To date, Kyle and I have spent thousands of hours working with clients guiding and helping them declutter their homes. We've probably spent even more time still speaking with each other and friends and acquaintances and colleagues about minimalism.
And do you want to know the single pain point which comes up the most?
Just. In. Case.
Often it shows up to in response to me suggesting that someone might prefer to donate an item they've never used / don't particularly like / wish they'd never purchased to begin with.
(Think: a third box of 2,000 staples in a paperless office, a dress with tags on purchased 2 sizes too small, a stack of old and unread magazines which just might hold an article or photo that might be referred to if they end up deciding to learn to sew after all.)
With an incredulous stare, I get back the questions: "But what if I need it someday?" or "Shouldn't I keep it, you know, just in case?"
I'm not going to argue that you will 100% guaranteed never need any of these items again.
That would be pointless. I'm not a fortune teller and I cannot know the intricacies of your life moving forward. But I am going to encourage you to let go these "just in case" items anyway.
3 Reasons to Let Go of "Just In Case" Objects.
1. Consider the costs of keeping the item. Anytime a particular topic or idea shows up across all spectrums of lifestyles and situations, it signals to me that something very human is going on. And the truth is that biologically speaking, humans have evolved to be more motivated to avoid pain than to seek joy. Meaning that as a species we're naturally going to give more weight to fear of having to potentially re-acquire something than the pleasure of an uncluttered space.
What our lizard brain is not considering, however, is the hidden pain of keeping so much stuff around. We don't consider what a burden it is to maintain and upkeep these items. We don't consider all of the physical and mental space they take up. We forget about the hard, crappy decisions we have to make (like spending a gorgeous weekend cleaning up the garage or not moving to a new space because there isn't enough storage) in service of these items that we don't even use.
2. Experience the under-acknowledged joy of knowing what you don't have. Imagine I ask you to find an old, semi-functioning raincoat you've kept just in case... You would maybe look in your regular closet. Then the coat closet. Then perhaps with your stored winter gear. Then perhaps check your camping bin. Or maybe it's with your costumes under the bed? Or is it possible that you leant it to a friend awhile back? Or maybe it is in the coat closet in the way, way back? 20 minutes later you're sweaty, frustrated and still don't know where the raincoat is.
If instead you make a habit of releasing excess items, you'll know right away what you have and where it is -- and you'll also know right away when you don't have something. Rather than wasting time searching, you can jump right into reacquiring, borrowing, substituting, or making do without. It is liberating.
3. Leave room for yourself to grow. Whenever we hold onto items "just in case," we're locking our future selves into a certain way of being. One of the most beautiful things about being human is that we are constantly evolving as people. Our habits, priorities, and hobbies shift and vary as we continue through life. When you hold onto old items "just in case" you're committing to staying in place, to having those same exact interests or to living in the same space. When you let go of those items you are giving yourself permission to be flexible and flowing, to grow and change.
So what do you think? Could you donate some of the things you've been holding onto "just in case?" Do you have any strategies that have worked for you in the past?