Dealing with I-might-need-it-some-day thoughts

If your thoughts while uncluttering often include the phrase, “I might need it some day,” it might be time to defeat this nefarious excuse, and finally let go of things you don’t need.

I hear you

I totally get it. Why get rid of something you might need? I’ve got a scrap wood pile in the basement. It spends the majority of its existence simply sitting there, taking up space, harboring insects. Every now and then I’ll remove one item for a project or quick fix, but that’s about it. I dislike the idea of getting rid of it. But what would happen if I did?

What happens when I get rid of something:

  1. I would have to buy or borrow the item if I ever wanted it.
  2. That’s it. There isn’t a second or third item.

If I got rid of that pile, there might come a day where I would have go to out and buy more wood. That will cost me both money and time. That’s true. What is the alternative?

What would those costs be? In my experience, pretty small. I’ve concisely demonstrated that I rarely need wood from the pile. So that’s not really a big deal. What is significant is the fact that keeping it costs me, too.

It costs me time in having to root through to find what I need. It costs me stress and guilt when I see it sitting there doing nothing. It costs useful storage space. It also makes me nervous because if the house were to catch on fire, that big pile of wood would be literal fuel for the fire. If I look at it honestly, I believe that these costs are worse than what I’d pay in cash and the time to run to the store.

Of course, it’s at this point in my thinking when my fear kicks in and I think, “What if it’s not available in an emergency?”

It’s possible that I’ll suddenly, urgently need something from that pile. If it’s gone, I’ll suffer a mild to major inconvenience. That stinks, but is it a huge problem?

Again, let’s look at the ongoing inconvenience of maintaining that horde. The trouble with finding things, and the stress/guilt of living with a pile that I ignore 99 percent of the time outweighs my ability to respond to a hypothetical situation. Also, I could keep two pieces in the backyard shed instead of hundreds of pieces indoors and completely alleviate all fears related to a hypothetical emergency situation.

Ask the right question

Instead of asking yourself, “Will I need this some day?” consider the alternative question: “Is this stuff affecting the organized life I want?” If the answer — the honest answer — is yes, it’s time to let it go.

We’ve written several articles on letting stuff go. Consider today’s conversation one you can have with yourself at the very beginning of that process. While giving up some items can be tough, the cost of keeping those things can be even worse.

11 Comments for “Dealing with I-might-need-it-some-day thoughts”

  1. posted by Andi on

    This is a tough one for people, including myself. A hybrid solution for me is just to designate a spot for these items that is limited by space. That way I can only save the best of the best.

  2. posted by bev on

    the other question I always ask myself is *how difficult is this to replace?* To me that is key. If I can just go to the store down the street and get a new one then, it can be gone. But if it is a longer trip, or it was difficult to find the first time, it takes more thought to decide if it is worth keeping.

  3. posted by Pat on

    I have handle any number of things the same way that Andi has. This category of stuff has to fit on this shelf or in that bin or box. If i want to add to the stash and there is no room, something has to go. And usually, it is not hard to figure out which thing is the least valuable. Of course there are still many categories that I have not yet tackled! It’s a work in progress.

  4. posted by Genia on

    I’m with bev — if it’s difficult or impossible to replace, I’m keeping it. Mass-market paperbacks can go, signed hardcovers stay. Last month’s bank statement can go because I can print out a hard copy from by bank’s website if I need it, but I keep the paper original of the title to my car.

  5. posted by Alice on

    I think there are 2 ways to look at it, based on the stuff in question. Consumables, the things you use up and do not reuse – like the wood in the example, or toilet paper or tin foil – are certainly things you can let go of, because you can just buy as you need. But there are other things that are more expensive to replace. I tried clearing my kitchen counters and put my electric kettle away. Over the course of months, I pulled it out for this and that, again and again, until I just put it back on my counter. Although I wanted a more organized counter, the usefulness of the kettle got it back in place. The more expensive an item, the longer it goes in time-out before leaving.

  6. posted by SkiptheBS on

    I can so relate to that woodpile!

    Shims are an example of useful garbage. Nothing can replace a shim when you need it, and nobody sells them. I keep several, from chip to plywood size.

    Ditto for sawdust, used to fill holes before gluing and to anchor stripped screws. It’s available for purchase, but only by the truckload. I keep one pill bottle of sawdust, which will have the secondary purpose of giving y’all a good laugh.

    The thimble in my sewing box gets used every couple of years, but it’s essential for certain tasks.

  7. posted by Katherine Wang on

    I’ve amassed a large collection of vintage and expensive clothing, art and craft supplies over the years, which I have been slowly giving away to friends and Freecycle. I notice that I’m more willing to let go if I know its new home. Sometimes I’ve instantly regretted letting go of something expensive/sentimental, but the feeling always goes away (especially when I feel too ashamed to ask for it back). And when I do see my friends using my stuff, I feel happy. Sometimes if something is too precious, I save just a little piece of it — like a square of my childhood blanket or just the trim on a piece of clothing.

  8. posted by Pick Panda on

    This happens, I dont know how much stuff out there in my store just waiting to either get used or to be thrown out. 🙂

  9. posted by John on

    Shins can be purchased at Lowes and probably other similar stores:

  10. posted by John on

    SHIMS can be purchased at Lowes too….

  11. posted by Julie Mattson on

    MAJOR PROBLEM for me… I have lost my husband and son to cancer. I have a hard time parting with things for two reasons… 1) my ‘stuff’ is all that I seem to have left and 2) it makes me feel needed when my friends and family call and ask if I have such and such or could I do such and such and I have everything I need on hand…. house is full… wouldn’t say to a hoarder point as I still can have a clean house but I have lots of clutter. I know my life would be less stressful if everything had it’s spot but parting with things is hard for me. I also live in the country so having garage sales aren’t an option for me. I sort through things, pack up things to get rid of, then they sit in my basement, garage or shed because I don’t know what to do with things… too nice to throw away, not into the effort of a garage sale or putting items on swap shops… just stops there… and stuff accumulates. Not to mention, retail therapy is my weakness.

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