Regret — My Achilles Heel of Decluttering

by Katy on April 16, 2015 · 20 comments

Today is a Throwback Thursday post from 2010. Enjoy! 

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.”

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Amy April 16, 2015 at 11:35 am

When I first started riding my home of things that it didn’t really need 10 years ago I took pictures of those items which I felt the need to hold onto for emotional reasons. I figured the picture would serve as a way to recall the memories. I haven’t looked at any of the pictures of objects since I uploaded them to the computer. I haven’t needed a picture to to recall the memories.


Amy April 16, 2015 at 11:36 am

Opps, that should be ridding not riding.


A. Marie April 16, 2015 at 12:06 pm

We have to remember that hanging onto something just because we paid close to full retail price (0r the equivalent in gift certificates) is rarely if ever a good idea. I’ve often been guilty of this myself, particularly in regard to shoes. I’ve always been fussy about shoes, and even more so since my partial knee replacement three years ago. But if I paid retail, it’s like tearing skin off myself to get rid of a pair, no matter how unsuitable they may be. I’ve done better with this in recent years, but I’m still not entirely reformed.


beckie Abbott April 16, 2015 at 1:47 pm

I am doing this same dance and it is exhausting! Pretty much full time since August, but progress is showing and next month it goes on the market. Anyhow, I have found taking pictures of meaningful things works on lots of items like your animal. My son ( now shaving) had a favorite stuffy along with the blanket he used as a baby/toddler. I could part with them after I got the picture to keep. Ahh.


Isabelle April 16, 2015 at 2:34 pm

I’ve been guilty of this as well…
Once in a adult convention we stopped at a *specialty booth* and bought a… ahem… special product to spice things up… for around 200$…. that we used once and not liked. Not something you can resell or give, so 200$ straight to the garbage…. grrrrr!! (After holding on to it for 2 years “just in case”)

And other things, regular stuff. Clothes, exercise equipment, etc.


Another Trish April 16, 2015 at 2:56 pm

My group of things I can’t seem to get rid of are my unfinished projects: the frame I will turn into a message board if only I could find the right paper to mod podge it with, the odds and ends I’m saving to make an advent calendar with, the colored tissue for future paper mache projects, the upholstry samples I keep for future sewing projects, the bits of floral things I might make a wreath with.

The thing is, I like to do crafts but I don’t like to spend money on craft supplies, so I hoard bits and pieces for some future date when I have sufficient materials, inspiration, and free time… like in 30 years when we retire!?!?


Lynda D. April 16, 2015 at 3:23 pm

“… anyone who tells you that objects do not hold emotional meaning is full of crap.”
Amen, sister!

I’m holding on to items that I didn’t even pay for (wedding gifts, other gifts) but were expensive. China, crystal, decorative stuff like Lalique statues. I don’t want them and have no emotional attachment…just a real life cash flow deficit and a stubborn belief that I should be able to make some money from these bleeping things.


Jill April 17, 2015 at 6:57 am

You might try eBay. I was really skeptical when I started a couple of months ago. I had a bunch of what I thought was junk, but I sold it! Examples? Unused postcards, a Pez dispenser, old running shoes, a bunch of porcelain trinket boxes, the list goes on. If it’s small enough that I can ship it easily, and in decent condition, I put in on eBay these days. Even my daughter and husband are starting to scout out things of theirs that can “go on eBay”. And it makes it easier for me to part with things like kitty figurines when I know it’s going to someone who wants it.


Lynda D. April 17, 2015 at 6:18 pm

I agree Jill. I’ve sold some things on eBay that surprised me.
The problem (I think) with the china is the sheer mass of it and having to pack/ship it. If it even sells. But then again, it might be the only option left.


Marilyn April 16, 2015 at 5:14 pm

I am on a spring cleaning binge too. I have already delivered several large bags of stuff to Goodwill and I’m only half way through. But for some reason, I’m keeping things like a bunch of old LPs (which I can’t even play since I have no turntable), my kids’ old stuffed animals and a winter coat which I bought when I got my first real job. The coat no longer fits and it’s no longer fashionable. Still, I think “It’s such a good coat. It must be a good coat since I paid so much money for it all those years ago.”


Isabelle April 17, 2015 at 5:49 am

At least you wore the coat… I bought a coat 3 or 4 years ago as “”incentive to lose weight”… yeah… well, it’s still in the closet with the tag attached, nagging me! (rolling eyes at myself!)


Jill April 17, 2015 at 6:52 am

Sometimes used bookstores or even comic book stores will buy old LPs. I also see used LPs on Amazon. They are making a comeback! You might be able to get them in the hands of someone who would like them.

Stuffed animals are my downfall! My husband has to handle those.


Elise April 17, 2015 at 5:47 am

This describes my mother perfectly. She moved from a 5 bedroom house to a 2 bedroom townhouse a few years ago and kept EVERYTHING. I understand the attachment to a lot of the things has to do with my father passing away, but man…her new place is cramped! I think thats why I am the opposite. I get rid of stuff right away (and regret it when I need it later sometimes!). I think there is a happy medium to getting rid of things we don’t use and holding onto them.


Jill April 17, 2015 at 6:50 am

This used to describe me, but not any more, baby! Because I love to micro-analyze the crap out of everything, I set up a whole system for dealing with “things that are worth something”. I first find out if it IS worth something. Example, electric drill = worth something. Old Barbie dolls with tangled hair = not really. So electric drill goes to tool consignment store, and old Barbie dolls get put on Freecycle. I have made it my goal to get my unwanted stuff into the hands of people who want it. If I make a little money (eBay), it’s just icing on the cake. So far, I have only hit one item that I refuse to just give away, and I have gotten rid of over 2000 things since I started my journey into minimalism.

My parents on the other hand have a house jammed full of “collectibles”, from the late 80s-early 90s “antiquing” craze. Of course, no one is collecting these things now – the market is quite slow. My mom insists on “making her money back”, so there all those things sit, collecting dust. My sister and I have no interest in them – it’s kind of sad really.

This made me think of an interesting article I read that has been floating around the blogosphere for the past month or so:

It’s basically about how the baby boomers are ready to downsize and their kids don’t want their stuff. Interesting reading!


Lynda D. April 17, 2015 at 6:13 pm

Bingo! Great article. That is exactly what I and my friends are experiencing with our early twenties kids.
One thing the article doesn’t mention is that, later on in their lives, our kids might say to us …”do you still have ________?” or when they have kids of their own they might regret not having that christening gown or special toy to pass on to their kids.


Vickie April 17, 2015 at 7:15 am

Although, I still have some issues with sentimental objects from childhood, the overpriced stuff I finally been able to let go of, but I hear you. It helped when I read about stuff & emotional attachments in the Body Clutter book:

If I can find a new home for things like that, it makes me feel much better, like I didn’t waste my money because now it’s a gift that’s actually with someone else who wants it.


momsav April 17, 2015 at 12:17 pm

Years ago i decided that if i didn’t use it or enjoy it, out it goes. I have little attachment to stuff, thankfully. Maybe it’s because i didn’t have a lot growing up.
And, before my beloved grandmother passed, she told me never wait for good to use the things you have, because “good never comes”. That’s worked very well for me.
As for the story of the stuffed animal; my son had one that he was seriously attached to. I, apparently with my head up you-know-where, didn’t realize how attached. I threw it out. When he wondered where it was, i called my sister to see if she had the same bear. She did, but it was in pristine condition. I got this thing home and washed it, dragged it in the dirt, beat on it….When i presented it to him, with the explanation that it had been stuck somewhere, he wondered why it was so clean! He’s 28 in a few weeks and still has that bear! Afterwards, i did no purging without checking, first.


Marla April 18, 2015 at 7:12 am

The thing that’s torturing me right now is an artificial Christmas tree. I got a great deal on it after the season from Lowes and it works fine. But it takes up so much room. Currently it sits in the garage – completely in the way. I think I would feel so much better getting rid of it and just getting a real tree each year that could be composted. But I paid money for it, and it works – so I keep it. And I hate it.


Kathleen April 20, 2015 at 5:42 pm

I started decluttering seriously a couple of years ago. First it was the easy stuff. Then the stuff I was emotionally attached too (like all my bread cookbooks and pans that weren’t being used since I had to give up gluten). Now I’m on to stuff that I like the idea of someday using but realistically probably never well (several large piles of fabric that din’t suit me for example) and yes, stuff that I paid too much for, like that awesome dress that I never wore and will never wear and what was I thinking, but I paid so much for it and it really is pretty and…. Just get rid of the damn dress already, Kathleen!


Joy May 18, 2015 at 5:50 am

Yep….my stupid pair of new to me Coach shoes….that I had to have! Ugh! I won’t pay the price for those brands new….heck no! Found a pair of Coach shoes on Ebay that didn’t even have scuffs on the bottoms! Paid right at $40 for them (yes, they were over $200 new but still….). I didn’t realize how HIGH the wedge heel was so each time I try them on, I try and determine if I would *really* break a bone in them (yes) and if it’s worth the risk…so they sit in my closet. Ugh!


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