a rainy afternoon reading my favourite fairy tales again ๐Ÿ™‚

    My family seems to have a history of losing things because others have decided to purge them. After my grandfather died my paternal grandmother decided to get rid of his full set of Mรคrklin model trains and dinky toy cars. She also gave away the castingstamp on which the family signet rings were moulded. With the castingstamp having new rings made for my siblings would be expensive but without the castingstamp it’s unaffordable…

    I can usually tell myself to get over the feeling of regret because I coulnd’t control the purge but it’s harder to let go of the feeling that I’ve lost something that I did not want to lose.

  88. posted by Robyn Clark on

    I am a ruthless purger (likely in response to my parents being packrats) and I am particularly hard on sentimental things. I regret purging two items – one in high school and one last week.

    My best friend in junior high and high school belonged to a religion that would not allow her to have friends outside of school who were not of the same faith. We were very, very close, but we knew our time was limited. In our senior year of high school, she took a blank book and filled it entirely, both sides of every page, with her artwork and sketches and random quotes and our inside jokes. I threw it out in my “I want everything I own to fit in my backpack” phase. Over the years I have thought of it often and I still really, really want it back. Would love to have her back in my life too.

    I know I should scan some things before I throw them out, but I have limited patience for that. A month ago I threw out all of my Grandmother’s handwritten letters. I just couldn’t take the thought of hours of scanning, and I was in a “purge now” mood, and she was alive and very healthy. A week ago she died in some very difficult circumstances. Being able to reread them would mean the world to me now.

  89. posted by Robyn Clark on

    I am a ruthless purger (likely in response to my parents being packrats) and I am particularly hard on sentimental things. I regret purging two items – one in high school and one last month.

    My best friend in junior high and high school belonged to a religion that would not allow her to have friends outside of school who were not of the same faith. We were very, very close, but we knew our time was limited. In our senior year of high school, she took a blank book and filled it entirely, both sides of every page, with her artwork and sketches and random quotes and our inside jokes. I threw it out in my “I want everything I own to fit in my backpack” phase. Over the years I have thought of it often and I still really, really want it back. Would love to have her back in my life too.

    I know I should scan some things before I throw them out, but I have limited patience for that. A month ago I threw out all of my Grandmother’s handwritten letters. I just couldn’t take the thought of hours of scanning, and I was in a “purge now” mood, and she was alive and very healthy. A week ago she died in some very difficult circumstances. Being able to reread them would mean the world to me now.

  90. posted by Robyn Clark on

    My apologies for my comment posting twice. I was trying to edit a word and thought I had stopped it before it posted. Now I myself am clutter in the comments.

  91. posted by queenstuss on

    I once threw away a box of letters that I looked in the top of the box, saw there what was in there, and threw it away.
    A few days later I realised that it contained letters from my late grandmother, and from a childhood friend who I had kept in touch with for years but then lost contact with (have found her again through facebook :)). I wish I’d kept some of those, and thrown away the majority of the rest.

    I’m now procrastinating a box of teaching resources. I cut it down by half a few months ago. I’d left teaching, but wasn’t sure at that stage if it was temporary or permanent. Now that I’m a SAHM, and intend to be for much longer yet, I don’t know if I’ll ever return to teaching. But I might. I’m trying to decide what things I might regret throwing out, and what things are easily reproducible!

  92. posted by Heather on

    Letters. Actual hand-written personal letters.

    I *haven’t* thrown them out and have them in a binder. And, yes, every once in a while I re-read the letter my mom sent me when I went off to college or the one a boyfriend wrote to me listing what he loved about me. I have never regretted NOT tossing them. ๐Ÿ™‚

  93. posted by WM on

    I’m like you, I feel so much better when I get rid of stuff. If I’ve ever regretted turffing something I must not have regretted it much because I can’t remember missing anything.

    The only time I can remember gettin rid of things and feeling a bit of a twinge was when I was moving home from Denmark. This was a forced purge because I could only bring what fit in two small bags. I didn’t leave behind anything great, but it would have been nice to have gotten rid of things in a more productive way (selling or donating them) than just leaving them in my appartment where they likely got tossed. Hopefully the next student to move in inherited them and found them useful.

  94. posted by Ponderosa on

    The same week my youngest brother died unexpectedly at 16, my dad begged me and my step-mom to clear out all of the things from his room, either to keep for ourselves or to give to friends, family members, or Good Will. He himself kept a few things of my brother’s, but I guess the rest was too painful for him to see just as my brother had left it. I did it, but I know now it was WAY too soon for me to handle the task with any kind of clarity. I was an emotional mess and made strange decisions about what to keep and what to give away. I have some special things of my brother’s but the loss of the irreplaceable thing that I deeply regret is is a small box of notes between my brother and high school friends. As I was sorting things, I found them and started to read them. Then I thought, “Hey — if my brother didn’t show these to me while he was alive, would he want me reading them now?” I let go of the box with this weird idea that I was honoring his wishes and respecting his privacy. Now, I would trade anything of mine to have those notes back. Ten years later, I still think about it and it hurts every time I do. I was slightly comforted when I told my husband about this and he said “If I died, I really wouldn’t want people to read my notes from high school!” I dunno. I do feel like my brother and I are still connected and that I’ll see him again. I guess I’ll have to wait until then to ask him if I did the right thing.

  95. posted by Clearing Sentimental Clutter « higherprocess.com Blog on

    […] An Unclutterer reader asked Erin Doland if she had ever regretted eliminating something; she replied that the only things she regretted tossing were things that, in haste, she threw away by mistake. That probably isnโ€™t what most of us imagine will happen, but we do not (can not) know until we try. […]

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