In The Happiness Project, the author states that there are several types of clutter, meaning things that you keep but don't really need. I found these types helpful because they explained the many reasons that humans seem unable to get rid of certain objects. Here are the types:

  • Nostalgic - Things which have sentimental value.
  • Conservation - Might be useful someday!
  • Bargain - I got such a good deal on it!
  • Freebie - Someone gave this to me.
  • Crutch - I need this.
  • Buyer's Remorse - I bought it, and by gum I'm going to use it.
  • Outgrown - I used to use this.
  • Aspirational - Someday, I will be the kind of person that will use this.

The only thing on that list that I don't relate to is the crutch clutter. I couldn't think of anything that I owned that would fall into that category, but perhaps I am so in denial that I just don't realize it. As for the rest of them, I could take you through my house and show you lots of examples of each.

Obviously, I have a high tolerance for clutter, and I'm okay with that. I don't mind there being a lot of stuff about, and so a lot of stuff will appear. I do try to purge often, but really that's more about getting rid of stuff to make room other stuff. It's about upgrading my clutter, not getting rid of it.

All this clutter talk brings me to an email that I got an email from my sister-in-law, asking about a bridesmaid dress I'd worn in her daughter's wedding (that's my niece, if you are keeping up). Her other daughter (my other niece) was going to be heading to D.C. with her choral group, where she would go on a dinner cruise. So she needed something kinda fancy to wear. This niece was also in the same wedding that I was in (her sister's), but since then, she has grown in some places that teenage girls grow (well, some of them do, sigh). Her bridesmaid dress no longer fit, so she was interested in mine.

I was pretty certain that my bridesmaid dress would not fit her at all. Because women in their twenties grow in different places than women in their teens (sigh, again). But I did have some dresses from high school and college languishing in the back of my closet that might fit her. These dresses are clutter, because as it is now, I cannot wear them. It's been that way for a while. Every time I see them, I feel bad because I am reminded that there used to be less of me. But I keep them. Why?

Apparently, some clutter can actually fit in multiple clutter categories. These dresses are nostalgic, aspirational, and bargain clutter. They are nostalgic because I wore them to fancy events that I remember fondly. Also, I'm nostalgic for the time when I was able to zip them up. They are aspirational clutter, because I aspire to be thin enough to wear them again. Finally, they are bargain clutter, because everything I have is bargain clutter (I did the math - the average dress price was less than five bucks).

I handed the dresses over to my niece and we had a little try-on session. I told her that whatever she wanted, she could keep, but she should not feel obligated to keep anything that didn't fit or wasn't her style. Of course, they all fit her just great (SIGH). It's silly, but it was hard for me to part with them. I didn't think about how they don't get any use now, I thought about how I used to look in them and how I could look like that again. But good sense won out. If and when I am that size again, I can always find another $5 dress. I've got the room in my closet for it now.

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