Updated: Dec 10, 2019
While we can come up with a long list of answers to this question, basically the reasons boil down to three possibilities:
· We save for the past
· We save for the future
· We save to define ourselves
And quite honestly, all of these reasons boil down to our fears and anxieties.
We love the past--it's so easy to feel nostalgic about "the good old days." We want to keep mementos of joyful events and people we loved. This is especially true when those loved ones are no longer with us. We fear forgetting happy times; we feel traitorous giving away pieces that were gifts or were inherited from deceased family members. But I challenge you: Is the way that you are storing these objects honoring the memory of the event, life phase, or person from your past?
If I had a nickel for every time someone says to me, "But as soon as I get rid of [fill-in-the-blank]I'll need it" I'd be a millionaire! We keep so many things because we fear a need arising "someday" and we won't have the object to fill that need. There is no way we can completely prepare for every situation we may encounter in the future. We have to weigh the actual dollar cost of replacing something we've given away if we find we need it at some point against the "cost" of storing lots of stuff we currently never use. The price in space and mental/emotional energy of storage. Some items could be both truly essential at some point and very expensive to replace; however, most things we save for the future will never be needed and/or cost very little to purchase again. And here is my challenge for this excuse: Will you remember that you have the item and be able to locate it if and when the need for it arises?
In many ways it is true that our possessions define us, or at least certainly illustrate what is important to us. From the books on our shelves to the pieces we hang on our walls to the clothing we wear and the hobby supplies in our cupboards, our stuff tells the world about us. The problem is when our stuff is not telling an accurate story of who we are currently. We keep workout clothes in hopes we really will join the gym, we keep yarn because someday we really are going to learn to knit, we have books on our shelves we've never read but that we think make us look smart to others. We have anxiety about our self-worth and we often keep many things that we think make us look important or increase our value to others. This brings us to perhaps the toughest challenge of all: Who are you living your life for? Yourself or other people?
I believe we are all put on this earth for a purpose--more than one purpose, actually. I think there are different goals for us to accomplish at different phases of our lives. Saving many objects from our past and keeping things for some unknown and unpredictable future keep us from living in the present. Collecting items with the goal of impressing others clouds our own vision for ourselves. Disorganization keeps us from achieving our purpose. Clutter in our physical space weighs us down, clutters our mind and keeps us focused on managing our stuff.