"Home lies in the things you carry with you everywhere and not in the things that tie you down."
-- Pico Iyer

Sunday, April 18, 2021

"But I Might Need It Someday!"

      When  I was younger I liked to go sailing. I never owned a boat. But I had a friend who sailed out of Stamford, CT, and he took me on a couple of weekend trips up to Block Island and Cape Cod. One summer I  took a series of sailing lessons on the Hudson River, and another summer I rented a small sailboat which I used to tool around Long Island Sound.

     Sometimes, when I dreamed of sailing away into the sunset, I'd wonder if I could fit all my possessions onto a boat. I thought I probably could. A few clothes -- not many, since I would be sailing into the southern latitudes. A few provisions, a bag of books, one box of memorabilia.

     I never got a chance to prove it because I never sailed away into the sunset. That's probably a good thing, for many reasons, not least of which is that it's easier to downsize in your head than it is to downsize in reality.

     But I do remember downsizing from our four-bedroom house into a one-bedroom condominium. We got rid of a  lot of stuff, put a lot more into a storage locker, and crammed the rest into our condo. It was hard.

     I'm sure many of you have been through the process yourselves. What was the hardest part of downsizing for you?

     As we tossed out stuff, we kept saying, "But we might need this again someday." Or else it would be, "But I paid $700 for these . . . " You fill in the blank. Sports equipment, musical instruments, special furniture.  Or else we'd say, "But the kids might want this dining set from Aunt Martha." 

     We managed to get rid of a lot. But we still found that when we upsized again, into a small house, we ended up giving away or tossing out a few items from the condo and at least half the stuff we'd stashed in the storage locker.

Some of my decluttering sins
     I realized, the biggest enemy of downsizing are the words: "We might need this again someday."

     But the fact is, you probably won't. And if you do, it will be easier to buy a new one than dig out the old one -- one that might not work anyway. We have several pieces of audio equipment to prove it. Some speakers, a CD player, an old radio. But now we get our music on an iPhone, or through our Google Play, or via Youtube. Those speakers are still moldering away down in the basement.

     Here's one suggestion I read about. Put your least-used "I might need it someday" into boxes and store them somewhere. Maybe you can exchange some boxes with a similar-minded friend. You each store the other's boxes in your basement. After a year or two, you can revisit your boxes and decide if you still want to keep them. Chances are you won't.

     As for those other words: "But I paid $700 for those . . . " I'll tell you about my son. He was a musician in high school and college. We'd invested literally thousands of dollars in guitars, drums, amps, mixers and other equipment. He didn't want them anymore. They were outdated. So I tried to sell some of it. Nobody would buy it, but I managed to give away some of the stuff. However, I just could not bring myself to let go of the saxophone that had been glued to his hip for 15 years, or the banjo that he decided he just had to learn to play in 11th grade.

     I'm no expert on decluttering. I've just been through it. And so I can tell you. Get rid of the just-in-cases. Get rid of the but-I-paid-so-much-for-this. Divest yourself of the old coin collection or photo equipment if you're no longer interested in the hobby. Give away the clothes that no longer fit. Toss all the stuff that's outdated or doesn't work anymore. And take the hint: If your kids don't want it, neither do you.

24 comments:

DJan said...

I agree with it all except for the clothes that don't fit anymore. I am hoping to rid myself of the pandemic pounds!

Olga said...

I have two old pairs of cross country skis in my garage. I have made a point of being in Florida during snow season for many years now, but there they are in the rafters of the garage. They would qualify as antiques and I doubt anyone would ever use them again. they just may stay in those rafters even if I move.

ApacheDug said...

Tom, that's nice to read how you looked after your son's musical interest over the years, but that's a good example of how difficult it can be to let go of some things. I never had a family of my own, but living in one place for 25 years... a couple years after I retired in 2015 and decided to get a new place, my sister was helping me pack and suggested I "start fresh". I wound up donating a walk in closet of dress clothes, 4 giant Ethan Allen bookcases, hundreds of books to my local library, sold all my dining room furniture. In retrospect I went a bit overboard, but I can't deny my 'minimalist life' now is a much more freeing feeling. And if I ever move again, it's going to be so much easier! :)

Kay said...

I'd be willing to get rid of a bunch of stuff, but I have a spouse who really hates to give it up. We managed to clean out a lot of things when we moved to Hawaii from Illinois, but as you say, we've added to our load again. Sigh. OK... I think I'll look around and she what I can add to the donation pile.

Arkansas Patti said...

The bad thing about downsizing is that insidious upsizing that takes place once you move. I was down to bare bones when I moved but somehow I am now in possession of a new set of "someday, I'll need this" items. Sigh.

Tom said...

Funny. B still has a pair of skies in our basement. They were last used in 2014. And of course, like you Patti, we are again building up our inventory of stuff so we will no doubt have the pleasure of decluttering once again ... either next time we move or when our basement and garage overflow, whichever comes first. Yes ... sigh.

Pam said...

Gosh, trying to put all one's possessions on a sailboat might be tough! We are in the process of going through our things right now as we prepare to move to a much smaller retirement home. At first it was a struggle to try to decide whether to keep or give away, but lately hubby and I are actually enjoying ridding ourselves of all that excess stuff we've been lugging around, cleaning, and housing forever. Geez, we should have done this a long time ago. Ironically, the kids have politely declined taking much, but that's no big surprise, since they all like to live simply. When I grow up I want to be like them.

Donna Tagliaferri said...

AMEN!!!

Red said...

I wish the process was as easy as you make it sound.

David @iretiredyoung said...

I'm pretty good at decluttering, and over the past years we've downsized from a five bedroom house to a 650ft² two bedroom apartment. What was my biggest challenge...without doubt it was my wife, she finds it seriously difficult and stressful.
Now, my aim is to not buy the stuff that I don't really need or use in the first place. What's my biggest challenge with this...without doubt it's my wife, haha, I think I see a pattern here🤣

Jennifer (UnfoldAndBegin) said...

I've decluttered several times. Once I downsized a 3 bedroom house into two bedrooms in a shared house with a couple of boxes in storage of things that I just couldn't part with. When I moved into a condo a few years later, those boxes came out and most of the stuff I didn't want or need anymore.

Meryl Baer said...

Eleven years ago we downsized. It felt freeing to get rid of stuff collected over decades. But now, after 11 years, I feel swamped again. I look around and need to declutter once again. The kids don't want our stuff, there are too many things I like or are sentimental about or may need again one day, but probably not. I agree with the premise that if you need something again, but new. But decluttering is work!

Laurie Stone said...

I'm in a constant state of decluttering. My husband, Randy... not so much. So as he brings things into the house, I'm taking our old junk (with his permission) out. It doesn't completely help, but it keeps the situation in balance, at least.

Mona McGinnis said...

If the kids don't want it, neither do you. The reverse seems to hold true as well. If you don't want it, chances are the kids don't either.

RetirementCoffeeShop said...

I have a lot of those "I may need it someday" items in my garage. I always keep my left over parts, such as screws and small pieces. Every great once in awhile I will actually use one of the pieces to fix or repair something. There are also those things that I need to throw out because if I haven't used it yet, I probably won't in the near future.

Celia said...

Same here. From a large house with family to smaller house and eventually a small 2 bedroom condo. During this plague I gave most of my books to AAUW for their annual book sale that will hopefully happen in Feb 2022. Downsized my closet to the point where I can see what's in it. Grandkids moving into apartments are taking my extra kitchen ware, I hardly cook anymore. And so it goes.

Rebecca Olkowski said...

I've become an expert declutterer because I've moved so often. I don't have a problem giving things away, although I inherited a few things I wouldn't have bought myself and still have. Also, I spent 3 weeks on a sailboat in the Grenadines. The trip was amazing, but there were a few days when I insisted we stay in a hotel. It was tight inside and the shower over the toilet thing was the kicker.

Rian said...

We have never downsized... so there is a lot of "stuff" that could be thrown out. And I do de-clutter, but not fast enough. Usually I try to go through a few boxes a week, but then forget about it for a while.

Getting rid of clothes is not problem as I've always been a basically jeans and t-shirt type... but things that belonged to my mom, or the kids... that's a different matter.

I don't like to sell things, but have put boxes of good items on the street out front and they disappear pretty quickly. 2 of my neighbors have admitted picking up my no longer wanted pieces of hand-made pottery.

But thanks for bringing this up as we really should get back to this de-cluttering weekly.

Mage said...

We moved from a tiny beach cottage to a 3000 sq foot house. Then we down sized to a 1100 foot condo. Our problem isn't "I may need it someday," it is the sentimental art, dishes, silver, furniture....oh, the special stuff.

gigi-hawaii said...

I am famous for throwing things out, because I hate clutter. I donated several bags of CDs and David got mad that I had donated some of his precious CDs. Well, he should have checked the bags before they were donated. So, he had to buy the same CDs from Amazon again.

Tom said...

Gigi -- I see the makings of a sit-com!

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Wisewebwoman said...

The huge mistake I made when moving to the coast from the city many years ago were two storage lockers that cost me $4000 annually for close to 3 years. Full of the office contents and even my motorbike along with all the house stuff that wasn't coming to Newfoundland.

I wound up with the help of friends and family giving it all away and donating to charity.

None of it followed me east.

Madness.

So I advise anyway downsizing to think about what they're keeping and storing. Storage companies make a fortune on storing such "treasures" which are quickly forgotten.

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