getting rid of guilt

Less than a month ago, right before No Spend May, I bought a pair of shoes. After just a few wears, I wanted to get rid of them. Commence internal struggle: “But I shouldn’t, right? I just spent the money on them. Wouldn’t that be a waste? Maybe I’ll change my mind. I should hold onto them for awhile, just in case.”

*Throws shoes into closet/abyss and forgets about them*

The truth is, those shoes aren’t serving me. They are no more than clutter in my closet. Rather than repeat my usual pattern, I am determined to donate them immediately. But how to overcome my guilt and jettison a new pair of shoes?

Marie Kondo of “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” fame suggests thanking the item for its service, or thanking it for teaching you what doesn’t suit you.  I’ll admit I scoffed the first time I read this because it sounds, well, ridiculous. Who talks to stuff?  And HOW do we learn from inanimate objects. I didn’t get it.

After having some time for the idea sit in my brain, I’ve slowly developed an answer. What’s helped me to let go of the guilt has been to focus on the lesson learned from the discarded object, rather than the gratitude.

Take for example my shoes: the original value I was hoping for was a cute/affordable pair of comfortable shoes I could wear to work. Ultimately they did not meet my criteria because they stretched out and became too loose to stay on my feet without considerable effort, therefore no longer meeting the comfort criteria. The new value in the shoes is the lesson that Mossimo brand flats might stretch. In the future I should try sizing down by a half size or consider avoiding the brand.

Still unsure how to distill the lesson out of possessions that don’t spark joy? Try these steps:

List the reasons you don’t like the object  Lets use another example of something I recently discarded, a pair of work pants. I did not like the feel of the fabric. After a few washes the interior was pilled and scratched my legs, despite following the wash instructions.

Determine the cause My best guess is the blend of the fabric and possibly made worse by the dryer (even though the wash instructions said it was ok!) led to the scratchy interior.

Find the lesson  For me the lesson is not to buy pants with that particular blend again.

Reassign the value of the object The value the pants originally represented  was $50 and in exchange for that money, the ownership of an item I hoped would be comfortable, stylish and durable. The new value of the pants is the lesson that the “exact stretch” style pants from the Loft (and any others with the same fabric blend) are not durable enough for my standards and I will not buy another pair in the future. By conscientiously focusing on the new value, I was able to put the pants in my donate pile without hesitation.

I use clothing examples because these are the purchases I most frequently regret. But this method could certainly be extended to just about anything, from food to household goods to cars. What have you been holding on to out of guilt or fear of wasting money? Give this method a try! Would love to hear how it works for you.