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Things I Miss

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Something I hear a lot when people talk about minimalism or simple living is ‘What if I miss my stuff?’ , ‘What if I get rid of something and wish I hadn’t?’  Because everyone is different I can’t answer these questions for you but I can tell you the things I miss.

There are two areas I hear these questions pop up with:

  • First is with memory items – What if I wish I hadn’t gotten rid of this piece?  What if  my kids or family wishes I kept it?
  • Second is with necessary items – What if I get rid of this and need it later? Isn’t it expensive to buy it again?

These questions are stalling you.   They seem logical in your head but it is your mind going against the change you are looking for in your life.  These are good questions, and they are something to consider, but they have the power to take over your simple minimalist plans and derail them.  Somehow, when we start going through our house looking for stuff everything seems like a need or a memory… but it isn’t.

…I don’t want to say grandma’s china is poison… but it could be.  If you have been reading and dreaming about simplifying your space for a while now but the action part is coming along too slow it might be because you are getting stuck on these questions.

Things I miss

As we went though cutting our belongings down drastically during the last 18-ish months I definitely had those feelings.  I think many different backgrounds can make cutting back hard, my background was poor and thrifty.  I grew up in a single parent home and we lived many years on welfare and child support.  Money, and everything that came with it like cloths and food, were always in short supply.  Now that I am grown up and married we have scrimped and saved to be self-employed, debt-free, and to allow me to stay home with the kids.  We never just threw things away easily because everything was valuable.

That being said, on the plus side, what we had (and then got rid of) was not very valuable.  Most of the things we had in the house were purchased used or at a bargain.

As I sit her typing I am trying to figure out how to explain what we miss now.  I don’t want it to sound ‘flowery’ or ‘perfect’ but we really don’t miss the things we got rid of.  Deciding to get rid of them was hard, actually handing them over often had lots of doubt mixed in, but a few months later…I have to think hard to remember what we actually did get rid of.

  • There was the time I accidentally got rid of both my irons when I meant to only give away one.
  • I still don’t really know why we sold our dinning room table as almost one of the first things… we ended up buying another one.
  • Sometimes when I sit and play guitar I miss my first guitar that just seemed to be a part of me and circled the globe with me when I was younger (I had two guitars and kept the better one).

But, these are all very minor.   I have a new iron, the new dinning room set fits better into our small space, and I only need one guitar.

We almost had a tragedy a few weeks ago after we delivered a box of toys to Goodwill when my son thought he had given away his favorite stuffed animal (both my kids change out favorites almost weekly).  He was all sad and depressed until about a week later when he actually looked in his toy box and found it sitting there waiting for him.

Otherwise, in all the boxes that went in multiple trips to Goodwill, all the stuff we sold on garage sale, all the stuff we sold on Craigslist or gave away to friends and family – I hardly remember what it was, much less miss it.

I have heard other minimalists say similar things as well.

So the questions are real and normal, but the chances are greater that you won’t even remember the item a year from now.  Instead of focusing your thinking on the reasons for keeping items, shift your focus to the simple life you are wanting to create.  Don’t think of all the ‘what ifs’ – think about the goal.

Is there something that is getting in the way of your simplifying?  (if you are reading RSS join us in the comments)

2 weeks until the launch of Simple Living – 30 days to less stuff and more life.

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  1. I go through this every time I decide to purge. But, every time I purge, I am able to let go of a little bit more. I do think about the future and my kids or grandkids going through my stuff one day. Mainly because my Nana has kept everything, and she has some seriously cool stuff. But, to continue to store and keep it through the years, I’m not sure I am ready for that type of commitment 🙂

    • Heather, that is how it has been for me. Lots of purging with a little bit more each time 🙂

  2. Jennifer G Jennifer G

    Of all our moves (12 in the last 14 yrs) and all our decluttering there are only 2 things I regret getting rid of. One was a coffee maker that we never used, but as soon as we got rid of it, we discovered our appreciation of coffee and I wished I had not let it go. Now we have a coffee maker that we LOVE, so it worked out for us. The other thing I let go of (unintentionally) was an ivy plant given to us at my dad’s funeral. It somehow managed to get left behind in our last move. Those plants live practically FOREVER, so I had intended to keep it as long as I could keep it alive (at the time, I had managed to do that for about 5 years)

    • sorry about the plant. … I might have to look into that, I have a pretty bad track record with plants.

  3. In all my years of purging, there is very little I’ve shed that I do miss. However, I have had to replace items numerous times. I have to somewhat disagree with your analysis that it’s all fear holding people back from those questions. Often, I think it’s a bit of sanity that forces us to ask them and truly analyze them. I’m a firm believer that there are things we minimalists get rid of just because we can, because it makes us “feel” better. I think more of what we minimalists need to analyze is why is it that “things” that can be/are useful and are pricey bug us so much. I’m actually having to learn more to live with items rather than just purge…because you can rationalize anything any way you want to make yourself feel better. For minimalists, it’s generally rationalizing that we don’t need things, that we can get by with the tiniest amount possible. For others, it’s that things do have value, and they prefer to stick with the value rather than shedding it because its presence in their lives causes no mental anguish. I truly believe that as minimalists, we should get away from coercing people to purge and instead teach people how to make conscious choices and that there is no right/wrong reason to keep an item since everyone’s perspective is different (granted, I don’t think this is a vote for hoarding, but I think there needs to be some middle ground between the two extremist camps).

    • I can see that too. I have another post started that is along those lines. I agree minimalists can take non-materialism and put it in the same spot as materialism… which still has the focus on stuff. thanks for your comment 🙂

  4. Elizabeth Kane Elizabeth Kane

    I remember when I was just beginning my minimalist attitude. It was so hard to get past those top two questions you wrote about: memory items (will I miss them?) and necessary items (what if I need this later?). They were the same questions that my friends and family were asking me when they started to see what I was giving away, donating, or throwing out. So on top of my own doubt and worry, I heard theirs as well. I’d second guess myself after they’d give me that “are you crazy?” look. I’d take a few minutes to remind myself rationally why I was getting rid of it in the first place. Sometimes I still go back to that mental drawing board, but I’m beginning to question myself a little less with every toss.

    I think part of that is because I’m finally starting to see the difference it’s having on my life. Now that I’m making a small space for fewer things, I have more room for what I want my day to day life to be more full of: experiences and people. Which is the whole point of that “living life to the fullest” idea in my opinion.

    • Yes. They are real and important questions… but when we are trying to re-train our thinking they can get in the way. Congrats on your progress 🙂 Thanks for your comment

    • Naomi Naomi

      When I started purging years ago, the memory items were the worst to get rid of. I kept a few items that belonged to my mom (who passed away) and a few items to remind me kids of their childhood. But all those items fit in 1 box.
      I took pictures of all the other items, and placed those pictures in my “Keepsake” folder. Now and then I’ll look through the pictures and really enjoy looking at all the items (and memories). I enjoy it a lot more than dusting, polishing, repairing all these items when they were still in my house!!!

      • Awesome! Thanks for sharing. I have my memories in a tub too 🙂

      • Elizabeth Kane Elizabeth Kane

        The memory items are always the hardest for me to get rid of too. I have to get really honest with myself when I go through them, picking out what I *want* to keep and remember (not just the things other people say I “should” be keeping -that’s a guilt feeling I can’t stand getting from my distant relatives). After all, these are *your* memories of your past. No one can truly know what the items mean to you, but you. I want memory items to remind me of the people who I loved in my life in a fond way – I think that’s the way they’d want me to remember them. And I want memory items from my past that can bring a smile to my face. Some of the items I go through pull me into an emotional territory I don’t like. And if it’s more of a painful memory than a good one, I try cutting it out.

        I like your idea of taking pictures of the items you want to remember, but not take room in your house. Next time I go through my closet, I’m going to try that!

  5. Kay C Kay C

    I find a third thing…which I think holds me up more than your two bullet points. I grew up poor. So I look at what I have and can’t put it in the Goodwill pile because I earned the money that paid for that. It’s mine. Whether it’s second hand, new, used, sits for years on a shelf…it’s mine. It’s stuff I don’t use or look at or need. It’s just STUFF.

    As for your first bullet, I read a great idea on a blog about putting your child’s school projects, artwork, etc together on a table and photographing it. Then you can print a picture of multiple projects and get rid of the original things from the past years. This is on my to do list to downsize.

    For your second bullet I had a conversation with my mom on an item she gave me year’s ago that I held onto because she gave it to me. We ended up in tearful joy when she said that it was never an obligation to keep it (I don’t even remember what it was) and I felt ‘released’ some how to get rid of it and more. I realized sentimental items aren’t all we make them seem. I’ll hold onto something really important, like my Grandma’s garnet. But, just because someone I love gave it to me, doesn’t mean it’s attached to me forever.

    Now if I can work on getting rid of things even though I bought them…lol.

    With all that said, I’ve now read the first few pages of Simple Living and I’m off to go through some of my closets. Yes, plural…closets and totes of clothes.

    Just starting one New Year’s Resolution early thanks to you!

    • Kay, great idea on the kids stuff, I will have to try that. Right now my kids don’t want to keep too many things, but I don’t get rid of anything they are attached to 🙂

      Glad you are liking the book!

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