“What if I need this one day?” (how this decluttering question keeps you stuck, and what to ask instead)

One of the biggest hurdles I had, when I started decluttering, was the underlying thought that “I might need this one day”. 

Of course, this would be the ‘one day’ where my need for an industrial cherry pitter would prove my genius and resourcefulness in acquiring the giant produce pitter, and storing it in my basement for two plus years.  (Yay me! I’m so smart for keeping this all this time!)

This thought has caused me to keep items like a remote control cooler, extra pots and pans, clothes that I spent a lot of money on but never wear, computer cords that I don’t even know what they are for, old magazines, cookbooks I’ll never use, a bucket of paper clips, extra (extra) conditioner, extra lint brushes, hair extensions I wore at my wedding, three curling irons…..you get the picture. 

When we live from this place where ‘we might need it one day’ we start making poor decisions in what we let live in our home.  We stop editing the contents of our home. We stop filtering out the excess and focusing on the useful and beautiful things. 


We start to fill up our home with ‘security items’ instead of ‘life-giving items’

There is a phenomenon called the Loss Aversion which means we think there is greater pain in letting something go, then there is pleasure in acquiring it. So, you are more likely to protect your the $40 toaster you own, than you are excited about winning a new $40 toaster. 

It is weird, but we are protective over our stuff. Even when it doesn’t serve us.

There is another psychological factor that supports us keeping things we might need one day. The Endowment Effect is the situation in which we overvalue an item simply because we own it and not because of its market value.

I don’t even need to like an item to justify keeping it, I just need to believe it is of value and I will have trouble ever passing it on. Often I will use the ‘I might need it one day’ as a blanket excuse to allow me to warrant keeping it. Really underneath that, I have trouble letting go of something that has perceived value. Even if the likelihood is that I will never use it. Even if the likelihood is that I would never up and buy it if I didn’t already own it.

Our values need to be checked. We can’t live in a home filled with stuff that is there because we have turned our brain on autopilot and we are hoarding up stuff for the sake of not losing it!



When we consider decluttering these useful items we could ‘need’ one day, I think we are asking the wrong question.

The concern can’t be ‘will I need this one day?’ it has to shift to ‘how will I handle things I do give away and I do end up needing it one day?’ or even better ‘how will I let myself experience the feeling of need?’

Because we are spoiled with stuff and it has skewed the real problem for us

Because we are rarely in a state of NEED

Because we are probably very out of touch with what a NEED is versus a WANT

Because if we find ourselves in a state of NEED, we will still be ok. The world will still go on

Because we can plan solutions to the problem of being ‘in NEED’


In my years of decluttering (check out our basement before and after to get an idea of what we had stored up), I have always said I don’t miss anything.  When I think harder about this, there is one kitchen appliance I do miss, but I don’t find that I NEED IT.  I have other options that work just fine.


Here is what my takeaway is.

There are things that I have decluttered that I COULD use from time to time. But other options make do. 

There are things that I have gotten rid of then I find a friend who could have used it. But I can’t take on this job for people, they will somehow find what they need out there. 

There are things that we are looking for and then realize we had gotten rid of them. Then we stop to really remember that we let it go for a reason and we find an alternative. 

NONE of those situations makes me wish I would have kept these things. The pay off of having usable space, and more organized closets, and less stuff to manage is WORTH the loss of these things that I kept for security or identity.

I will also say that in order for me to declutter these things I didn’t need or love but that I could ‘need one day’ I had to embrace a few new mindsets. 

New mindsets to help you declutter things that you think you “might need one day”

  • If I need it then I most likely can borrow it, buy it, outsource it, or rent it
  • If I do need this, I can let myself be in a state of need and make do without
  • I could pass this on to a friend who will use it more than me and borrow it if I DO need it
  • If I’m thinking openly, then I can acknowledge that the likelihood of me needing this item is actually extremely low (like when will I ever be pitting a flat of cherries, that doesn’t sound like something I have any interest in doing)


I think the biggest perception we need to shift is that we will be okay without it. If we need it, we will still be ok. Be ok with the needing and trust that you are resourceful enough to find the next best thing. 

Love Shawna, Your Nerdy Girlfriend who just pitted cherries for her kids using the handle of a whisk .


decluttering questions

2 thoughts on ““What if I need this one day?” (how this decluttering question keeps you stuck, and what to ask instead)”

    • This is such a great question and I would sum up all the answers I could give with this ‘what feels like you are honouring their memory?’. You can ask yourself what you most want to keep and why. There are ways to get creative with showcasing the things we choose to keep.
      There is a series called the Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning (book and tv series) that might give you some ideas.


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