How to Deal with the “Just In Case” Syndrome
Things we own may mean a lot to us – but for a reason, as anything we love to use, to hold or look at, to simply have around is special, and it’s not hard to explain why. There are also items we keep or buy for no certain reason, but the most common name for this category is “just in case”. So often used to replace any logical explanation, “just in case” can stand for a lot of excuses why someone hasn’t reviewed the potential worth of keeping something – either in the context of organizing things better, or complaining about failing attempts to get rid of clutter.
Sometimes it is labeled the “just in case” syndrome, and it’s not hard to see why – it may be inherited, chronic or recurring, it is difficult to cure or to control. Even if you have self-diagnosed yourself with this condition, or it was done by others, “just in case” seems something either too complex, or too vague to find effective arguments why it isn’t valid. Wonder if there are any that “apply to all”?
It’s easier to assume you “might need this at some point” than to search for specific reasons why you want to buy something or to keep an item you don’t use. Here’s a little secret: all of these cases have something in common. It is the time or a number of other factors that set a certain distance between your everyday life, habits or preferences, and the possibility of you actually using or enjoying a certain item. That distance is your main argument – the longer it is, or the harder it is to conquer (losing weight, changing your lifestyle, doing something regularly), the lower are the chances of your expectations being reasonable.
You may have heard something like “When in doubt, throw it out.” Re-evaluating your possessions and decluttering would have been quite simple if it meant just throwing out everything that makes you feel uncertain, if you could always agree with this rule. When in doubt, it makes more sense to consider the distance.
If you are on a tight budget, then you may have to make the most out of what you already own, probably repurposing some items even if they are not exactly what you need, or don’t look as good as you’d like them to. It may be worth the extra time and effort for adjusting what you have to your current needs, while putting up with not really enjoying the result. If you can afford better choices, why limit yourself to something you sort of like, but not much, or something almost right, but not exactly? Not to mention compromising on quality – but I absolutely have to mention quality, as most people fail to view it as a variable when keeping or buying things “just in case”.
When deciding whether something stays or goes, ask yourself if its replacement cost is worth cluttering your house or paying for extra storage space and retrieving an item of deteriorating quality when you need it. I’m all for things that last, without fading much in appearance or functionality – if you are lucky to have some, it’s very nice to know they are reliable, durable, always stylish or made of top quality material. However, these are exceptions from the general rule of things slowly disintegrating when not being used.
Read also – 4 Lessons to Learn from the Minimalists
Let’s imagine you need to use something you know you have “somewhere”. Would you spend half the day rummaging in the basement, to finally emerge from there, covered with dust, holding the exact thing you were searching for, only to find out that it looks different from what you had expected? Would you spend some more time to wash or clean it, get rid of mold or dust, fix it in case of deformation, change of color, missing or damaged parts? Hardly so, if you can easily afford getting an identical item at the store within half an hour, or renting that pair of skates (other sports equipment) to spend the time having fun instead of being stuck in the basement.
Besides, after all your efforts aimed at bringing an item back to life, you may decide it’s better to get a new one, anyway. You never know what kind of surprise a few years can bring – the distance between deciding you “might need it” and actually trying to use it – while these surprises are often not very nice.
People are usually very surprised when something they had packed for storage in good condition suddenly comes out in a lousy one (and it certainly doesn’t happen in basements only). Even worse, they sometimes feel obliged to use the thing anyway, or make their family members use it – just because they’ve been saving it for so long. Telling someone (including yourself) that this is something you have lovingly kept exclusively for… (a certain person, occasion, etc.), or “they don’t make things as good anymore” is a poor consolation if an item is just not convenient to use because it’s not in a good condition. Because it turns out they DO make something better nowadays, or someone simply doesn’t like the same things as a few years ago – nobody can predict that. It looks like you have to be emotionally prepared to someone (including yourself) not appreciating the “just in case” items in the future. This may be more difficult than deciding whether you should keep something, or not.
Redefining our needs is an ongoing process. If people only were mathematicians enough to calculate the probability of using something that we have today in the future – it would simplify many issues and decisions. Even then, it would have been an equation with too many unknowns. The common advice is to toss the thing in a box and see if you need to take it out within a certain period of time (a month, six months, a year), so that if you don’t you can safely get rid of it. Apparently, it works for some, but I prefer another formula: look at a thing and see if you can give yourself a deadline, or at least a brief outline of when, or how you are going to use this. If that’s a “no-idea-when”, or a long-distance context, then it’s not a “good buy”, it’s a good-bye, or it’s not a keeper. Do you have your own methods of evaluating your possessions?