Last year I wrote about how to get rid of sentimental stuff you secretly loathe. I find it pretty easy to toss sentimental stuff when it has no resale value. I’m not a very sentimental person when it comes attaching meaning to objects. But what about the stuff you just don’t want or need that has monetary value? This is where I struggle.
The Konmari Method walks us through this delicate issue by insisting that these types of items have already served their purpose in your life, even if only to teach you that you don’t need them, or to teach you about better spending habits. So just let them go. But it’s still so hard!
The pain in the process makes me question my relationship with money. I already admit that I operate from a mindset of scarcity, rather than abundance. I’m a lifelong saver and investor out of fear. I opened my first bank account at age 5 because I needed to save what little I had, lock it away, and hold onto it just in case I need it later. I heard life could get expensive. And Dad preached compound interest, a concept not lost on me.
But since then, I’ve had this irrational fear that someday, my money will run out and I’ll end up a slave to some job I hate, or that I won’t be able to live the life I want, or take vacations, or eat organic eggs. It’s not about increasing wealth. It’s about self-preservation. The promise of riches does not motivate me to act, but the fear of financial dependence does.
For as long as I’ve had money, I’ve been extremely good at preserving and growing it to the best of my ability. In my late teens and early 20s, I assumed that I was probably irresponsible even though I felt like I knew everything, so I put all my money in alternating 1 and 5-year CDs to ensure I wouldn’t do anything stupid or irrational. I ended up doing my share of stupid and irrational things, but never with my money. I valued money above everything. Money is freedom.
And that value continues to manifest itself today, but with all this material shit I own.
In an effort to declutter and clear some mental space, I’ve been slowly going through things and listing them for sale online. This is a process I’ve been actively engaged in on at least some level since 2006, when I set up shop in my dorm room and operated a fairly profitable eBay business selling Victoria’s Secret bras I found at thrift stores and other students’ old clothes and textbooks.
The pattern is undeniable: one item at a time, I’ll cash out and let go of everything I come to own. Today I sold a book on eBay for $0.99 and it felt just as good as the $8.50 cookbook I sold yesterday. Both gave the same sense of release. With every sale, I feel lighter. Freer.
I don’t get that same sense of satisfaction after donating. I feel like I ought to feel better when I donate because it’s more altruistic, but instead, I feel like I missed out on an opportunity. Donating a box of books to the library is just not the same for me because when money is freedom and you give up an opportunity to profit, even just slightly, you’re essentially giving up freedom. So fucked up, I know. But I think that might be my subconscious hangup here.
In my late teens and early 20s I moved a lot. For seven years, I never lived in any one place for more than 3 months or any one city or state for more than a year. During this time, I bought and sold a tremendous amount of stuff. Furniture. Kitchenware. General household stuff. Clothes. Books. Cats. All the stuff we choose to surround ourselves with to feel comfortable and at home. Every 3 months, I reinvented my environment. And every 3 months, I purged in an effort to feel that sense of freedom. Oh my god, am I a freedom chaser?
I’m starting to ask myself how much trouble is all this selling of crap really worth? Why am I so caught up on “getting my money’s worth” and somehow “coming out ahead”? It literally pains me to think of just giving away all those Alo Yoga pants I never wear. Donating the remaining 50-something books is also painful. Even though I’ll only “make” a few dollars per item, somehow the effort always feels worth it.
The other day we finally dropped off that porch pile at Eco Thrift. Most of it was men’s clothing, old curtains, and home decor from previous tenants. It felt good. But not that good, because of everything above. This is exhausting and I want to let go, in true Konmari fashion! But maybe I’m not ready.
I currently have 11 dresses for sale on Poshmark (I sold 7 on Facebook Marketplace), all $6 each. After Poshmark’s fees, I’ll net $2 per dress. Am I seriously willing to hold on to this closet of mental clutter for a bottle of cab sav? My behavior would say so. Why can’t I just let go? It’s the rational thing to do.
By the way, the real issue is how I ended up with 11 dresses in the first place. Last summer, I downloaded the Poshmark app for the first time and started experimenting. As I do. I’d convinced myself that I needed to increase my femininity by investing in one or two summer dresses. I had none and I felt frumpy.
So I started bidding on every dress I liked. Isn’t this a numbers game? My strategy was to lowball every single dress, thinking there was a good chance I would win at least one or two of them. But I won all 18 of them! Every single fucking dress. And when they all arrived, I not only didn’t like any of them but also decided that dresses aren’t really my thing anyway. See what I do!
Perhaps it’s time to accept that the dress episode was an expensive, amusing experiment. Even though I only paid $4 per dress, I will never recoup what I spent. I get this, and yet I still cannot just let them go! I want my $2 and the sense of freedom I get when dropping it at the post office. I want that feeling so badly that I am willing to continue looking at all this clutter until it slowly sells, one thing at a time. This feels like a compulsion. I feel totally out of control.
Someone, please just come to my house and steal all my shit! You can take anything you see listed for sale online.
I think I’d be totally ok with that. What is it about that scenario that sits well with me? I think it’s that something like that–theft, a fire, etc–is out of my control, and therefore not really my responsibility, and therefore not something I can regret because I couldn’t have done anything differently. Except maybe not invite strangers from the Internet to come into my house and steal all my shit.
I’d convinced myself that I’d talk some sense into myself by the end of this post. But that has proven not to be the case. I still cannot let go. I’m not ready to Konmari. There’s still hope that those books will sell and those yoga pants will sell and those dresses will live to see another USPS delivery run. I want to box it all up and leave it for the curbside Veterans’ donation pickup next week, but I am not ready to let go. It’s too painful.