HUMOR – My Conscience and Other Reasons I Can’t Downsize

My philosophy of stuff can be summed up this way: If I don’t need it or love it I don’t want it. It’s simple but not easy, mainly because of some deep-seated emotional issues I have. I’m only admitting them publicly because I know I’m not alone, not if the proliferation of storage units across the country is any indication.

First, I’m afraid that if I don’t know what something is for, I’ll find out right after I discard it. In other words I have belongings that I believe are now, and will continue to be, useless up until the moment I part with them. That explains why I keep an assortment of mysterious keys, parts to unknown gadgets and an entire basket full of chargers and power cords to who knows what. And no, I’ve never discovered a treasure chest after I threw a key away or realized what a mysterious part belonged to after I’d tossed it. But that’s because I’ve never thrown any keys or parts away.

When it comes to items I do recognize but don’t use at the moment, I have a similar fear. I’m convinced I might need them someday. This applies to a lot of clutter—from the jug of humidifier treatment for the humidifier we no longer own to an entire bag of orphaned socks. You never know. Their soul mates could show up after being away all these years.

I’m especially fearful about tossing documents. What if the IRS wants to see the receipt for the computer I purchased in 2010? Most likely they won’t, but I’m convinced I’ll double the chances they will if I put it out with the trash.

If you’re scoffing, you’ve obviously never shredded an entire stack of receipts you needed to prove you went on a business trip or put a piece of your child’s homework in the trash. I know someone who did that, and it wasn’t my son.

There are a lot of things I can’t discard until I’ve fully processed them. In this category I’d include my trunk full of letters dating back 50 years. I fully intend to dispose of them, but first I want to read them. The problem is I never feel like reading 50 years’ worth of letters. You’re probably thinking that if I haven’t felt like reading them by now, chances are I never will. Apparently you’ve forgotten my previously mentioned emotional issues.

I live in fear that the entire planet will eventually be covered in landfills and cemeteries. I can’t do anything about the cemeteries, but my concern about landfills inspires me to continue using objects until they’re unusable. That explains why I keep a pair of broken binoculars and a hairdryer that only blows cold air. It takes a little longer to dry my hair and if I close my left eye when I use the binoculars, I can still spy on the neighbors.

And after 25 years in the same house, I’m blind to much of what my husband and I own. It would be helpful if someone who’s never been in my home would walk through and do a running commentary about the belongings I no longer see. “What is that and why do you keep it? And that over there is unnecessary and looks dreadful besides.” I never invite anyone to do that though because it might cause other emotional issues.

Finally, I don’t dispose of a lot of the clutter in our home because I have a conscience. Some of the things I’d like to throw away—maybe most of the things I’d like to throw away—don’t belong to me. My husband has around 150 ball caps and piles of clothes that don’t fit him. He has ancient magazines, albums, CDs and VHS tapes. But I can’t in good conscience give away his belongings—at least not while he’s watching.

Dorothy Rosby is an author and humor columnist whose work appears regularly in publications in the West and Midwest. You can subscribe to her blog at or contact at