Would you contact an ex to get it back?

Having trouble making a decision about if you should keep or get rid of something? My friend Ann found some good advice for you:

There was a thread on Ravelry about minimizing stuff. One person had a twist on the velvet rope test: If your hated ex-boyfriend, ex-girlfriend, or a friend-turned-enemy had the item, would you be willing to contact them and talk to them to get it back?

I love this evaluation technique, especially for clothes, tools, and knickknacks. If you wouldn’t contact an ex to get it back, then you know you’ll be okay getting rid of it. On the other hand, if you would go through the pain and frustration of talking to an ex to get an item back, it’s definitely something you’ll want to strongly consider keeping. It’s simple and straightforward — a good litmus test!

Do you have similar questions you ask about your things? Share your techniques in the comments.

40 Comments for “Would you contact an ex to get it back?”

  1. posted by Robert on

    This won’t work for anyone living a good life, in a good life one should not hate anyone. Forgiveness, and the letting go of emotional burdens are, afterall, integral to a minimalistic, simple and pure life.

  2. posted by WilliamB on

    Depends on the ex.

  3. posted by Linda R on

    Depends on the item!

  4. posted by Amy on

    This may sound morbid but I ask myself, “If I died tomorrow and someone had to go through my stuff would I be proud to have this?”

  5. posted by lola on

    Absolutely, Robert; I agree completely. I’m nowhere near perfect, but all of my exes are still friends. Hate is the most cluttered emotion of all because it takes up so much mental space and yields nothing in return.

    The questions I ask myself when getting rid of things:

    Would I be willing to buy it again at twice the retail price?

    (And for sentimental items) Would this be one of the things I’d grab on my way out while fleeing a fire?

  6. posted by Jen on

    I don’t like this thought process because the first question I’d ask myself is : Is it readily replaceable?

  7. posted by Kat Cade on

    I love this idea for evaluating what is worth keeping and what is OK to get rid of. I double love the fact that it came from Ravelry!

  8. posted by Darci on

    I don’t own anything that I’d be willing to “go back” to an ex for. Nothing. Once that bridge is crossed, they’re dead to me. No hate, just moving on.

    I’ll stick with the velvet rope test as initially intended. If I don’t feel fan-frackin-tastic in it, it goes.

  9. posted by JustGail on

    Maybe substitute doing something you normally wouldn’t do instead of contacting an ex for those who are of the letting-go attitude? Something like “would I eat worms to get that back?” or “would I stand at the edge of a tall building to get that back?”. As long as it’s something normally repulsive, but not life threatening or totally not possible in your life. For example, standing at the railing on the Eiffel Tower is not a realistic example for me, but standing at the railing of the top deck in a few buildings I’ve been in is a realistic challenge.

  10. posted by Dorothy on

    Amy, I’m with you.

    I recently moved into a new house. My husband died when the house was about half-way built. So as I unpack I’m going through all his things. Going through his papers (perfectly organized, in binders or folders) and tools and such — it’s so sad. These things were important to him and now it’s just . . . stuff — stuff to be disposed of.

    It’s certainly putting perspective on my decisions about what I move into the house and what I’m discarding/recycling/donating/selling/giving away.

  11. posted by Deborah on

    My question is, if I lost this in a fire, would I be willing to buy it again? At full price, most likely? With the probably inadequate insurance proceeds? This works for me, especially with books, of which I have a couple thousand.

  12. posted by Mike on

    See, I dunno. I’m a pretty belligerent fellow. I would talk to Satan himself if he had something that belonged to me. It’s the principle of the thing.

  13. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Robert — You don’t really have to hate someone, it’s just a hypothetical situation.

  14. posted by Ginger on

    Lol!! That made me giggle and smile. 🙂
    I normally ask myself, “would I be willing to buy this item again?” Most of the time the answer is no.

  15. posted by Rue on

    Agree with WilliamB – it depends on the ex. If I was still amicable with my ex, I wouldn’t have a problem contacting him to get my things back, whether they were really important or not. However, if I was no longer speaking with said ex, I would definitely think twice about what I was trying to get.

  16. posted by Anita on

    Yeah, I’m with Mike. If anyone I’m not on good terms with any more has my stuff, I’d fight to get it back, regardless of what the item is. And not because the item is dear to me, but because they don’t deserve to have anything that’s rightfully mine.

    Not the most grown-up or enlightened way to act/think, I grant you. But as Mike says, it’s the principle of the thing.

  17. posted by Marjory Thrash on

    Can I find this info online faster/better? has been my mantra. Since I never plan to be away from a computer, it works really well.

    As a result, my “how to” and cook book case is rapidly emptying. When visitors come to the house, I invite them to browse and pick. A 10th grade boy selected a Better Homes and Gardens 3 ring edition and an easy crockpot recipes; his dad just told me the boy produced Sunday dinner from appetizer to desert, using the cookbooks.

    Honestly, I get such pleasure from watching them pick, that I don’t feel guilty whatsoever for uncluttering.

  18. posted by Erin S. on

    I use Ginger’s technique. Would I be willing to buy this again? Do I love it? Do I use it? I also find I can only make de-clutter decisions for a certain range of time, or number of items. I took a few days off work and did a huge kitchen clean out. Got rid of a third of the stuff. After 12 hours I was having a harder time making a decision. I had already made 10 boxes worth of decisions, maybe I was done?

  19. posted by WilliamB on

    @Marjory Thrash – the problem with this is, what’s on the Web can be removed from the Web. I ran into this problem last month when I discovered that “Singing Science Songs” had been removed from the website they were on. Every single reference to them pointed to the same dead webpage.

    I was very happy I’d downloaded them.

    Then when my computer had a glitch I was even happier I’d burned them to disk.

  20. posted by zoe on

    @ginger – ooh, I like your technique of ““would I be willing to buy this item again?” – I am going to try that one out.

    I never really have issues with letting stuff go, but the question I ask is “Do I really want this?”

    If I hesitate to say yes even by a millisecond I toss it. It needs to be an immediate YES! or it’s just not worth having.


  21. posted by Haggie on

    This isn’t a hypothetical for me, she really has all my stuff…

  22. posted by John J. on

    If I haven’t used it or wanted to use it in a year, it goes.

  23. posted by Kel on

    I love this idea! Having just done the red carpet test to my wardrobe on the weekend (worked great! and made getting ready for work this week easy), I was wondering how to apply it to the rest of the stuff I have.

    Thanks for the tip!

  24. posted by Samantha M. on

    Having recently moved to the US from Australia to live, and having to leave anything I couldn’t fit in my suitcases behind. I am amazed by what I can get by without. I use that as my test now for buying new things. Would I want to lug this halfway round the world if we ever had to move back.

    I wish I could have gotten my niece and nephew in a case, as they are the thing I miss the most out of a whole house and its furnishings etc I left behind (and am now trying to sell . .. the house not the niece and nephew).

  25. posted by Lauren on

    I like this idea! It’s not about hate, it’s about moving forward in a happy life.

  26. posted by Suffering From Travel Itch on

    I think this test breaks down in two situations. First, if the item is easily replaceable or cheap (like a book or a tube of toothpaste), you could rationally choose to buy a new one rather than confront your ex for the item and this wouldn’t necessarily mean you should throw away the item now (since your ex doesn’t really have it). If the item is expensive or otherwise hard to replace, you could conceivably get it back just for the sake of selling it (or just for the sake of not giving your ungrateful ex a windfall). I think the better test is: “how would I feel if this item were lost in a fire?”

  27. posted by Angela on

    My last move was torture! So, now I ask myself, “Do I want to pack this one day?” before I buy anything. It’s amazing how much stuff I don’t buy.

  28. posted by Annette on

    Good litmus test!

  29. posted by GirlOverboard on

    I think that there is a little too much focus on the word “hated.”

    The situation is that you have an ex and they have something of yours. With the ending of a relationship can come shame/embarrassment and in most cases heartbreak. It’s not about hating your ex as much as hating the idea of seeing them – whether because you’re holding a grudge or because maybe you still love the person and it hurts you to see them, or because you’re the one that broke their heart and you’re ashamed or uncomfortable about facing them. It’s great that many of us, myself included, are still friends with our exes, but that doesn’t give us the right to “tsk tsk” the people that aren’t comfortable around theirs.

    That being said, I think that this is most excellent advice. Even as somebody who is on good terms with her exes(or is, at least, willing to be on good terms – the ball is still in one exe’s court) I can recall the feeling of not wanting to face an ex. I think that is enough to weigh in on a decision between keeping or tossing something!

  30. posted by san on

    Maybe set a threshold?

    less than $ x, don’t bother
    or less than y days to get it replaced, don’t bother

    oh, i missed the point didn’t i 😛
    why not use it as an excuse to see that *lovely* face again…

  31. posted by panig on

    Nearly 30 years ago, I read a book titled “Is There Life After House Work” by Don Ashlett. He wrote that stuff take time to maintain and advised readers to minimize stuff in order to have more free time. Since then not accumulating stuff has been a passion of mine because I don’t enjoy house work. I also realise that once an item has been purchased, its resale value is pretty low. So it is better not to buy it in the first place unless you really need it.

  32. posted by nicole 86 on

    Well, I am pretty sure I would not buy anything I already have, though I need items to live with. Even if they are not the perfect match I keep them because I use them. I hope when I get retired (next year) I will get rid of much of my stuff ( home office, work clothes, work books, and many social items like plates and so on). I see it as a new start like a clean slate, something between a challenge and a goal.

  33. posted by Dotty on

    This hypothetical situation became a reality for me. I had to leave my abusive husband with literally my two children and the clothes on our backs. Absolutely NO!! I wouldn’t contact my Ex to get my stuff back. Though a tragic situation, looking back a year later, I wouldn’t want any of my STUFF back. I’m FREE!!

  34. posted by Sarah on

    This sounds like a good tactic. When I’m evaluating an item I ask myself several questions about it –
    When was the last time I used it?
    How difficult or expensive would the item be to replace if I need it later?
    If my home were on fire, would I grab this item?

    I’ll add the ex-boyfriend test to the list. I don’t hate my exes, but I wouldn’t want to see them unless it was for something very important. Thank you for the idea!

  35. posted by Missy @ It's Almost Naptime on

    Very good litmus test. I also like the “would I eat worms for it” one!

    A pro organizer I saw once said, “If you don’t love it or it doesn’t love you, toss it.”

    That helps me a lot. My oven, for instance, I don’t love it, but it does love me, ie, it makes my life a lot easier. Keep. The toaster oven however, I did not love it, it did not love me – toss.

    She also had a tip for keeping things kids make. I have four kids who bring home about 5 pieces of paper a day from preschool. If I kept them all, I’d be on Hoarders just for that. She said, “If it does not show how fabulous your baby is, toss it.” A 1st grade spelling test, even with a 100, does not show how fabulous my baby is. A story my 4 year old wrote and illustrated? Yes. Fabulous. Keep.

  36. posted by Susan on

    I don’t buy this litmus test. There is too much I still want to “win” in ex situations that has nothing, nothing, nothing to to the “stuff”.

  37. posted by GayleRN on

    I would stop uncluttering completely if I had to think about my ex every time I got rid of an item. First, it would be making me miserable just to go through the process. Second, there is no physical object on the face of the earth that would be valuable enough to contact my ex for. Heck, he owes me a fair amount of money that I have let go of because it is not worth it to me.

    Bad litmus test.

  38. posted by cerrissa on

    yesterday I called an ex to get my Air conditioning unit back. It’s hot…
    The value of cool air is greater than the uncomfortable phone call

  39. posted by Anne Marie on

    My main test is for pruning online contacts on social networks. Would I be happy and want to chat if I ran into them in person?

  40. posted by Marc on

    If a hated ex had anything of mine, I’d want to back for spite. By that rule I’d be saving every half eaten donut!

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