I don’t know if it’s due to an exceeding opposition towards minimalism in general, but lately I’ve noticed quite a few articles on decluttering and regret. These posts provide warnings to beginner minimalists and eager declutterers alike, informing them about what happens if you declutter too much; You might regret it.
Some of the articles has been written by storage and organizing furniture manufacturers such as Ikea and Clas Ohlson. In their defense, people ridding themselves of clutter instead of storing them is bad for business. They do, after all, make money from people that have clutter that needs storage and organizing. And so, it probably makes sense for them to persuade people to hold on to their stuff and store it, as opposed to ridding themselves of it.
Others mean well
Other articles have been written by people that found themselves in a situation where their decluttering ended in regret. In the eagerness of their decluttering spree, they ended up throwing away something that had sentimental value to them. As such, they’re giving others a friendly warning that this might happen to them, too, if they’re not careful. But should we be vary of decluttering because we might end up regretting our decisions later?
I’ve been decluttering with a heavy hand the last couple of years. Most of the time, it has been nothing short of freeing. My living space feels lighter, and I have more space to live the life I desire, with the people, the animals and the stuff I cherish. Does this mean I don’t know what the regretting declutterers are talking about?
No. Of course I do.
Some time last year, I decluttered my old childhood room at my parent’s place. Shocked by the amount of stuff I’d kept over the years (I mean, I’d literally saved everything (!)), I knew that all the items kept in this room were stuff I never missed in my day-to-day life. Most of the items I didn’t even remembered having owned.
Of course, upon seeing them, I remembered. I’d for instance been an avid dolphin figurine collector in my youth, and on the shelves in my room I found numerous dolphin figurines displayed. With my new minimalist mindset, of course, I would never have purchased these figurines in the first place. And most of them, quite frankly, felt like wasted space and clutter. So I held on to a couple, but I threw out plenty, too.
The worst part of it all, was that I ended up throwing away my favorite: a steel construction with two dolphins in a wire that, if nudged, would hit a blue ball in a chain with their noses. I guess I didn’t realize it was my favorite until after I threw it out. And I did not foresee the heartache to follow. Ok, I am exaggerating a bit here. But, of all the things I’ve decluttered over the years, this is my biggest regret.
I can’t explain why, exactly. This dolphin figurine does not fit how I currently envision decorating a space. And it has no other purpose than being displayed on the shelf and occasionally nudging it to see the dolphins hit the blue ball. Yet, it was my favorite piece in my entire collection. So, that part of me is probably grieving the loss of it now.
I’m not going to lie. It’s a fair chance that you might experience similar heartaches from time to time, on your decluttering journey. It happens. But, does that mean that you should declutter with less eager going forward? My answer would be a heartfelt and confident ‘no’. I think that to fear decluttering because of possible regret is the wrong way to go.
Yes, you might declutter items and end up regretting it later. And yes, it might hurt. Chances are, you can’t undo it once it’s happened. But not clearing out useless belongings because of this risk is not the way to go. Because, remember all the benefits of decluttering?
Stop the regret, not the decluttering.
The way I see it is: We should not deal with the possibility of regret by avoiding situations that can take us there at all costs. Rather, we should deal with it by shifting our mindset in a way where we let go of our regrets. Basically, what I am saying is; we should stop wallowing in our feelings of regret. Yes, I managed to throw away a dolphin figurine that mattered to me. And yes, you might end up throwing away something that matter to you.
In the greater scheme of things, does it really matter that much? My dolphin figurine, for example. It was just standing on the shelf collecting dust. And even now, in a situation of regret, I don’t want it back to put it on a shelf in my current home. I’m just grieving over it now, because I know that it is gone and that I will never see it again. Yet, I wasn’t seeing it before, either. So, honestly, it wasn’t of any true value to the person I am today.
A part of life.
To put it bluntly, grief and regret is a part of life. We have things, we lose things, and we miss (some of them) when they’re gone. Even so, we should not shield ourselves from these natural feelings. We should confront them and deal with them.
And if our feelings of grief and regret are irrational, we should find ways to let go of them, too. Not use them as excuses to sabotage our journey to a simpler, clutter-free life.