Avoiding uncluttering regrets

Are you afraid that if you get rid of something you’ll find a use for it the next day? Douglas Adams and John Lloyd created a word that relates to this:

Nottage is the collective name for things which you find a use for immediately after you’ve thrown them away.

For instance, your greenhouse has been cluttered up for years with a huge piece of cardboard and great fronds of gardening string. You at last decide to clear all this stuff out, and you burn it. Within twenty-four hours you will urgently need to wrap a large parcel, and suddenly remember that luckily in your greenhouse there is some cardb…

But in reality, with all the clients I’ve worked with, I’ve never seen this happen. What sometimes happens is more like Josh Barro’s experience, which he wrote about on Twitter:

About a year after adopting Marie Kondo’s advice about throwing things away, today’s the first time I’m annoyed I don’t have something.

Of course, Kondo says if you discover you really do need something you threw out, you can buy another. So I ordered it from Amazon.

(It’s a book that’s not very interesting but is suddenly relevant for a story I’m working on.)

The following are some specific strategies you can use to ensure you don’t wind up with unclutterer’s remorse:

Treat easily replaceable items differently than others

Barro could easily replace the book he discarded. If I ever regret getting rid of my kitchen thermometer, I could easily get another one, inexpensively. I could even just borrow one from someone, if I had a one-time need.

But other items are less easily replaced. They may be handmade items, sentimental items from long ago, or expensive items where a replacement doesn’t easily fit into your budget. For these items, you’ll want to be more thoughtful about your discards. Be sure you’re making your decision when you’re at your best, not when you’ve been making a lot of other decisions and may be hitting decision fatigue. With sentimental items, you may want to take a photo of them before letting them go.

Respect your emotions

If the thought of getting rid of something brings you to tears, you probably aren’t ready to get rid of it, even if your logical side says to let it go.

Consider uncluttering in phases

Although Marie Kondo will tell you to do all your uncluttering in a single pass (all the books, all the clothes, etc.), you may find it’s easier to unclutter the easy, obvious things first: clothes that itch or never did fit quite right, for example. Then after you’ve built up your uncluttering muscles, and you’ve had time to appreciate the benefits of that first pass, you can go and do a second pass — tackling the things that you weren’t ready to deal with the first time through.

3 Comments for “Avoiding uncluttering regrets”

  1. posted by Brian on

    One thing I’ll do is to put stuff in garbage bags and move them to the garage. I then put a tag on it saying “Throw out on MM/DD” where the date is 30 days from when I bagged it. If I haven’t opened the bag in 30 days, out it goes. It gives you a nice buffer and lets you feel better about the “maybe I’ll need it” thing.

  2. posted by AinOakPark on

    I do find that it is easier and easier to unclutter as you go. I am on my third downsize. Of course it is harder because this is my third major downsize in six years, and I feel like I need/want almost all the things I have. I thought a small thing to get rid of this round would be our greeting cards. Seeing them all together, the amount is amazing! I didn’t keep any Christmas cards, and most cards from friends went too, leaving just the ones from our rather small family. All is can say is that Hallmark knows what’s what! I have sorted them (which is harder than it would seem, and more time consuming than one would think). I made “titles” on the computer, eg: “Mary’s Birthday Cards from Joe” and “Mary’s Birthday Cards from the Kids,” etc. I put a white tablecloth over the coffee table (easier to photograph down onto it), and photograph about four at a time, the first photo of the outside, the next of the inside. I am about half done and I have taken over 350 photos! I will make a disk for each person in the family and out the cards go. The exception is that one of my children asked that I save one or two from each grandparent. This alone (not counting the Christmas cards!) will eliminate at least two boxes that would each fit 10 reams of copy paper! I will do the same with other paper memento items such as school achievement awards, musical programs that list my children’s names, etc. Doing the photography takes longer than I thought, but in the end it will be worth it.

  3. posted by www.forsining.com on

    I agree that the upstairs

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