My father was reminiscing at the dinner table some forty years ago, searching for the perfect example to make his point. He leaned back in his chair and casually mentioned the epoch he was thinking of. “I think it was twenty years ago,” he began. We fell off our chairs in gales of laughter, unable to imagine how anything that happened twenty years ago could possibly be relevant.
And yet how many of us hold onto things we’re going to use for twenty years and then some? We scoff at the rule that if you haven’t used it in a year, get rid of it. We know that most things don’t get outdated that fast. We value being able to root around and find something we knew we’d need, proving ourselves right once again.
How Long is Too Long?
If it’s been twenty years since you saved something, certain it would come in handy one day, but that day has yet to come, perhaps it’s time to draw some kind of line in the cluttery sand. If you haven’t used something in those twenty years, odds are very good you won’t.
If your closets are full of business clothes but you’re not playing the corporate game anymore, why do you need them? Send them to Dress for Success if they’re still serviceable and be done with it.
Those stadium seats you used when the kids were in high school? They were lifesavers back when cold, metal bleachers were a regular hangout. But your kids are fully grown now, the grandkids are out of state. You’re right, those stadium seats are still very useful. Just not for you.
The jumbled red, yellow and blue magnetic letters have done duty on your fridge door for way more than twenty years now. Still perfectly good but when no one needs to play with them in your house, to keep them idling on your fridge is to prevent someone else from using them.
Keep Things Moving
It’s a fine line between being frugal and being unkind. If you’re holding onto something that you won’t use again, that means someone else can’t use it. If you wait too long, it’ll disintegrate and then no one can use it.
This Saturday, have a look around in the basement or the attic and find something that you know you’ve had for at least twenty years. This time, choose something that’s not a sentimental item.
Look at it with a critical eye. Although there’s been a certain security in knowing it’s there for you if you ever need it, assess whether it’s in good enough shape that you ever would use it.
Think about the probability that if you haven’t needed it for the past two decades, you would in the future.
Ask yourself how easy would it be to get another one.
And before you decide to keep it for another twenty years, think about whose day you could make by donating something that you most likely will never use again to someone who will.
You’re right, that item is still useful. “Feel great, donate,” they say. Feel great, knowing your kindness has made someone else’s day.