Let me tell you a story about a wonderful lady who owned too many things (we can call her Jane). One day, after discovering that she wanted to downsize her belongings in exchange for a simpler life, Jane decided to start letting go of that stuff she didn’t need or love. One by one, Jane rummaged through the bags and boxes and piles and all that clutter, wondering where to begin. She saw all the items that she had long forgotten were there, purchased in a different season of life. Some things she had used, others never used or opened. She started to think – “I know I should let this things go. But I paid good money for them! It would be wasteful to get rid of this. Besides, I might actually use it someday. I should keep it just in case.” Then she closed the boxes, tied up the bags and went on her merry clutter-filled way. Sadly, Jane was no closer to the simplicity she yearned for.
Don’t be like Jane. Jane has lost cash guilt. And I get it.
I know as well as anyone that the path to simplicity can be challenging. It’s not always easy to purge. I have spent almost two years slowly refining our possessions. When I think back, I have done many revisions of removing, many waves of simplifying, each time completed with fresh eyes and a different perspective on what remains. I am not a wasteful person – quite the opposite. I pride myself on upholding the frugal sentiments of ‘wear it out, use it up, make it do or do without’. I balance this resourcefulness however with a clear focus – to really evaluate what I continue to carry, what new things may have found their way in, and what really should or shouldn’t stay.
Aside from the environmental guilt (another important topic for another day), one of the hardest realities to face when you are ready to let something go is the thought of how much you paid for it to begin with. This is often one of the reasons we keep things.
It is important to remember from the outset that the second you handed over your cash (or your card) to purchase that item, the money left.
It was gone then. Dead money.
And if an item has come to the end of it’s function, or value to you, then keeping it does not bring that money home.
I have parted with some rather large and somewhat foolish possessions on my journey to clutter-free. The industrial size gym-standard treadmill purchased during a ‘but I will use it and get fit’ phase is one such item. Costly (oh dear but it was not cheap). Cumbersome (nearly lost a finger trying to drag it into the house). And in the end – completely not worth keeping in our home because I didn’t get the use out of it that I had first intended and it did not add value to my life. I on-sold the item for a reasonable price but did not get the price I paid for it back. I chose to sell it to someone who would (hopefully) let it add value to their life. Because I knew that even though it cost a mint, keeping it out of guilt was futile.
I understand and I have been there.
The things we tell ourselves…
– Perhaps you think that by holding on to an item, you still sort of have the value of the money you spent on it available to you. Unfortunately, you don’t – the item itself can still hold some monetary value (and so on-selling it may reduce the pain) but holding on to it doesn’t add ‘dollar value’ to your bottom line.
– Perhaps you think that once upon a time, you did need it because you bought it. So you probably still have a need for it. If you think really hard, you could probably find a use for it. I am all for the ‘use it up or wear it out’ mantra, and support responsible upcycling, but is this just an excuse to hold on to it? Or does it serve real utility and provide real value in your current season? If not, just let it go.
– Perhaps you are wrestling with a guilty conscience – by letting go of this, am I being wasteful? Impulsive? Is this evidence of a bad decision? As understandable as it is, there is no value to this line of thinking. It is like continuing to punish yourself for a perceived mistake rather than inviting the lesson into your heart and home and moving forward. Rid the clutter once and for all and do take the lesson from your experience. Buy less and live more. But don’t drown in a sea of guilt-related clutter.
Letting go of the #lostcashguilt
If you can responsibly gift, on-sell or donate the item then do so – this is a wonderful way to provide the item an opportunity to contribute value to someone else’s life. If it is beyond repair, bin it.
Part of the beautiful process of purging is in uncovering the truth about our perfectly imperfect behaviours as humans and as consumers. Like I have said and will continue to say – I have lived it and I still live it. When starting on this journey (and even for the more experienced minimalists), it is a constant process of reflection and review. With each cycle of refinement, you will gain clarity and confidence in not only purging the value-less, but in developing superb gatekeeper skills for what does enter your home and your life in the future.
Have you encountered the #lostcashguilt and how do you manage this?
Until next time – simplify, focus, pursue and count your blessings.