Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Things to ask yourself when throwing things away (or selling them)

Getting rid of  "stuff" is hard to do.  Your own mind may try to deceive you into keeping junk!

Selling the vacation home,  there is a lot of stuff we don't need.  And a lot more we are finding that we are scratching our head over.  Why did we save this?  What on earth were we thinking?

It is a good idea to go through your house on occasion and clean out the junk.  Have a yard sale (or garage sale, tag sale, jumble, or whatever they call it where you live).  Sell stuff.  Donate stuff to charity.  Throw things away.  The main point is to get rid of clutter.

We all make the same lame-ass excuses to keep things. If you are going through things, be ruthless and if you find yourself saying the following things, it is a good tipoff the item should be sold or discarded.  All of the following are the excuses used by HOARDERS to clog up their homes with GARBAGE.  To avoid becoming a hoarder, you need to be pro-active and stop yourself from doing these sorts of things.  Stop buying junk!  Get rid of the junk you have!  And don't take things because they were free!

Anyway, here is the list:

It's worth something!  This is a comment most often heard.  You can't throw something away, because it has value.  If so, then sell it.  No one wants to buy it?  Then it may not have much value.  Whether something has inherent value is irrelevant.  It has to have value to you.  So if something you own is something you do not use and never will use (if you haven't touched it in 6 months to a year, chances are, you will never use it again) then sell it or dispose of it.

It's still usable!  Again, if something has value, then sell it.  If it is "usable" then there should be a market for it.  Even if no one will pay for it, you can put it on freecycle or donate it to charity.  Thus, you are not "wasting" the item.  But keeping it because it is functional is not rational reasoning.  It has to be functional to you.

It's still mostly good! (even though there are broken parts): Once something is broken, it is broken.  And the cost of fixing things today - even if you can find a repairman - is prohibitive.  So a shoe with a hole in it is garbage, as is a sweater with a tear in it (unless you are handy with a needle and thread - but if not, don't put it aside on the premise that you'll learn to sew someday!).  Broken is broken.  Even if 90% of the parts are working, it is the 10% that is broken that makes it nonfunctional or undesirable.

I might need that some day!  This is the battle cry of the hoarder.  "Some day" you 'll wish you kept that old jar of rusty screws, because maybe there is one in there that would fit a project you are working on.  Of course, you could also go down to Lowe's and BUY new screws if you needed them - they are cheap, and using new fasteners is usually a better idea in any repair.  Again, if you have not used it in 6 months to a year, chances are you will never use it.  You will end up throwing away or selling things you might need later on.  That is part and parcel of the deal.  You can always go out and buy new ones (or find them for free or cheap, used).  But to keep a mountain of garbage on the premise that there is one item "you might need" in a decade, is just hoarder talk.

It has sentimental value!  Everything has potential sentimental value.  The key is to keep the really good stuff and discard the rest.  You could end up with trunkloads of junk if you kept every birthday card ever sent to you.  And let's face it - most of those cards were just purchased off the shelf after a moment's consideration.  And living in the past is never a very good idea.  Too many sentimental objects and souvenirs prevents you from moving forward and living in the today.  Yes, I am a hard-hearted unsentimental individual.  You know what?  Getting all weepy and then drowning in a sea of crap is not "sentiment" - just insanity.  Stop making excuses!

I paid money for that!  Well, in most cases we do pay money for things.  But eventually they wear out or are no longer used.  Keeping something because you paid for it is just nonsensical jingoistic thinking.  If it has value, sell it.  If not, toss it.  How much you paid for it in the past is irrelevant in terms of its usefulness today.  Live in the present! 

I had planned to use that for....  We buy things with plans in mind.  Plans change.  Time to move on.  If you still have the receipt, take it back!  Otherwise, sell it or dispose of it, if you haven't used it and have no realistic plans to use it.

Someone might need that some day!  Psychologists say that one motivation of the hoarder is the "save the world" mentality.  Someone, someday, will need a left-handed metric monkey-wrench, and the hoarder will be there - with one in hand - to save the day.  That is, if they can find it under the mountain of junk they live in.  The idea that someone might need something is just a fantasy, not an example of realistic thinking.  If you find yourself thinking this way, it is a sign of sickness and a sign you need to move on...

It doesn't cost me anything to keep it!  I wrote a blog entry on this subject.  If something has value, it has an opportunity cost to keep it, particularly if it is a depreciating asset.  When you clog up your life with junk, there is a definite cost associated in terms of your mental and financial health.  "It doesn't cost anything to keep it" is just another lie the hoarder tells themselves.

That's "good" - why throw it away?  Then sell it.  What, it has no value?  Then it doesn't matter if it is still "good".  Old analog televisions, VCRs, CRT monitors - you can't give these away these days.  No one wants them, and updated modern versions (flat screen TVs, blue-ray players, flat screen monitors) are far better and cost very little.  If you have no use for something, get rid of it.  And contriving a use for an older object you are not using is just another example of self-delusion.

It's too ugly to put on display, but too good to toss out.  The toss it out or sell it.  One reason so many antiques are ugly, is that they ended up in the attic when their original owners didn't want to use them.  So special occasion items and novelties tend to survive in antique stores, while everyday wear tends to go to the trash.  Keeping grandma's ugly vase because it is "good" or "old" is stupid, if you hate it from an aesthetic standpoint.  Sell it for money, or failing that, toss it out.

That was Grandma's!  Again, who cares?  Grandma had a lot of crap, like everyone else.  Just because she owned it doesn't make it worth more, unless she was a celebrity.  If that was the case, then sell it to a collector.  But, I suspect it was not, so toss it if you can't sell it.

It's an heirloom! Same as above.  If you like it, put it on display.  If it is an ugly eyesore, then throw it away.  Keeping ugly heirlooms makes no sense at all.  We inherited a box-load of family photos, including tintypes and daguerreotypes.  Unfortunately, no one thought to label these things as to who was in the pictures or when they were taken, choosing instead to rely on the oral recitation of each generation, which of course, got cloudier over time. When Grandma died, no one remembered whose face it was in the cloudy tintype.  Sad, too.  So do you keep this picture of some unidentified stranger?  Why?  Not labeling and indexing old photos is just hoarding them.  Put them in an album, label them, put them in a format where people can see and read them.  A box of old photos with no context is merely junk, I'm afraid.

People collect these!  Yea, but YOU don't.  Leave collecting to the collectors.  Chances are, your collectible is worth little.  Most amateurs make this mistake.  If you want to take on collecting as a hobby, then start it as a focused hobby with professional interest.  Just hoarding disparate things, on the other hand, doesn't make you a collector, only a hoarder.

It was FREE!   This is the worst excuse of all.  If it was free, it is worth what you paid for it.  The logo bag from the convention seemed desirable at the time.  That was last year.  Time to throw the bag away, now.  Free stuff is probably the best candidate for the TRASH if it is not something you are using.

If you find yourself using ANY of these justifications, then chances are, you need to get rid whatever it is that is in your hands at the time you are saying any of the above.

The long and the short of it is, if you are not using something, and have no bona fide intent to use something in the next 6-12 months, there is no point in hanging onto it  for any of the reasons given above.  Sell it, donate it, toss it!

Keepsakes and treasures that spend years in a darkened closet, viewed only briefly when you move, are never going to be used.

Junk that is too ugly to put out, but "too valuable" to throw away, should be sold.  If there are no buyers, then it is just junk.

And yea, Grandma owned that ugly vase.  It survived because she shoved it in a closet 70 years ago - thinking it was too ugly then.  Grandma owned a lot of crap, but that doesn't justify keeping all of it.

Putting things in moldy basements, overheated attics, or darkened closets is not "owning" things - just letting them go to waste.  Better to liquidate while they still have some value, than to let them rot in obscurity.

Keeping things because they are "collectible" when  you are not a collector is just foolish.  If you are not a collector of something, then you really have no idea what the items are worth in the first place. Amateurs should not collect coins or stamps - chances are, in both cases, they will end up with worthless collections.

And when something is "partially" broken, chances are, it is shot.  Saying a convertible top on a car is "mostly good" because there is only one hole in it, misses the point. Once holed, it needs to be replaced, period.  Similarly, clothes with holes in them, or appliances or other items with broken parts are likely to be SHOT, as the cost of repairing them (and the non-availability of parts) makes it a non-starter.  So your "slightly" broken blender is just trash, not "worth something".  Let it go!

Living with less is less stress.  Once you realize how you've cluttered up your life with garbage, you can start to thin things out.  And you needn't be a full-blown hoarder to have a life clogged with junk.  Garages, basements, closets, attics, and storage lockers  can "hide" the hoarding disorder malady from public view.

Like the closet alcoholic, the closet hoarder can hide his affliction - often literally in the closet.

Mental hygiene takes effort.  And oftentimes, a dumpster.