Friday, December 30, 2016

Mental Hurdles: "Irreplaceability"

When deciding the fate of your unwanted/unused items, irreplaceability is a valid concern. What if you regret having sold, donated, or trashed the item at a future point in time and can't replace it?

Let's dive in!

Mass-Produced Items

This is the stuff to get rid of if you're having any doubts about its usefulness.

If the item was sold in great quantities at some point in recent history, you won't have to search long for a replacement—you'll likely find the same item on eBay or other resale sites with minimal to moderate effort. (If the hunt will be long-term due to the item's relative rareness, set up a search and "follow" it on eBay; you can opt to receive emails when a new listing that meets your search criteria has been added.) If "perhaps needing it again one day" is a concern, be sure to note the item's brand/size/name/pattern/etc before passing it on. Realistically, though, the chances of you actually wanting one of these items back are slim.

If your mass-produced item was a gift from a friend or family member, the points mentioned in the next section will apply to you as well.

Hand-Made Items

Hand-made items are truly one of a kind and are, therefore, irreplaceable. Items we've made ourselves might be easier to part with, but those from family and friends—well, at the risk of sounding ungrateful, hand-made gifts can unfortunately become burdensome if they're not useful to the recipient.

1. Offer to give the item back to its creator. Don't frame it as a blatant "please take this burdensome thing off my hands" request; instead, give a valid (but more socially acceptable) reason for giving it back. For example, maybe you're worried your cat will tear that hand-embroidered pillow to shreds (as it has gleefully shredded your decor in the past), or maybe you're unable to use the item due to a lifestyle change and want it to go to someone who can enjoy it to its full potential.

If your approach comes from a place of respect, both you and the gift-giver will feel much less awkward about the situation.

2. Give it to someone who will genuinely enjoy it and treat it well.

3. List it on Etsy or eBay. (This assumes that you won't face major lash-back from the giver for having done so!) Explain its story and/or background in your listing to help the buyer further appreciate the thought and care that went into creating the item.

4. Store it in a dedicated "guilt items" bin. This is a last-resort measure for those items that you've been bullied into keeping. There may come a time where you can safely part with these pesky little shits, but keeping them may be easier than dealing with the gift-giver's wrath over you having given their items away.  Pack the item up carefully so that it doesn't get crushed or damaged while in storage. You won't be rid of these items anytime soon, but at least you won't have to look at them!

"Junky" Items

Junky items are usually mass-produced, yet unique in that they can't be easily replaced. They're the ticket stubs, the souvenirs of your travels, the scraps of paper you've stashed in boxes; little bits and pieces that are "pretty" and/or serve as reminders of things you've experienced. It's the stuff you're expected to not want and to throw away, but guess what?

This one's a keeper.

I love junky items—they're one of my favorite things to hoard. I save anything and everything that's aesthetically pleasing to me. Holographic makeup packaging? Check. Clothing hang-tags? Check. Used Christmas cups from Starbucks? Check. Empty boxes and tins that could potentially hold other things?! CHECK!

Because this is my favorite kind of junk, I've found some interesting ways to deal with it that don't require a lot of sacrifice.

1. Display the junk prominently. For example, those Starbucks cups I mentioned are currently out on display as part of my Christmas decor. If you're holding on to random stuff that most people would think is kind of nuts, own it. Be creative with it to the point where you make them second-guess what the definition of "junk" really is!

Small framed collage / custom "magazines"

2. Display the junk as part of a larger collection. Some ideas:

  • I love these zip-lock folders because you can fill them to the brim with junk, but in an artfully-arranged way. I'm a tactile kind of person, so picking one of these folders up and looking at it gives me a sense of joy that all those little scraps might not be able to give me individually (as I feel far less guilty about them when they're contained in a common location). 
    • Items that are important to you but not much for looking at can go in the center of the folder. They'll be hidden behind prettier pages, but they're there in case you ever want to look through them in the future.
  • In middle school, I had the idea to get two huge glass frames from Hobby Lobby and fill them with my grandmother's favorite photos, cards, and paper scraps. (The love of random junk RUNS IN THE FAMILY!) The result is a beautiful collage that's still hanging in her art studio to this day. Consider doing the same for your favorite cards, magazine clippings, hangtags, and anything else that's flat and something you'd like to look at often. (Smaller frames work too!)
  • Create your own custom "magazine" using your favorite torn-out magazine pages, a clear binder, and page protectors.
  • Fill and display a clear vase with a collection of small miscellaneous items (small plastic animals, toy cars, army men, etc).

Example of aforementioned zip-lock folder

3. Give the junk a practical application.

  • Use "pretty" paper/plastic coffee cups you've saved to hold pens/paintbrushes/etc.
  • Use a "pretty"container you received one thing in to store another—for example, using the tin box a gift card came in to hold something practical (ex: spare keys) or even a limited, specific collection of items (ex: unusual coins you don't want getting mixed up with your normal change).
  • Wrap the outside of a cleaned-out cashew tin with decorative duct tape and use it to hold small packets of product (salt, ketchup, hand wipes, etc) or other collections (misc. toys, rose petals, etc). In lieu of duct tape, consider using a clear sealant like mod podge to adhere a collage of interesting paper scraps around the outside of the tin instead.
  • While not junk per se, use stuffed animals to "fill" a bean bag. (This is particularly great for anyone who has a lot of stuffed animals they can't bear to part with but don't want to display!)

In considering why I have trouble parting with items from each of those three categories, I've realized that I keep mass-produced items because I worry I'll regret having gotten rid of them, unwanted hand-made items (and unwanted gifts in general) out of guilt, and junky items for their beauty and/or potential. Naturally, the "mass-produced item" category makes up the majority of my problem areas, and why wouldn't it? I'm paralyzed by the fear of making a mistake, so those items stay. The "junky items" category is where I'm most organized, and I suspect it's because I had a better attitude about those kinds of items from the start—it's exciting to organize and display these kinds of items, so I think I've been holding on to most of them for the right reasons.

Having introspected over this issue at length, my takeaway is this: if it's replaceable, don't sweat it. If it isn't replaceable, try not to let fear dictate what you do—and don't—keep in your life.

* If your budget is extremely tight, the benefit of keeping some unused items (particularly clothing and appliances) may outweigh the benefit of having the extra space, as you may have difficulty replacing these items in the future. If you haven't already done so, consider selling any truly useless-to-you goods you might have (ex. an ice cream maker you never use) and storing the useful excess in a "hard times" box or four for some peace of mind going forward.

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