I can't believe I own so much stuff. The past few weeks have been spent moving into an apartment with my girlfriend. Her possessions were of much higher quality than mine, which made it seem necessary to get rid of everything in my current apartment. There were several moments of anxiety over whether or not I should keep, say, my NASCAR collectibles or the posters depicting every single-malt scotch of the world. I tossed a huge collection of pornographic DVDs into the woods for a young fellow to find and enjoy. Furniture that I've used for years was unceremoniously given to a local thrift store. In the end, I'm a much better—less attached—person without all of these possessions, but it wasn't easy to just give it all up. Here are some questions that I asked myself that you might consider the next time you consolidate.
When was the last time you used this?
An electric chicken fryer, billiard balls and racquetball equipment are all extremely useful items to have on hand but only if you use them on a regular basis. The last time I played racquetball was easily 2006. I used to be a member of a billiards league, but even then, I didn't have any reason to own a set of balls. I think I attempted frying chicken once with an old girlfriend. She's now married and has a 3-year-old daughter. And yet, all of these items were stuffed into the back of a closet. Asking myself this question allowed me to see I didn't need any of these items anymore. The past is the past. I've grown out of homemade fried chicken and into a state of bliss.
How much room does it take up?
I brought with me to the new place enough books to fill seven separate bookshelves. My books were the only items in my former apartment that had immunity status. Yes, they take up room, but having a well-stocked library is important to both me and my and co-habitant. NASCAR memorabilia was not as important to my girlfriend, which is why it had to go. We also saw no reason to both bring a nearly identical set of pots and pans to our new kitchen. Redundancy doesn't fly when you're dealing with 720 square feet. I also let go of a leather chair, some art deco chairs and a gorgeous Victorian dresser, which was really ugly but really well-made, too.
What is the nostalgic/sentimental value?
I've never been an overly nostalgic or sentimental person, especially when dealing with possessions. I don't have a collection of photographs that I cherish or a treasured family heirloom. To be honest, I care more about individual experiences than I do a T-shirt that was owned by my late grandfather or my dad's lucky fishing rod. However, my girlfriend is the complete opposite. Everything she owns has a story and sentimental value, from her clothing to furniture. She even has a collection of plush animals that made "the cut" into our new apartment. And you know what? This is OK. Each of us is different, and we have attachments to ridiculous things. But I can also understand how this could lead to a compulsion if the behavior weren't kept in check. Sometimes it's better just to let things go, even if you think you couldn't live without it. The chances are pretty good that you'll survive.
Does it actually work?
The idea that a person can collect a lot of broken things to be fixed at a later point in time is a noble endeavor, but only if there's a good chance they'll see it to the end. How many times have you visited a person's basement (something I do often) only to find it piled high with broken electronic equipment, furniture, etc.? This is something I've only lately become more conscious about as I go about life. What are the chances that I'm actually going to take the time out to restore this table? Am I actually going to spend the time to find the parts and fix this old car? The answer is always "probably not," which is not a good enough reason to justify hauling it into my house or backyard. Get rid of it.
What are the benefits of keeping it?
Storage units are available at the new apartment, but both my girlfriend and I agreed early on that we weren't going to use one. First, they cost an extra $50 dollars per month, which we'd rather spend on a nice dinner or concert. Secondly, we thought that if we weren't going to use the stored items within the year anyway then it makes sense to give them to people who would. There are local organizations/thrift outlets that will take almost anything off your hands and make those items available to people who need them. I gave my old, slightly used mattress and box springs to the Bridge refugee benefit. Then, I donated all of my furniture to a local thrift store for the tax write-off. If you ask yourself the above questions, and you can't come up with a legitimate reason to keep an item, then don't. It's that simple.