As a professional organizer specializing in downsizing, I have yet to come across a client that had discarding regrets. A lot of their spaces are consumed by things that can’t be donated or sold. Things like broken items, clothing with stains, or rips, or boxes they held onto instead of recycling them. These items are the no-brainers.
They engage my services because they need to reduce the amount of their belongings for various reasons. The most common reason is that they are moving to a smaller home. They understand that they can’t take everything with them because it won’t all fit.
To get them to their goal of reducing their belongings, I help them make decisions regarding discarding a portion of their things. They need to have their belongings in proportion to the amount of space in their new home.
Some discarding decisions are easy, such as the no-brainers mentioned above. Making decisions for all their other things may not be so easy. Everyone has attachments to at least some of their belongings, particularly sentimental items.
As we work on discarding items, I ask questions about each thing to learn how, and if it deserves a place in their new home. Sometimes I get pushback in the form of ‘what if’ questions. The most common ‘what if’ questions are shown below and the questions I ask, and strategies I use to help them make the decision to let go.
What if I get rid of this and I need it someday?
When was the last time you saw, or even used it, or wore it? If it’s been years, or if it’s not working, or if it’s covered in grime, or if it doesn’t fit, or if it’s out of fashion, these are indicators that you probably won’t need it someday.
Another way to look at is, what’s the worst that will happen if you find that you need it someday? The simple answer is, you acquire another one.
The caveat to this idea, is for legal documents such as marriage licenses, birth certificates, passports, tax returns, estate documents, etc. Of course, you want to keep these important papers, and store them in a safe place, such as a fireproof safe in your home. You can also scan these important papers to your computer so that you have a backup in case of emergency.
What if my family member or friend asks where their gift is?
Most of the time your family member or friend will not remember the gifts they give. If they do, help them understand that you needed to downsize, and their gift didn’t fit into your new living spaces. Assure them that they donated it to a favorite charity, so it would find a home where someone will love it as much as you did.
What if I forget the memory attached to this item?
That’s not likely, as we remember moments with those that we love, not things. If that’s still a concern, consider taking a picture, or video of you with the item. A video may be better because you can verbalize what this item means to you and why. The item may not fit in your new living space, but videos don’t take up physical storage space, so your memory remains safe, it’s a win, win!
In order to avoid discarding regrets, think about each item to determine if it will fit into your new living spaces. If not, and you’re still having issues letting go, look at the ‘what if’ questions above to see if the strategies resonate with you. By making well thought out decisions about all of your things, you’re less likely to have discarding regrets.