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3 reasons we buy and keep junk

It's silly to attach value to something just because it's been hanging around for a while.

By Karen Datko Nov 11, 2010 9:04AM

This guest post comes from Lauren at Richly Reasonable.

 

Last week I told y'all how I'm helping the folks purge their closets, drawers and cabinets of childhood "relics" that the sisters and I had left behind (either intentionally or unintentionally).

 

Apart from some interesting finds -- like my fifth-grade autobiography/political manifesto (because of which I am now likely on some sort of government watch list; crazy, crazy stuff) -- most of my discoveries have been, as expected, junk.

Some of the found items we could have never meant to leave behind, i.e., Hungry Hungry Hippos. Many of the things, however, we simply couldn't bring ourselves to throw away. But that didn't mean we wanted them in our houses either.

 

So why do we keep junk? Better yet, why do we buy it in the first place?

 

We are delusional. I found 20 puzzles in one closet, several of which were unopened. Did we delude ourselves into believing that we could be some sort of puzzle maniacs? No one has ever done that many puzzles before.

 

It's impossible, which is perhaps why our puzzle goals were soon abandoned. Puzzles left us with nothing but broken dreams and an incredibly cramped closet space.

 

This is the type of stuff you buy because you envision it somehow changing/enhancing your life in an unrealistic way and/or you overestimate how committed you will be to using it. 

Example: If I buy a book on how to learn Italian, I will practice it every night. Pretty soon, people will start recognizing how very cultured and fancy I am. Then, Italians everywhere will embrace me as their own and give me free spaghetti.

Anyone want to learn how to speak Italian? I've got a book for ya.

 

It's for/from someone else. Do the world a favor, don't give gifts of stuff. I know, I know. It's the thought that counts, but this is why I don't like office Christmas parties.

 

I don't mind the $15 limit, but I do not want the singing Christmas fish or anything else equally "festive" or "hilarious." I feel guilty throwing these unused items in landfills, so they linger around the house even longer than they should.

Great idea: This year at your holiday work parties, everyone buy $15 worth of toilet paper, paper towels or Ziploc bags. Useful and thoughtful, it's win-win-win.

Obligatory, last-minute, or unnecessary gifts can be dangerous. If you give them, you may not realize that they could actually be causing more work for the receiver. If you receive them, you may feel obligated to keep them around, even if you really don't want to.

 

Stuff is hard to get rid of. You have a junk drawer. Why? It may be just six paces from the trash can, and yet it still collects.

 

I've been through about 100 of 'em this week and I believe I've arrived at a sound junk-drawer theory: Throwing something away requires making a decision, and sometimes it's just easier to put that decision off until later -- and sometimes the trash can is still too far away.

 

At times we revisit past delusions (see No. 1 above) and start to believe again that we could be The Puzzle Master. The longer it lingers, the greater our emotional attachment to unimportant stuff becomes. I realized this when my mother said we could give away the Christmas potholders.

 

"You want to get rid of those?!" I cried.

 

"Yeah," she stated.

 

"But those have been around forever!" I reasoned.

 

"Yeah, and I never liked or used them," she stated again.

 

"Oh, well, then. I guess we should get rid of them," I agreed.

 

Don't attach yourself emotionally to stuff. It's ridiculous to place more value on something just because it has been hanging around for a while.

 

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