But It Was So Expensive!

A few years ago one of my co-workers came to my office to ask a question, and I noticed she was pulling at her sleeves.

“Is there something wrong with your sweater?” I asked.

“No,” she said, “It’s just that it’s made of angora, and angora makes me itch.”

“Do you think you might be allergic?” I asked.

“I know I am,” she replied, “It’s just I have a lot of cashmere and angora sweaters and I always forget about my allergy when I’m getting dressed in the morning.”

“If you know you can’t wear it,” I asked, “Why do you still own it?”

She frowned and furrowed her brow. “It was so expensive!” she said.

This is a sentiment that I have both heard – and suffered from – way too often. Sometimes we have things we know we should get rid of, but it’s hard to part with them because we still remember how much they cost in the first place.

When an item costs a lot of money, we feel compelled to get our money’s worth. All else being equal, it is logical to get as much use out of our possessions as possible. But not all possessions are equal. For my coworker, wearing the sweaters had become an unpleasant experience, one that she would avoid whenever she remembered to do so. As such, the sweaters no longer had any personal value to her at all, regardless of how much value the market placed on them or how much they cost originally.

In this world there are plenty of items that have monetary value in the market but no value to certain individuals. Lawn mowers have clear monetary value, but are generally of no value to apartment-dwellers. Diabetic test strips are not valuable to people without diabetes. Tampons are of little direct value to people who don’t menstruate.

An object that sits in a box in your closet and makes you feel bad is of no value to you. It doesn’t matter if it used to be of value, or if you thought it might be, or if other people would say it’s valuable. If you aren’t using it or enjoying it in anyway, the value to you is zero. That is true even if you spent a lot of money to acquire it. The money is gone, no different than if you’d spent it on a fancy dinner or gambled it away. If you are done using it, you are not getting more of your money’s worth by keeping it around.

What’s more, objects like this tend to have a value of even less than zero, because you have to store them or clean them or simply deal with the regular reminder of that money you spent. They cost time and effort just by staying in your home. Let the local thrift shop make some money off these items – all they are doing is costing you more.

One hesitation people often have with expensive items is the desire to sell them and recoup some of the cost. I understand this desire, and there are times when it makes sense. But most of the time you will struggle to find a buyer willing to pay even half of what you paid originally. Add in the work to photograph and post the listing, the cost of shipping or delivery, and the general headache of dealing with it, and you are throwing even more resources at an item that already cost you a lot. What’s more, the notion of “I’m going to sell that” is usually how items stick around in some forgotten corner of your house, constantly nagging at you to put more work into them.

Your Mission:

Go through your home and find any items you are keeping simply because they cost you a lot to begin with. Acknowledge that the item probably gave you a certain amount of joy at one point, and that it also taught you something about yourself and how you want to spend your money. Maybe even thank it, KonMari style. If you really want to try selling the item, mark a date on your calendar a month from now. You have one month to get this item out of your house. If you can’t sell it in that time, let it go.

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