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How to Declutter When You See Value in Everything [Episode 40]

This is a question I’m asked all the time: how can you declutter when you see value in everything? Whether you’re an artist, a handyman, or just a creative soul, here are some tips that will help you when everything is too good to declutter!

In This Episode:

  • one question that will change how you calculate the value of “stuff”
  • your superpower and why it should give you confidence in your decluttering

Featured In This Episode:

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Note: this is not an exact transcript and has been edited for clarity.

How to Declutter When You See Value in Everything

Hey, everybody. It’s Jennifer here, and welcome to the Simply + Fiercely Show. Today, I want to talk about a common decluttering challenge.

This is something I’ve had a lot of people ask me about before – How do you declutter when you’re someone who sees value in everything?

An example of that is that I’ve worked with a lot of people who are crafters or artists, and they find it really challenging because they can look at things that other people might see as junk and see them as potential materials, say, for their next craft project.

Or even people who wouldn’t consider themselves artsy or crafty, but they’re just really good at reusing things.

Maybe they’re really practically minded.

Maybe they’ve grown up in a situation where they didn’t have a lot of stuff or they didn’t have access to stuff where they need it, so now they find themselves just really noticing, oh, hey, that could be valuable for this, or this would be something that I could use later.

There’s a joke that goes around something like, how do you spot a millennial? In that joke, it’s, oh, look, this is a great box, or this is a great jar. I’ll just keep it.

Hoarding tendencies

Let me start by saying that I consider myself to be one of these people.

It makes me think about when I was a child, my favorite book was called The Boxcar Children. It was about these kids who were abandoned, or I don’t even remember the situation, but for some reason, they’re living on the streets, and they end up living in this boxcar.

But they have this great life because they’re able to repurpose things. They go to the town dump, and they find, I don’t know, old cups. They’re really resourceful people who can make something out of nothing.

I think that is an admirable trait. But the flip side to being this type of person is that you end up collecting a lot of stuff.

Back in the day, I used to buy so much from thrift stores or secondhand shops because I could just go in and see the potential in everything.

Like a dress that isn’t my style, it’s not right, there’s a hole in it, but I’ll be like, “Oh, if I just cut this up and sew it up this way with my very poor sewing skills, I’ll be able to turn it into something useful.”

Or an example that happened not that long ago. I live in an apartment building, and I was walking near the bins and someone had left an old dish rack, and I was like, “Oh, that would work really great for some of my plants.”

I brought it up to my house and I used it for a while, and then I was like, “It’s just too much.” I ended up putting it back where I found it.

I share these stories to let you know that if you are that kind of person, I know the struggle.

It’s so hard to get rid of things when you’re thinking, oh, but they have some value, or I could use that for something or that would be so great for this project.

Or this is one of my favorites, it’s too good to leave at the thrift shop.

But, as I said, there is the flip side, which you have too much stuff.

Today I’m going to share three tips that really help me as this type of personality.

I’d like to know if you resonate with, or if you self-identify as someone who sees value in things and if you find these tips helpful. You can connect with me on Instagram. My handle is @simplyfiercely.

Send me a DM if you find this useful because this is a fairly new topic that I’m talking about, so I’m a bit curious.

Three decluttering tips for those who see value in things

Number 1 – Consider the opportunity cost

Okay, so number one, the biggest piece of advice I would offer anybody who sees value in things and has a hard time either not buying them or passing them up.

Maybe you belong to one of those buy-nothing groups where there are always free things coming up or you have a hard time decluttering because you can see value in everything.

The number one thing you need to do is make sure that you are also considering the opportunity cost.

If you’re at the shops and you see some random thing on the shelf that might work great for some project that you’re thinking about, that’s true. I’m not going to deny that experience. There is value.

There’s a ton of value out there in the world in things that we have given away. It’s actually quite sad.

I buy most of the things that I need these days secondhand. I buy a lot of stuff on Facebook Marketplace, and it blows my mind.

We could probably never buy new things again with so many different types of items because there’s so much out there.

I get it. It’s so easy to see the value in the stuff that other people might even see as trash, but there is an opportunity cost to everything that you buy.

Sometimes that’s financial. But I think for a lot of people who struggle with this kind of value in everything, it’s often more that you’re getting things for free and you don’t want to get rid of it because you could use it someday.

I invite you to think about other opportunity costs, like time and energy and your well-being.

As I said, there are a lot of artists who resonate with this. Something you might want to think about is, okay, I could use that in a project, but does having too many supplies lead to me feeling overwhelmed?

Now the opportunity cost is that I’m not creating because I’m either too overwhelmed or my house is full of distractions.

That one item had the potential to be helpful in an art project, but is adding one more item contributing to the cost of you being creative?

On a side note, I don’t think of myself as an artist, but I write for both work and pleasure and I can say that there is a lot of creative power in restraint when your brain is focused on lower-level questions.

I think the best way to explain this is if you’ve ever seen the activities that kids would do at camp where they’re given some toothpicks and some Play-Doh and three random items, and then they have to do a project like turn this into a bridge or make something.

That’s where the creative energy really happens. They’re having to think hard about what can I do with this. That’s a powerful question. You’re being given limited materials and now you’re stretching and expanding your mind to use them.

Whereas what I was saying before, the lower level question is what should I use?

That’s something that sometimes gets us stuck.

Another good example, I don’t know if you’ve seen Master Chef, or these cooking shows where you’re given limited items, and then it’s this creativity.

You’ve got to dive deep and think, what am I going to make with this? Whereas if you have every item in the world, you can find yourself just getting stuck on, what am I making for dinner, because the possibilities are endless.

In a way, that is an opportunity cost. You’re almost giving up some of your creativity in exchange for having more options.

If you’re not resonating as a creative person, there are practical costs as well. When you think about what are the odds that I might use that?

Yes, it’s useful. Yes, it’s valuable, but what are the odds that I’m going to use it? Because while I’m waiting to use that item, there’s an ongoing cost. That cost could be lots of things.

Maybe because you have too much stuff, you can’t find what you bought.

I was working with a client late last year, I think it was garden shears, I can’t remember what the item was.

She was saying that she couldn’t find what she needed, and it was only because when she went on Amazon to buy it again, and Amazon was like, “Hey, you’ve already bought this,” that she realized it was something she already owned in her home.

There comes a cost that comes with rebuying things because you can’t find them.

There’s extra cleaning. I think that whether you identify as a minimalist or not, we can all agree that the more stuff you have, the more you have to clean. That’s time. That’s energy, especially if you are like me and you hate cleaning.

Then also, this is a huge one. I think this is so important.

We tend to underestimate the cost to our well-being. When we have a lot of stuff, if you wake up in your house and you’re like, ugh, I feel ugh. I don’t feel rested. I don’t feel at ease in my home. That’s something I could talk tons about.

But often having too much stuff means that your home almost feels like a living, breathing to-do list. You look around your house and you see all your things and you’re reminded about things that maybe you should be doing, and that’s very mentally exhausting.

If you think about it, that is an opportunity cost. Your energy, your time is being sucked up doing things that might not be what you want to do.

It might seem insignificant at first, but I think that when we are weighing up the value of, ooh, that item that could be so great, I could use it for something. Make sure that before you decide what to keep or what to buy or what to accept, before you make that decision say, “Let me balance the value of this item with the opportunity cost.”

If you practice doing that, I can almost guarantee you’re going to start seeing things differently.

Number 2 – Limited materials spark creativity

Now, another way to look at this is if you are someone who sees value in everything, maybe you walk into a thrift shop and you’re there with a friend and you see some item and you’re like, “Oh my gosh, I could use that creatively to make X, Y, and Z.”

Your friend’s like, “What? How did you think about that? I would’ve never thought to use it that way.” If you are that type of person, this is what I know about you, you are creative and resilient.

The reason that you can see the value in that item is because you already have that mental ability to solve problems, to look for creative solutions to things.

If you see something and you’re like, “That’s great, I could use it for something,” but you don’t know right now.

You’re like, “Oh, that would be great for some kind of imaginary project,” I trust that if you don’t buy that thing right now, that later down the road when that scenario comes up and you need something, your very creative resourceful brain is going to come up with some other solution.

You don’t need to store that item in your home just in case because there’s always going to be more stuff.

That’s what we were saying earlier, this overconsumption. Unless this is something extraordinarily rare or you have to think about your circumstances.

I live in Australia, and there are people here who live in remote areas where it’s twenty-four hours just to get to a shop. Of course, they’re going to need to keep more things.

But that’s probably not you, just because that’s not a huge part of the population. You probably live somewhere where you have access to finding things.

Sometimes you have to trust that you’re resilient and that item that’s so great, later on, you’ll be able to find another item that’s just as great.

Again, balancing that with part one where we talked about the opportunity cost.

It doesn’t occur in a vacuum. You think about what the cost of this is, and then weigh that up against the possibility that you could find something when you need it.

Number 3 – Focus on generosity and share the value of things with people who are going to appreciate it.

Tip number three, it’s about focusing on generosity.

Again, if you are someone who sees value in everything, my guess is, especially if you feel like you have too much stuff.

If you’re listening to this podcast, I’m going to assume that stuff has started to become a problem for you.

You have an abundance of value in your life. Now let’s look at, well, shouldn’t we be passing that abundance on?

One way I like to frame this is if you have a brain that likes being creative and looking for solutions, you could redirect that energy to being creative with your decluttering.

If you are an artist and you have a whole house full of art supplies, and right now you’re finding it a bit suffocating.

You don’t even want to create because you don’t want to go into your art studio. You feel overwhelmed by how messy or how busy it is. Well, let’s redirect some of that creative energy and think about how you could best share this value with the people who are going to appreciate it.

Because I think that’s a big part of it. When I see something in the shops that I’m like, “That’s too good to pass up.” It’s not because I need it for myself.

I’m thinking on a subconscious level that nobody else is going to come here and see it and see the potential that that item has, which is not true. But I know that I catch myself thinking in that way.

Would I know that I’m being really creative about how I pass on my items? Well, it has two benefits.

It’s better. It’s better to give your items to people who are actually going to use them, as opposed to just throwing them at a secondhand shop where they just get passed on and become somebody else’s problem.

But also, it’s fun. It’s fun to think of creative solutions if you are a creative person. See if you can transfer some of that value from what you’re hanging onto and see how you can pass that value back to the community.

Those are my top three tips for how to declutter when you are someone who sees value in everything.

If I had to prioritize these tips, the one real takeaway that I would love to drive home is the one about thinking about the opportunity costs because it really starts to shift the equation and you see things with new eyes.

You realize that all that value comes at a cost.

I hope that you found this episode helpful. Until next week.

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