Decluttering and fear of regret

Decluttering and regret - tiles say Let it Go

Do you worry you will regret getting rid of something? Decluttering and fear of regret go hand in hand. Having FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) or worrying we will miss something, can paralyse decision-making.

Decluttering and fear of regret – what does it look like?

It looks like holding onto a pair of shoes we may never wear, just in case we miss them, or just in case they could be the perfect accompaniment to an outfit we haven’t yet devised.

It looks like FOMO – Fear of Missing Out, and keeping obscure equipment like abseiling gear, just in case we are invited abseiling – even though we have bad shoulders and vowed never to do it again.

It looks like keeping a cushion that a friend gave us as a gift – in case she visits – even though that was 10+ years ago and she has never visited in that time.

It looks like buying an unusual trinket because we may not see it in the shops again.

It looks like keeping something we don’t use, just because we paid money for it.

It looks like buying something in bulk since it is on special, because the price will go up and we will be kicking ourself.

Decluttering and fear of regret – why?

  • The fear of regret can look like it overcomes the fear of failure.
  • As a survival strategy, we have evolved to avoid negative consequences.
  • Humans are loss-averse, and negatives often outweigh positives psychologically. Insurance companies base their entire strategies on people’s fear of calamity – however unlikely. And ‘last chance’ sales also tap into our FOMO.
  • We are often taught to be resourceful and not waste (but this can go too far).

Decluttering and fear of regret – how can we overcome it?

But fear of the house burning down and fear of missing and mourning a decluttered pair of shoes, are two different things. To make progress we need to explore these unhelpful behaviours.

  1. So what if we miss it? What happens next? Be curious. Play that scene right through. Also, a bit of discomfort is where you find growth.
  2. Is it replaceable? The Minimalists came up with the 20/20 rule. It dictates that if the item in question is easily replaced within 20 minutes of your location for less than $20, you should say goodbye.
  3. Even if it’s not replaceable, the consequences are usually not that bad. So you wear a different pair of shoes that day. And you still have a fun time.
  4. What kind of human do you want to be? One who is fixated on what shoes you are wearing, or someone who can be flexible and ready for fun at any time?
  5. We also need to remember the huge benefits of decluttering. Mental clarity, physical space, better functionality, aesthetic improvements. Being able to find what you need when you need it, being able to have guests over. Saving money because we are not repurchasing things we already own. Keep those goals in mind.
  6. Remember to take breaks when decluttering. Decision fatigue is real, and can lead to us wanting to keep everything or wanting to chuck everything. When that happens, step away from the task for a while.

Decluttering and fear of regret – last words

There’s no regret more painful than the regret of things that never were.
—  Fernando Pessoa

Decisions avoided now about your stuff, could cause bigger regrets in the future. Especially if your clutter is causing tension in your relationships or preventing important decisions like travelling or downsizing. There is no such thing as making NO decision – because in doing that you ARE making a decision – to waste space and energy on worthless items.

Your space and energy are finite resources.

This may sound unsympathetic, but regret is not that bad. Research indicates it is often overestimated. You are stronger than your stuff! 

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