Friday, March 24, 2017

The Fear of Regret

to feel sad, repentant, or disappointed over something that has happened, especially a loss or missed opportunity  

Regret is an interesting thing, isn't it?

Life is full of different forks in the road where decisions are made. Sometimes we choose correctly. And other times we regret our choice and wish we could have a re-do. It's a part of life that doesn't seem to be avoidable.

In my last blog post I talked about the concept of "Stupid Tax" and how there could be feelings of regret associated with buying things that we later realize were stupid purchases.  After feeling regret and realizing that stupidity occurred, it's time to get rid of the stupid item, right? Instead of letting it take over our spaces, it's time to face reality and let it go.

Today I want to talk about The Fear of Regret and the ways that fear hold us back from things like letting our possessions go.

When I have helped others dejunk, one of the biggest stumbling blocks I have found in them being willing to get rid of things they no longer like, use, want or need is the fear that some day those things will become something they like, use, want or need. They worry that they will regret letting it go.

I am actually quite fascinated by the concept of the Fear of Regret and it's ability to hold us back, in all different aspects of our lives.  We all try to make wise and healthy decisions as we journey along in life and when we don't it usually brings some kind of pain--including regret. As the definition above says, we feel "sad" or "disappointed" in something that happened or was lost.  But sometimes, in fact a lot of times, the fear of regret keeps us from something more. In my faith, one of the basic concepts we believe in is the principle that pain, heartache, and regret are actually good for us because they help us see, appreciate, look for and work for the GOOD.  In simple terms, if we didn't know the pain of regret, for example, we would never know the joy of a good decision. 

What I am trying to point out is that oftentimes we allow the "Fear of Regret" to stifle us. We are so afraid of pain, when in reality, pain is good for us and is an important part of life. So instead of living with the fear of regret, we should expect and even appreciate regret and learn from it.

Let me share a simple example from my own life: 

As you've probably already noted from previous posts, I have a passion for cute clothes. So I tend to buy a lot, wear a lot and change them out a lot. And periodically I get rid of a clothing item that later becomes a serious regret. 
Behold....the much loved, super cute and for-some-reason-dejunked navy blue and white blouse.

I bought this navy blouse with tiny what stars at The Gap a few years ago. I saw it, refused to pay that much for a blouse, waited for it to go on sale, and then pounced. It had all of the different aspects I liked in a blouse. It fit well, washed up well, went with lots of different things and could be casual or dressy. It was a great blouse.

But, last summer I was getting ready to have a yard sale and went a little crazy. I had a lot of things in my closet and knew I should get rid of some. As I reached for this blouse and put it in the pile to go I thought "I might should keep this." On the night before the yard sale, as I was pricing things, I put a "high" price on this blouse ("high price" is a relative thing right? high relative to other yard sale prices is actually still super cheap relative to prices at the stores.) I thought to myself "I'm only going to sell this shirt IF I can get this much money for it." And even then I wondered if I should change my mind getting rid of it.

On the morning of the yard sale I opened the garage doors early and people started coming in. And what do you know, but about the third person that came along snatched up that blouse and paid me my "top dollar" for it. 
And it was gone.

Just like that.
And almost immediately the regret set in.
I'm still not sure why I thought I should let the blouse go.
 It was a good blouse! 
But I did.

And someone came along, loved it, bought it and hopefully wears it every week.

When I see a picture of me wearing this blouse, I cringe with regret.
When I think about an outfit or wonder what I could wear with these pants or this skirt, I sometimes think of this blouse and say "What was I thinking?!"

and here is my point

I'm still alive.
In fact, I am more than alive, I am loving life.
I still have other cute blouses to wear.
I still have other cute outfits to put together.

My navy blue with white starts blouse is gone but I'm going to survive.

One of the perils of having too much,
of the Curse of Affluence (that we talked about here), that we are currently all enduring,

is that we have SO much stuff and yet still have an amazing fear of getting rid of things. A huge part of that fear comes from The Fear of Regret. We don't like to feel regret and so, instead of letting things go, we hold on and hold on and hold on and fill up our lives, closets, spaces, drawers and garages with more and more stuff. 

The Fear of Regret stifles us and ends up, I think, providing us with an even more profound regret. 
The regret that comes from living for years with:
* the frustration over not being able to find things around your home
* the embarrassment over people seeing your chaotic messes
* the irritation at not being able to park your cars in your garage
* the aggravation at good money wasted on storage units to hold your junk
* the worry of what to do with ALL of this stuff!

Oftentimes, when I think about the different items I have dejunked and then felt regret over getting rid of, I try to think instead of how happy I am to have cleaned out and organized spaces. I think about how freeing it feels to know where things are and to even have a few empty spaces in my cupboards or drawers I could use if I wanted to. I try to remember how distracting for kids and frustrating for parents it is to have a home and garage so full to the brim that people are constantly stumbling over, climbing around or arguing about their piles of things. 

The bottom line is that regret is a part of life. But we can't let the fear of regret keep us from being smart about things. We can't let the fear of regret dictate so much in what we choose to keep or get rid of. There will probably be things you choose to get rid of and then later regret, just like there are forks in your road of choices that you regret making. But you will live. And your family will too. We have plenty of whatever to make up for the loss of that one item here or there. And life, as a whole, will be better because while regretting a few of the little things you didn't regret the really big stuff.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Stupid Tax

One of my favorite radio personalities is Dave Ramsey, a now very wealthy but still regular guy who created an outstanding program for dealing with personal finance. You can read about what he teaches or watch/listen to him here. I highly recommend his Baby Steps Program.  Because of his simple, easy-to-follow system, my husband and I are completely debt free, including our house. And now we are able to build wealth, travel, be generous, and do crazy things like flip houses for fun. (Fun for the hubby, mildly entertaining for me ;)

Anyway...Dave Ramsey is a favorite of mine for several reasons but one of them is because he approaches life, including finances, in such a simple, easy-to-understand way. And one of the concepts he teaches that makes sense in a lot of areas is the concept of paying Stupid Tax. Simply put, stupid tax can be defined as: (1) anything that cost money, (2) created some form of pain, and (3) later was discovered to be a stupid decision. I explain to my kids that Stupid Tax is just what it says....taxes you pay for being stupid.  And we ALL pay it, at some time or another, multiple times in fact and in varying amounts. The concept of Stupid Tax is both ingenious and intriguing to me because of its universality. In other words, it really applies to everything in life. We are all stupid occasionally--we all make mistakes and do things that later we regret....and sometimes it costs us in Stupid Tax.

Today we are going to talk about how paying Stupid Tax relates to the STUFF in our homes and our quest to deal with and get a handle on it.

Let's begin with an example from my life.

I give you...the Tale of the Finger Spork
Once upon a time a certain mom and her daughter were on vacation together. It was a girls trip...and they were having way too much fun doing all sorts of things. One day they were walking around a large fancy outdoor shopping mall and found a one-of-a-kind candy and novelties store they just had to check out. The store was filled with all sorts of never-before seen candies and toys and was amazingly entertaining. After searching around and really enjoying their time there, a few items were chosen for purchase and up to the checkout counter they went. And that's when the mom saw the Finger Spork sitting in a small container by the cash register. She'd never seen anything like it really and started giggling. It was so tiny and yet so functional (or so she thought). She imagined how fun it would be to have such a thing in her purse and then be able to whip it out at a perfect time when there was, let's say, a yogurt or pudding or Wendy's Frosty to be eaten but no utensil around. Not only would she be prepared but it might be entertaining to eat with your finger as part of your utensil. AND it was only $3.99. What a bargain! Purchase made.

Fast forward to today...8 months later.

And the Finger Spork, which has been in the small make up bag in my purse 
waiting for it's first chance to be used, is still brand new. 
Can you believe there has not even been ONE time I have come across a container of applesauce, a bowl of ice cream, or a cup of noodles and didn't have a way to get the food into my mouth? Yeah, me neither. But it's true. And just the other day, my husband (you know...the one I give a constant hard time to about keeping things he doesn't need to keep) got into my small makeup bag to use my tube of lip balm and proceeded to torture and tease me about carrying around the Finger Spork in my purse for the last several months. His reminder, mixed with the reality of the situation (namely the Finger Spork was still unused), brought me to a grand realization. The purchase of the Finger Spork was a stupid decision.


Admitting that is hard.

One of the reasons it's hard is because no one likes to admit they were stupid. Another is because this particular act of stupidity involved the spending of hard earned money...that was now completely wasted. As in thrown down the garbage disposal wasted. Ouch. I hate it.

But sometimes you just pay tax for being stupid. It's a fact of life...a reality of the situation. Sometimes you make bad decisions in the "spending money" department. It's going to happen.  So it's time we start admitting it, owning it, and moving on.

Why is that so important?

Because admitting to, owning, and moving on from paying Stupid Tax allows us to get rid of things we never should have bought in the first place.

I am sure as you have been reading thus far, there have been certain items in your possession that have come to mind as dumb purchases. You might have already said "Yeah, I've paid Stupid Tax more times than I care to admit." We buy things thinking at the time that they are amazing (like my Finger Spork) and some of them just aren't. But because it is human nature to fight against admitting we made a mistake, getting rid of that stupid thing is really hard. When we get rid of it, we're admitting to our stupidity AND it feels like we are throwing money away, or dare I say, being stupid again?

What we have to realize is that getting rid of the item isn't stupid. The purchasing of the item was stupid. There's a big difference. (I wrote a little about this in a blog post called "I paid good money for this."  You can read it here.)  We paid good money for something that didn't end up being something we like, use or need. The trick is to acknowledge it and let it go.

One of the things that amazes me as I work with others to dejunk and get control of their stuff and spaces is how much they fight me on letting go of things they have had for a while but are still brand new (or really close to it). Almost always, as we talk about it, it comes out that the only reason they are not wanting to get rid of the item is because it's brand new and they paid good money for it. In essence, they feel like getting rid of it would force them to pay the stupid tax.  I hope you can see the problem with that way of thinking?  When they made the purchase they paid the stupid tax. Holding on to the item, for however long, is not going to change that fact. In reality, the ONLY way to recover ANY of the stupid tax that was paid is to get rid of the item--i.e. to sell it at a consignment store, on Ebay, or at a yard sale OR to give it to a worthwhile charity and take a tax write off for the donation.

Keeping the item for longer does not recover your Stupid Tax. It's been paid. And then, one could argue, you keep paying stupid tax on that item by keeping it, worrying about it, apologizing for it and storing it! Sometimes people even PAY someone else to store it! It might sound harsh but I'm actually going to go as far as saying that anyone who bought something stupid then realizes it but chooses to keep it and PAY TO STORE IT is on the extreme end of stupid. In essence they are paying continuous stupid tax. (I'll get off my soap box for now but another blog post about storage units is coming! I can't STAND them!)

Even though I try, it needs to be said that I am FAR from perfect at eliminating the payment of stupid tax. Actually, I pay plenty of stupid tax quite regularly. It happens with items that come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.

For example, not too long ago I bought a new salad dressing "flavor" which sounded really delicious. However, when I came home and pulled it out to dress the next green salad, it didn't even come close to making the "delicious" cut. It was actually pretty disgusting. But it was opened now and I wasn't going to return it to the grocery store. And there was no way I was just going to throw it away! I paid almost $4 for that bottle of fancy salad dressing! So it sat in our fridge for months and months and months. Every time we had a green salad and got the other salad dressings out we of course thought about the lame one and wondered whether we should try eating it again. But who wanted to do that? We knew it was gross. And if we had company over I would have been embarrassed to put it on the table just in case our guests wanted to try it and then thought "Wow the Nelsons eat really gross salad dressings." But throwing it away? Are you kidding? It was practically NEW! I paid $4 for it and it had 1 tablespoon gone.

Do you see the problem? Keeping the salad dressing was not ever going to get me my $4 back. It's flawed logic to think that because you paid good money for something, even if it's gross, underwhelming, and useless, that you need to keep it. Admit that stupid tax was paid at the time of purchase and move on!

Another example from my life is this recipe book I bought at Costco.

Without bashing, after trying numerous recipes from it and despite the amazing step-by-step photos and instructions contained therein, the recipes in this book themselves were, in my opinion, completely below average. As in every recipe I have made from the book so far has been an "I'll never make that again" kind of recipe.  After making at least 10 of them, the frustration started setting in that I had paid close to $20 for this heavy, beautiful book that was actually a dumb purchase. I wish I would have just checked it out from the library. Or asked a friend to borrow it. Or tried a few of the author's online recipes first. Gah! An almost brand new but worthless $20 book! It's hard to admit but it just wasn't the wisest choice of expenditures. The $20 was gone though and keeping it is not going to change that.

New more stupid tax examples? I could keep going...

Recently my cream colored sweater appeared to be getting worn and kind of frumpy looking so I went on a quest for a new cream colored sweater. After all, it goes with a lot of things and it's nice to have a warm, comfortable, classic sweater in your wardrobe. The problem was that I started looking just a few weeks ago toward the end of winter season and so the selection isn't really good anymore. I maybe should have just waited until next fall but I got excited and started looking online. I've been a fan for years of the Ann Taylor and Ann Taylor Loft brands and went to their website to shop. They had a sweater that looked nice and had good reviews

and, because it was toward the end of the sweater reason was listed at a really good price. The problem was it was such a good price that it was a "final sale" item meaning it could not be returned. Talk about STUPID TAX! I thought and thought about it but hadn't had any luck finding a cream sweater locally that met my criteria and so I just went for it. Gah again!! Want my advice? Don't do that! Don't buy things that are not returnable when you can't even try the items on before you buy them! Yeah, STUPID! I got the sweater in the mail and what do you know? It doesn't look anything like this on me. It was too short for my long torso and more boxy on me too which made me look large and without a waist.

Oh dear old Stupid Tax....I know you so well.

Do you recognize any of these kinds of items in your life? Does any of this sound familiar?

If so, I hope you can start realizing that

1- We all pay stupid tax
2- Once the item is purchased the stupid tax is paid.
3- The only way to get any of the stupid tax back is to get rid of the item, NOT keep it.

So, instead of keeping the brand new Ann Taylor sweater and hope that someday it will start looking good on me, I am going to sell it on Ebay and see if I can get some of my money back. And the recipe book? I'm going to put in my yard sale this summer and hopefully going to get at least $5 of my $20 back?

You're assignment this week? Start looking at the items in your home and spaces that aren't adding anything positive to your life and be aware of any kind of resistance to getting rid of them that sounds like Stupid Tax Defensive Mechanism (STDM--just made that up. I love acronyms). It needs to be nipped in the bud immediately. As in stop doing it.

And if, on any given day, admitting to paying stupid tax is painful and you are ever struggling and want some reassurance that you are not alone in your stupidity, I hve a suggestion for you. Besides reading this blog post again and considering my dumb choices, take a 30 minute break from beating yourself up and read from a few other payers of stupid tax here. This is where Dave Ramsey offers a place for his listeners to write in and share their Stupid Tax stories. Most people find them to be not only extremely entertaining but also highly educational and profoundly motivating as well. After all, good behavior is a choice and it takes conscious thought to make the right decisions.

The payment of stupid tax is inevitable.  Acknowledging it was paid and moving on from our poor choices in the purchasing department is one of the best ways I know to start ridding your homes and spaces of unwanted and unused junk. Life is a constant lesson. Learn from it, change what you do and move on is what I say...without keeping all of your junk! The trick is to acknowledge when you pay Stupid Tax and let your stupid purchases go.