Monday, December 3, 2012

Ten Things: Regret

As you are aware, I am committed to removing at least 10 things from my home every day until the end of the year.  (Click here to see all of my 10 Things posts).  For our family, the biggest obstacle to getting rid of things is the thought that we might need or want it in the future.

You know the saying, waste not, want not?  I googled "what does waste not want not mean?"  Here are a few of the results:
  • Wise use of one's resources will keep one from poverty
  • If we don't waste what we have, we'll still have it in the future and will not lack (want) it.
  • The old proverb "waste not, want not" reminds us that if we fritter away our scarce resources, whether money, food, water, energy or anything else, those resources will run out and we will live to regret being so recklessly extravagant

I think for both of us, my husband and me, this idea is engraved in our brains.  The idea that gratitude demands that we shouldn't waste what we have, what we've been given, and the fear that if we are wasteful no more will be forthcoming.  This idea of holding on to what you have because you might need it.  And that's not necessarily a bad thing.

The thing is, we've gotten the idea that not wasting means not getting rid of.  Ever.  We don't have room to store everything that's ever crossed our doorstep.  So our biggest challenge in decluttering our home is to let go of this notion that by releasing clutter we are wasting resources.  We think that we can't let go of something because we will regret not having it at some unspecified time in the future.

I am not going to lie, I have felt regret in the process of letting stuff go.  Just the other day, I wanted something that I had gotten rid of just a week or two prior, and that kind of stung.  This was something that I never wanted in the first place, a gift that didn't suit me.  I held on to that something for 4 years, never using it in all of that time, until I was finally able to let it go. 

And then, a use for it materialized.  Ugh.  The heart-rending angst.  The "I told you you would regret this."  The, "I'm never getting rid of anything even remotely useful ever again."  The regret.

But we can't live that way.  We can't live in fear that someday we will have regrets.  We can't live our lives that way, and we can't deal with our clutter that way, either.  It was reasonable to assume that, since I had never used this something, and in fact, never wanted it in the first place, that I could do without it.  And you know what?  I can do without it.  I'll just use something else.

My friends, don't let fear bind you.  If fear of regret is holding you back, keep this in mind: if you really do have need of it in the future, it can be replaced.  It is only stuff.

If that's not enough, try this: put the items you're wanting to get rid of but thinking you may need them someday in a box.  Label it with the date, and a year from now, anything that is still in the box, because you haven't used it in that time, you can release.

Yes, my friends, it is inevitable that you will feel regret at some point, but to me the possibility of a twinge of future regret is worth the freedom I feel by not having to hold on to more and more stuff.

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