“This might sound crazy,” my client said as she held up a tan-colored trench, “but I keep this coat because someday I might want to be Inspector Gadget for Halloween.”
Marissa was a new client, and it was my first time at her house, so I tried my darndest to bite down the smile tugging at my lips. Lucky for me, she quickly laughed and added, “I should just donate it, right?”
“Yep,” I said, adding the coat to our growing donation pile.
About an hour later, we came across an unopened meat grinding attachment for her stand mixer, which she had received as a wedding gift several years before.
Marissa cradled the box in her hands. “You know,” she said, “I have this scene in my head, where my husband and I are older and our kids are grown and we have these really nice dinners, outside on a terrace, and we’re grinding our own meat to make these fantastic burgers.”
By this time, I felt pretty comfortable with Marissa, so I asked, “Are you by chance wearing the Inspector Gadget costume while grinding this meat?”
We both laughed until our sides ached.
This example–while hilarious–demonstrates a very real phenomenon I often see in clients (and myself): the urge to save things for our someday/maybe lives. These are the lives where we are wearing elaborate Halloween costumes, eating kid-free fancy dinners on a terrace in our soon-to-be-built palatial homes, and scuba diving off the coast of our own private islands.
No matter what type of someday/maybe life we imagine for ourselves, there is one common thread in all of them: they are never the lives we are actually living right now. Thus, the stuff we are keeping to fulfill these imaginary lives is probably unnecessary.
If you struggle to let go of items for your someday/maybe life, here are a few tried-and-true questions to help you:
- Would I buy it again today? This question can help you let go of items you may have purchased in anticipation of your someday/maybe life. For example, I am not a hat person. Hats always make me feel like I am wearing a costume. In fact, I couldn’t even stand to wear the baseball hat I was supposed to wear when I coached my son’s T-ball team a couple years ago. The only hats I wear are the kind needed to keep my head warm in Ohio’s winter. However, every once in awhile, I’ll find myself imagining that I’m going to become a hat person. I’ll be in a store, usually that cute-downtown-boutique-type, try on some hats, and–while the salesperson oh-so-expertly compliments me on how I look–end up purchasing one. I’ve actually bought two rather expensive hats this way. And then donated each of them within a year of purchase, because I had to face the sad fact that the hat-wearing me only exists in my someday/maybe life.
- Have I used this in the last year? This is the quintessential decluttering question, and it’s a really good one if you’re trying to weed out items for your someday/maybe life. If you haven’t used an item in the last year, are you really ever going to use it? I don’t see the need to hang on to any item you haven’t used in the last year. (Except maybe teaching materials that are in your attic that you might need in case you ever go back to teaching middle school Language Arts… not that I’d have any of those in my attic. Like several boxes worth. Ahem… let’s go on to question 3…)
- What’s the worst thing that would happen if I let go of this? We often hang on to items out of fear. What if I need that someday? We get all angsty and anxious and worried that letting go of this item will somehow spell disaster. So I encourage you, face that doomsday scenario head-on and ask yourself: What’s the worst thing that would happen? The answer is usually not that bad. I once had a woman in one of my live classes say that she knew she needed to let go of some of her excess clothing, but she just couldn’t do it. So I asked her, “What’s the worst thing that would happen if you let go of those clothes?” She paused for a moment, then smiled and said, “I guess I’d have to go shopping.” “Is that so bad?” I asked. She shook her head “no” and I think we all realized the power of facing the worst-case scenario and realizing, as is probably typical when it comes to decluttering, the worst-case scenario is usually not all that bad.
I hope these questions have encouraged you to rethink those items you might be saving for your someday/maybe, Inspector Gadget, meat-grinding life. Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I have a date with some boxes in my attic…
Rose Lounsbury is a minimalism coach, speaker, and author of the Amazon bestseller “Less: Minimalism for Real.” After blogging about her own journey toward a minimalist lifestyle, Rose was inspired to start Less, a minimalism coaching company. Rose spends her days writing, helping clients clear their clutter, and soaking up the moments with her husband and their wild triplets. Rose is a regular guest on Fox News Good Day Columbus and has been featured on WDTN Living Dayton. She calls lovely Dayton, Ohio home.