I wasn’t exactly a hoarder as a child, probably because that term hadn’t become popularized yet. There was no TV show about people digging through other people’s trash that covered their homes and there was definitely nothing about minimalism cluttering the internet. But deep down, I knew I had a lot of stuff.
My collection of rocks, for one. I mean, how many rocks from the playground can a kid collect? It was really too much.
Stories I had written, favorite comic strips cut from the newspaper, a note my friend had written to me once. Cat pictures everywhere. It’s hard to imagine I turned out the semi-normal person I am today.
As I aged, I found peace in the simplicity of decorating, found that it’s easier to keep things cleaner when you have less stuff, and hated packing boxes when we moved. Now that my husband and I have lived in four different homes in seven years, I’m sick of packing and moving. I donate bags full of stuff every time we get ready to move again.
But there are still those “what ifs” that I have a hard time donating. Someday, what if I will need that? Someday, what if my child will want that? Someday, what if it’s a collector’s item?
I learned the hard way that collector’s items are real and you shouldn’t let your child play with them because she will rip the arm off of that doll and it will no longer be worth $500. So, there are some things you should hold on to, safely!
Here are seven things to consider about the “what ifs” and “somedays”:
1. Will you want to use again?
If you have a something you want to use again in the next year or two, don’t get rid of it. If you want your child to read a book that you loved as a child, check your library. Chances are they have the entire series of Nancy Drew ready for her when she’s old enough. But if she’s five years old and you have a box of Nancy Drew books just sitting in your house waiting for her, consider exchanging the books for a library card.
2. Does it have sentimental value?
Don’t get rid of what brings you joy, deepens your spirituality, or is a meaningful family heirloom. That being said, there are lots of family heirlooms you don’t need to hold on to. If you have your grandmother’s beloved cigarette ash tray and don’t smoke and don’t have another use for that ash tray, chuck it. A picture of it could serve your memory better than an heirloom stuffed in the back of your closet.
3. Is it a collector’s item?
So apparently male nurse action figures have quite the going rate on Ebay. If you have one, you have a collector’s item. Now, if you’re like me and you have one with an arm ripped off because your child played with it, it’s trash . . . or a one-armed male nurse action figure. It’s up to your kid’s imagination and how many broken, gender-neutral toys you want in your house. But really, if you have something that might be a collector’s item, check it out and sell it or hide it away. If it’s not, let your kid play with it or donate it. Or put it in your parents’ attic.
4. Will you actually wear it?
The concept of minimalism is that you are able to go buy a new black sweater if your current black sweater fades to an ugly gray color. If you don’t relish the idea of donating your other two black sweaters just so you can go out and buy another one in two years, I don’t blame you. Although, it’s OK to donate the one you don’t wear and never will. Yeah, get rid of that thing.
5. Is it your husband’s favorite (fill in the blank)?
I get so tempted to throw out some of my husband’s stuff. My mind screams, “Donate it all!!!” And when I offer him a pile of stuff we can donate that belongs to him, he picks it up and exclaims, “Oh I forgot about this. I love this!” Ugh. But seriously. Save your marriage. Don’t toss his stuff without asking first. But do forward lots of minimalism emails to his inbox.
6. “But it’s My Precious!”
My kids have a box full of their most beloved treasures: glitter, rocks, and old birthday cards. It means a lot to them. These things might not hold the most sentimental value, but they don’t want to part with these things. You probably have something like this, too. Be honest with yourself. Maybe it’s a kitchen gadget you don’t use but want to. Or that dusty sewing machine? There’s something and you know what? As long as you’re not a crazy hoarder like I was and it’s only a “something” and not a drawer full of rocks from your garden, I think it’s A-OK.
7. Could it save your life?
Getting rid of emergency items would probably be a bad idea. In fact, be sure you have all the flashlights, emergency food, bottles of water, blankets, etc that you might need in case of an emergency. I grew up in earthquake country and I remember barrels of water in our backyard and lots of canned tuna and green beans on our shelves . . . just in case. Keep in mind that you will have to eat all that before it expires, but it’s still a smart thing to do.
I hope you are now fully equipped with the devil’s advocate version of minimalism and now know why you shouldn’t toss certain things.