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Why We Keep Stuff: "I'm going to fix it"

Organizing tips from Ask the Experts’ Elizabeth Tawney Gross

???????????We want to be thrifty and not wasteful, so we keep things we think we will fix. My clients’ houses and garages are full of broken stuff they haven’t gotten around to fixing. Please don’t get me wrong: I also bemoan our throwaway culture. What I try to get my clients to grasp is the true cost of keeping broken things.

I have been in houses with three lamps on a table because two of them are broken. Kitchens are littered with broken blenders and toasters. In garages there are piles of cracked flower pots and broken rakes. These things are cluttering up the house because the owner believes they are, one day, going fix them. When I quiz people about how long something has remained unrepaired, they are shocked to recall it has sometimes been years. My advice to them is to recognize reality and let go of the item.

“I need a part, then I can fix it really quickly,” or “I have to find the tool I need to fix it,” are what I hear from clients all the time. When I ask them why they haven’t gotten the part or found the tool, the typical answer is that they just haven’t had the time.

What that means is that repairing the item hasn’t been a high priority. My next question is: “What will make this a high priority?” Many times the person doesn’t know. The broken item has become part of the landscape, and they have forgotten all about it. If the item was useful, it has been replaced, so fixing the broken one is now unnecessary.

Keeping things that aren’t working not only takes up space, it also creates guilt that nags at you every time you see the broken thing. When you clear your home of broken items that you will never have the time, or even the need, to repair, you not only create space, but also lift a load of guilt off your shoulders.

Copyright© 2014 Elizabeth Tawney Gross, Organizing For Everyday, LLC

About Elizabeth Tawney Gross

Ask the Experts panelist Elizabeth Tawney Gross is the owner of Organizing for Everyday and a certified professional organizer in chronic disorganization. Send her a question at Elizabeth@org4everyday.com. Find out more about her at org4everyday.com.

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