My Achilles Heel of Decluttering

by Katy on April 30, 2010 · 28 comments

It’s no secret that I’ve been working hard to declutter my enormous five bedroom, one bathroom house. This has been a seemingly never ending task, not to mention gut- wrenchingly exhaustive. Because anyone who tells you that objects do not hold emotional meaning is full of crap. A stuffed animal is not just a stuffed animal. It belonged your adorable preschooler, who once dragged it around every day and sucked on its ears. Never mind that your once adorable four year old now shaves, eats more than Andre The Giant and is more rugged than adorable. That object is still imbedded with a giant emotional anchor.

But I’ve been able to talk myself down from this proverbial rooftop, and I’m now able to part with all kinds of emotionally taxing items. Toys, books, dress-ups. They all get the Craigslist/Goodwill treatment. And I’m a better person for it.

But there is still a category of belonging that tugs at my illogical heart strings and that is things I paid too much for. Case in point is this stupid underbed Ikea basket that I paid $25 for at a thrift store. Granted, this huge lined basket costs $50 new, but I spent a gift certificate I received as a Christmas present on it, so not only did I overpay, (and remove the price tag so it was non-returnable) but it was my *Christmas present* from my sainted mother. And guess what? The damned thing doesn’t fit under my damned bed.

I tried putting it on Craigslist, but no one wanted it. So there it sat, cluttering up my living room for at least a month, mocking my inability to part with this brief but expensive lapse in judgement.

I am fully aware that $25 is not that large an expense, even to me. But the regret that hitchhiked onto this inanimate object was priceless.

I finally decided yesterday that I would bring it by the hipster consignment store in my neighborhood, and if they didn’t want it, then it would get a one way ticket to Goodwillsville. Sadly, the store was not open when I stopped by. So what did I do? I gave it to my mother, who thought she should be able to use it in one of her guest cottages.

The basket is out of my life, but it’s still occupying a place in my mind that should be devoted to charitable works and world peace. I don’t feel satisfied with how I dealt with the basket. I made getting rid of it too complicated. I should have just put it on Freecycle and let someone else get some use out of it. But no, I felt like I should get at least some of my money back.

Are you holding onto items that you paid too much for, even though they are now essentially worthless and drag you down whenever you see them? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Imperfectly yours,

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

BagelGirl April 30, 2010 at 8:01 am

Are you kidding me, this is the story of my life. I have a wonderful full length black wool coat from my years in the Northwest. I now live near the desert and haven’t worn it in 10 years. Tried to sell it very cheaply on ebay. No go. Then I tried to give it away, but everyone around here ALSO lives near the desert. Still hanging in my closet because the “perfect” solution has not presented itself.

Why not just take the dang thing to the thrift store? Something won’t let me.


Alea April 30, 2010 at 8:48 am

This has been a problem for me in the past as well. I have had to work hard to separate what I paid for an item and what it is actually worth to me.


Katy April 30, 2010 at 8:49 am




Lindy April 30, 2010 at 10:15 am

I guess I’m the odd one. I actually can’t get rid of things fast enough that I no longer want/need that I paid to much for.

I hate the reminder of how much I paid!


Judy April 30, 2010 at 11:51 am

I have had some things over the past couple of years that I tried to sell with no luck and ended up donating to Goodwill. The one that haunts me the most is a set of Pfaltzgraf dishes for 8 with the serving dishes. No takers.

Right now I have a Longaberger basket I do not use. My sister said it is a discontinued basket which I thought made it worth more but I have no takers – cheapcycle or Craigslist.


Nienke April 30, 2010 at 11:59 am

My achillesheel are clothes my mother bought for me ‘to treat me’. She’ll notice when I throw them out, and she won’t be happy with it. Also, gifts from the BFs family, as this will upset the BF. Any suggestions on these cases?


WilliamB April 30, 2010 at 7:16 pm

Maybe this will work: Put them in the back of the closet for a lo-o-ong time, see if they notice. If not, wait a while longer then ditch.


Nienke April 30, 2010 at 12:09 pm

By the way, ever since I started reading your blog, I can’t pass a lined basket in the thriftshop without thinking “This looks neat. Katy Wolk-Stanley would so approve of this!”.
Today I even saw a cabinet which made me think of your blog.
Funny, because we don’t even know each other!


Katy April 30, 2010 at 1:29 pm


That’s funny. Keep in mind that “Katy Wolk-Stanley” only keeps an eye out for the white lined baskets.

-Katy Wolk-Stanley


Cate April 30, 2010 at 1:59 pm

Story of my life! In fact, at this very moment I have a pair of Michael Shannon black leather knee-high heeled boots, still in the box, in our utility room. I bought them when I was about 2 months pregnant, needing winter boots, and spent about $40 on them. They look great, but they are SO impractical–and uncomfortable! I know $40 isn’t a fortune, but I’m bummed that I spent $40 on shoes I’ve only worn a couple times. And I still need boots! I’ve been trying and trying to sell them, to no avail. I’m going to try the consignment shop soon and if they won’t take them (which is doubtful), I’ll donate them. I went through this same thing with several purses last winter, and once I finally donated them, it was like a weight had been lifted. Logically, I know I’ll probably feel the same way about the boots when and if I end up donating them–but I just can’t bring myself to do it yet.


Karen @ Abundance on a Dime April 30, 2010 at 3:06 pm

I am the exact same way – the things I overpaid for are the ones I have a hard time giving away. I was grinning when I saw the photo of the Ikea underbed basket, as up until a month ago I had *2* of those exact baskets! I bought them new about 7 yrs ago, and they actually worked out really well for storage under my boys’ bunk beds. I used to store extra clothes they’d received as hand-me-downs in there (the ones that were still too big for them). Now that they’re getting older, we don’t get so many hand-me-downs any more, and I didn’t need the extra storage. I did manage to sell mine for $30 for the set of 2 on Kijiji (similar to Craigslist) but I know if I didn’t have any takers I would have had a hard time giving them away for free! The stuff I’ve bought secondhand is so much easier to part with if/when I don’t need it any more.


Terri April 30, 2010 at 4:45 pm

Once the declutter bug hit there was no stopping me. I don’t care if I paid $500 for something, if I can’t use it then it needs to go. I don’t care if I give it to a friend, family, craigslist, or freecyle. The item just has to go as fast as possible. There is no amount of money in this world that is worth feeling closed in by clutter.

Sadly, my husband and I are buying a fixer upper from his aunt and uncle. They left clutter in this house and a full shed full of clutter. Most of it is complete junk but they can’t get rid of anything. I am tied down to clutter that is not my own. It is sad to be so immobilized by one’s clutter that you can’t even begin to organize, give away, or sell the clutter. Thankfully, his aunt is starting to see the light of having less stuff. Slowly, I will email her about items in the shed that she can ok to donate, sell, re-purpose, or throw away. It will be a long process but thankfully it has started for one family in desperate need of decluttering.


wendy April 30, 2010 at 4:53 pm

Yes! Years ago, I purchased overpriced colored cardboard organizers (magazine holders, etc.) from Holdeverything. Now they look terrible and are literally collecting dust. They are not practical because they are hard to clean. I debate tossing them every now and again, but I paid good money. What to do? Wendy


Marie-Josée April 30, 2010 at 6:29 pm

I bought a Freshlife Automatic Sprouter last fall. As though alfalfa and clover can’t grow perfectly well in glass jars! I don’t even live in a warm climate, I live in Canada! There is no way my sprouts are going to die of dehydration unless I forget to water them. The water in the automatic sprouter needs to be changed daily, so there is no real economy of time, and it’s quite a hassle because the water barrel is quite big and heavy. Plus the appliance uses energy and waters the sprouts for about 10 minutes every hour.

I don’t know what got into to me, but I have just been paralyzed, mentally kicking myself in the butt every time I walked past this appliance (every day). I have recently come to terms with this little episode of consumerism and will put the sprouter for sale on craigslist, kijiji and e-bay this week. It’s still on warranty!


WilliamB April 30, 2010 at 7:19 pm

Yes. A red leather jacket that was hand-made, expensive, and not in current fashion. I don’t know if it’s the price, that it’s hand made, or how strongly I wanted it at the time. I wore it a fair deal and now can’t let it go.

Can’t think of anything else, though.


Magdalena May 1, 2010 at 3:03 am

Bad storage decision made up my mind on some things we were carting around – DH’s old leather jacket in particular. I can’t abide mold, so when some clothes got really horribly moldy from wet storage, out they went! I just got past hanging on to things because they were expensive – I gave away a turquoise necklace to a friend because I will never wear it again. She loves it – it’s the only dressy piece she has. I had five Liz Claiborne handbags that had become an albatross around my neck – they went a church rummage sale. Now I watch what I pay for things since I know if it was expensive, I’ll want to keep it even if it is useless.


Tracy Balazy May 1, 2010 at 4:23 am

I bought four pairs of jeans at Value World a couple of weeks ago for an average $2.50 per pair with half-off coupon, and only one of them fits decently, and those only if I get them hemmed because they’re super long. (Value World lacks fitting rooms.) This time, I’d even brought a measuring tape to the store so I could find jeans whose measurements matched those of a pair I have at home that fit great. But, no luck. The other three gap in the waist and are too wide in the leg.

I’m debating whether to sell the Tommy Hilfigers (the only brand of the three with eBay resale value) on eBay, or just declare it a $10 loss and from now on, buy jeans only at thrift stores that have fitting rooms.

Same goes for my wedding gown, which I bought on eBay for $40 four years ago. It served its purpose. I got it dry cleaned. Now it hangs. There’s not much of a market for wedding gowns at consignment shops around metro Detroit, at least not that I can find. I don’t care if I get money for it, I just would like to see someone put it to use. It’s a pretty gown, not too frou-frou. I haven’t gotten around to taking photos and posting it on eBay, so perhaps I’ll go the Freecycle route. And I know I’ll feel a sense of relief when it’s not hanging there in my way in the laundry room anymore.


Rebecca May 1, 2010 at 7:23 am

there are quite a few donation sites online for bridal gowns, as well as prom and bridesmaids, etc. Some use them for charity auctions, others help women and girls from poor areas, or those whose lives have been upset by natural disasters. Since yours is clean and in good condition it should be able to find a home. And some theatre troops and colleges will take dresses for costumes.

I would see if you could find a local seamstress to help alter the jeans. taking in a waist and even the legs isn’t all that hard, my mom helps me with mine, and you could maybe arrange a trade of services for something you do well, like me I barter with baked goods. two pies and I can get a haircut, manicure etc.


laura May 1, 2010 at 11:29 am

Tracy, the idea of donating the gown is the ticket, especially since it’s prom time. There are many places in metro detroit to do gown donation. I hear about it on the radio all the time. If you can’t find one on your own, try calling 96.3 WDVD to find out as I hear them announce how to donate to those organizations frequently.


Laura May 1, 2010 at 11:28 am

I am happily married, but I gave my wedding dress away on Craigslist. The cost to dry clean and preserve was going to be high, and the box would have been huge to cart around for the rest of my life.

It is better for the dress to be used again than to sit and rot.

This has been very freeing. Every time I have trouble parting with something, I remind myself that if I could part with my wedding dress I can part with x, y or z.


Shannon May 1, 2010 at 6:18 am

My Achilles’ heel is expensive baby stuff. I keep waiting to see if one of my siblings, who are ten years younger than me, will produce offspring. It is completely irrational, but my basement is full of cribs and playpens, strollers and clothing, all lying in wait for my theoretical little nieces and nephews, because I hate the thought that my brother and sister would have to shell out hundreds of dollars to buy all this stuff. The truth is somebody should be using this stuff now because by the time, and if, they ever have kids, a lot of my stuff will be outmoded. (LOL I can’t just call them up and say hey, are you going to get busy with the baby making or what?)


Rebecca May 1, 2010 at 7:32 am

We are almost out of the baby stage for good, my youngest is 20 mo old now, and is ready for a “big girl” bed. I am dreading saying goodbye to the place my children all slept, remembering that first day home from the hospital, etc. Even finally saying goodbye to bottles, bibs, highchairs, etc was gut wrenching. I am keeping a small bin of the items that were special, the outfits they wore home from the hospital, the blankets that were hand made for them, dresses my daughter wore that were made for my mom when she was a baby.

I have a hard time with artwork my kids make. Esp because my 2 oldest have autism and we have fought for every developmental step they have mastered. I HATE saying “wow” what progress, and then it ends up in the garbage. what has helped is displaying it in the play room till the end of the school year, then picking a “best of” selection of maybe 10 to 12 items for a portfolio of that year. I make sure to put their name and date, age, and any significant notes on the back to remember.


oldboyscout2 May 1, 2010 at 8:40 am

everyone sounds like me —-


Deb May 1, 2010 at 10:38 am

I made an impulse purchase of a very expensive object d’art, an art deco era antique statue. I put it on layaway with a downpayment, and immediately regretted my impulsive decision to buy it. Every month when I forked over a payment, I cursed myself and wondered if it would be better to just walk away or to keep paying said item off.

I did pay if off, and now we have moved and downsized from a 1700 sq foot home to a 910 sq ft home. That item doesn’t fit well in the house, and is standing in a bedroom corner collecting dust. Instead of enjoying it, it serves as a constant reminder as to what a mistake an impulse purchase can be (especially if it costs even more than a month of your mortgage). I haven’t even tried to sell it yet, and I’m paralyzed about what to do. Until that decision comes, the statue is my albatross.


Hiptobeme May 1, 2010 at 1:44 pm



Carla May 1, 2010 at 8:00 pm

Family stuff. My mother passed away a couple of years ago and the last time I was home Daddy foisted on me something I care NOTHING about but HE was sentimental over. Good grief. I still don’t know what to do with it.


Marti May 5, 2010 at 6:42 pm

I have MANY such items cluttering my life. The one I am dealing with now is a gorgeous oak table I bought at an auction for $150 and I have it listed on Craig’s List right now. So if it’s so gorgeous, why am I selling it, you ask? Well, because when we bought it, it was fully extended (it’s a draw leaf) and the chairs were located at each end. When we got it home, we found that dh can ONLY get his legs under the leaves at either end. When the leaves are pushed in and it isn’t taking up all the space in the room, he can’t get his long legs under it. Then there are the chairs I bought to go with it, but that’s another sad story.


Andrew Trusty September 10, 2010 at 6:14 pm

Don’t forget free recycling groups like Freegle, ReUseIt and Full Circles! Freecycle is a great resource but sometimes it can be hard for new Freecycle members to adjust to all the rules and the flood of email from the mailings lists.

I’ve built a new site at that tries to makes it easier for people to use their existing free recycling groups.


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