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From Regret to Relief: 3 Mindset Hacks for Letting Go of Costly Clutter

March 21, 20245 min read

Oh, that was really expensive so I’m going to hold onto that!

I hear this from clients all the time, and my response is always - well, do you like it? Do you use it? How is it serving you? Of course if someone spent money on something and loves it and uses it and it enriches their life, that is a clear thing to keep! But so often people regret having bought the thing, they never liked it as much as they thought they would, or they haven’t used it in years. Bottom line - these things they are keeping because of the price, no longer serve them.

If that resonates, it might be helpful right now to identify and even grab an item that you don’t like, don’t want, or isn’t serving you, but you are holding onto because of how much it cost.

Before we get into some mindset shifts, I have my own confession - my own embarrassing example of this situation...

Home Organizing Chicago Save Money

Probably 10 years ago I was browsing a cute stationery boutique and I picked up a bronze, geometric money clip. It was a fancy boutique, so prices weren’t clearly displayed. When I brought the clip to the counter, the very nice owner rang it up for me and it was over $100. My friend and I exchanged shocked looks but I felt trapped and like I couldn’t back out of the exchange, so I paid and became the owner of a very expensive money clip. I’ve used that clip maybe 5 times. Turns out I’m not a money clip girlie. But up until now I’ve held onto it because of the price tag. Not to fret though, I have a plan to let go of it in March 2024!

Back on track, there are 3 mindset shifts to try out:

1. Thank the item for the lesson it taught you.

Marie Kondo suggests that you thank every item that you let go of for the way it served you. If you have something that you never used, she reminds us that items teach us things, even when we don't use them. So, think about what lesson the item you chose taught you. Maybe it was a few (expensive) lessons, like mine -

  • I won't actually use a money clip, no matter how cute it is.

  • It’s okay to ask questions before buying things.

  • Be confident sticking to your boundaries and budget in stores.

Now that I've learned those lessons, I don't need the physical reminder and can let the clip go.

Your turn, look at the item you chose. What lesson(s) did this item teach you? Maybe it's an expensive scarf that you never seem to wear, and you learned that you don't like that color. Or a fancy hair dryer, but the lesson is that you value an extra 20 minutes sleeping more than you value having a certain hairstyle. Dig deep on why you don't use the thing and that should lead you to the lesson.

2. Shift your money-saving attention to your purchasing habits.

Mindful Shopping Home Organization

I saw an amazing reel on Instagram the other day (check it out by @downsizeupgrade) where it was pointed out that if you think more about the price of something while you are decluttering than you did when you purchased the item, then that might be an issue.

What do we mean here? Keeping something that you don’t like, don’t use, and don’t need does not save you money. If you don’t like, don’t use, and don’t need it, then you aren’t going to spend money buying it again, so you don’t save money buy keeping the item.

The opportunity you have to save money is by not buying the item in the first place. So if you are concerned about how much things cost as you are decluttering them, then you really need to look at how to be more mindful when you are shopping.

Keeping the thing does not save you money, in fact it adds to your stress, clutter, and mental load, which all typically end up costing you money. Letting go and then addressing your purchasing habits is the best way to save money.

3. Calculate the cost of keeping it.

I’ve always been a renter, so I tend to think more along the lines of, "how much am I paying to keep this item?" This could be monetary payment or emotional payment.

The monetary payment is literally how much rent are you paying for that item. I’ll do a little calculation -

  • Looking at a light jacket hanging in your closet, let’s estimate that that takes up a half square foot of space.

  • According to Google, the price per square foot to rent in Chicago is about $3.

  • So the jacket that you don’t like is costing you $1.50 a month. Not too bad until you calculate how long you’ve been storing it (3 years? That’s $54)

coats in a closet home organizer

If I was already mad that I spent $150 on a jacket I never wore, I would be furious to know that my actual investment was up past $200. If you are the same, then really consider, does it make sense to continue paying for those items? Because their real cost goes up every month.

Then there’s also the emotional payment. How do you feel every time you see that jacket hanging in your closet? Is it a surge of guilt for how much you spent on it? Is it embarrassment that it doesn’t fit? Or maybe resentment that your current lifestyle doesn’t have reason to wear the jacket? Those are unnecessary and unhelpful emotional payments that you are making each day. Cut them off!

Bottom line, you deserve to live in a home that is filled with joy, space, and items that you love, NOT a museum for everything you've ever spent money on. It's time to move on, and you can do it!

If you want support sorting through and letting go of items in your house, a professional organizer can help! Click here to schedule a complimentary consultation call with Megan.

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Megan Pilquist

Megan Pilquist is a Chicago-based home organizer who founded Float On Organizing. She specializes in decluttering and systems creation for people and families of all neurotypes.

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