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How to stop keeping things "just in case".

Mar 24, 2024

Breaking the Chains of Clutter: A Path to Psychological Freedom

Over 15 years as a professional organizer, I've observed a common thread among many clients: the deep-seated need to keep everything "just in case." This behaviour often stems from learned habits passed down from parents who may have lived through times when resources were scarce and holding onto items was a necessity rather than a choice. Today, however, this habit can lead to clutter that overruns physical spaces and impacts mental health. In this blog, we'll explore some relatable examples of this behaviour and provide solutions to help break free from the chains of clutter.

Understanding the "Just in Case" Mindset

The "just in case" mindset is rooted in fear and anxiety. It's the fear of being without, regretting discarding something, and the anxiety over potential future scarcity. This can manifest in several ways:

  1. Keeping Old Electronics and Cables: Many of us have a drawer filled with old cell phones, chargers, and cables for electronics we no longer use, justified by the thought that they might come in handy someday.

  2. Saving Magazines and Newspapers: Stacks of old magazines and newspapers can pile up, with the idea that valuable information or memories might be tucked within their pages.

  3. Holding onto Clothes that no longer fit: Closets become filled with clothes that haven't fit for years, kept with the hope that they might fit again someday.

  4. Collecting "useful" items: Everything from empty containers to miscellaneous hardware parts can accumulate, all under the guise of being useful for future projects or repairs.

Strategies to overcome the "just in case" habit

  1. Address the underlying anxiety: Recognize that the need to keep items "just in case" often stems from anxiety about the future. Working on anxiety management techniques, such as mindfulness and grounding exercises, can reduce the perceived need to hold onto physical items for security.

  2. Practice the "one year" rule: If you haven't used an item in the last year, you'll likely not need it. This rule can be especially effective for clothes, kitchen gadgets, and electronics.

  3. Digitize what you can: Many items we hold onto for sentimental reasons or reference (like magazines, newspapers, and documents) can be digitized. This reduces physical clutter while keeping the information accessible.

  4. Focus on the present: Cultivate an appreciation for the space and items you use regularly. Recognizing the value of your current environment can diminish the fear of letting go of the old and unused.

  5. Set limits: Designate specific areas for storage and limit items to those spaces. Once these are full, adopt a "one in, one out" policy to prevent new clutter from accumulating.

  6. Seek support: Sometimes, the emotional attachment to items is too strong to tackle alone. In such cases, working with a professional organizer or a psychologist can provide the support and guidance needed to decide what to keep and let go.

Creating a clutter-free future

Decluttering is not just about creating a more organized space; it's about freeing up mental energy and reducing anxiety, leading to a healthier and more fulfilling life. By addressing the "just in case" mindset, we can break free from the chains of clutter passed down through generations and move towards a future where our possessions support rather than hinder our well-being.

Breaking the habit of keeping everything "just in case" requires a mindful approach and, often, a change in perspective. It's about shifting from a scarcity mindset to one of abundance, recognizing that letting go of physical items does not mean losing security or memories but making room for new experiences and opportunities.


xo Meg

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