“I Wish I Hadn’t Gotten Rid of That!”

garment hanger

Early in August, as area schools were starting back, I was preparing for a news interview on WJHL’s Daytime Tri-Cities. The topic I chose to present was organizing for the school year. I was thinking back to how hectic those school mornings could be, and trying to remember anything I had done when my girls were young that alleviated some of the stress. As I gathered items for the interview, I remembered one in particular that was a favorite organizing tool. We used this particular item to help plan ahead for choosing an outfit for school. It was a hanging garment bag with five pockets. It was pink and purple (perfect for a family with two girls), and the five sections were labeled with the days of the school week Monday through Friday. On Sunday evenings (if I had kept up with the laundry to make this possible), we would pick out a school outfit for every day of the week. This prevented that last-minute scramble and potential argument about what to wear. On a stressful school morning, anything that can save just a bit of time and hassle is invaluable. I loved that garment hanger!

When the girls were older and were more independent in the school morning routine, we no longer needed that garment hanger. I held onto it for a little while, but I eventually decided to donate it. I didn’t think about it again until that day in early August of this year. I did a cursory glance in the attic but was pretty sure I no longer had it. I remember saying, “I sure wish I hadn’t gotten rid of that thing. It would have been perfect for this interview!” I decided to try to find one like it, but of course I wasn’t able to find one quickly. I suppose I might have been able to find an equivalent one, and with Amazon Prime quick shipping, I still might have gotten it in time. But I decided that using a generic one (not labeled with the days of the week or pink and purple) would be just fine. So I purchased one from Target, and sure enough, it was sufficient to make the point. I hated that I didn’t still have that particular item, but in the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t really that important. It was one of about 10-15 items that I used for the interview, and I don’t think it mattered that much.

Do I wish I had kept the garment hanger so that I could have used it? Yes, but not really. Let me explain. Eric and I are both always eager to get rid of things we don’t need. We love the freedom that comes from decluttering. We consider the number of times when we say, “I sure wish I hadn’t gotten rid of that” a very small price to pay. Isn’t it interesting that we tend to only remember the times when we need something we got rid of, but not the times when we don’t need it? Every other August, I could have said, “Well, another beginning of the school year is here, and once again, we don’t need that garment hanger.” The same could be said of the hundreds of other items that we have gotten rid of over the years. Day after day, year after year, we still don’t need them. And the decluttered spaces are still there to remind us that we made the right choice.

Eric was recently listening to the Michael Lewis book The Undoing Project . It tells the story of Nobel-prize-winning psychologist Danny Kahneman and his groundbreaking work with Amos Tversky. In one of the memorable quotes from the book, Tversky said, “Unless you are kicking yourself once in a month for throwing something away, you aren’t throwing enough away.” When I consider how infrequently that happens to me, it only confirms my opinion even more.

Here’s another factor to consider: If we choose to keep something that we haven’t used in a while on the off chance that we might need it in the future, when that time comes, we might not even remember that we have it! Or more likely, we won’t be able to find it because of all the clutter. Additionally, we might be able to find it, but it may have been damaged over the years because it wasn’t stored correctly.

I hope this example is helpful in your decluttering attempts. And I hope you find that like me, the regret of not keeping something you eventually need is more than offset by the innumerable benefits of owning less.

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