What would I use if I didn’t have this?

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

I love this new article by Joshua Becker, which advises asking the question "What would I use if I didn’t have this?" to help decide what possessions to keep. I use this occasionally

But it also helps in so many ways:

– decluttering, as intended – if you have something else that works fine, why not just get rid of this one? (or the other one)

– avoiding buying new stuff – when I do need something, like the time both kids were down with colds and I only had one bed tray, I have to use what I have. When I’ve asked the question, I already know the answer. When I don’t have an extra bed tray, I can just use that old lap desk that is sitting around. I could probably go further: if I didn’t have the lap desk, I could use a baking tray. If I didn’t have the bed tray, I could use my broiler pan.

– creativity – coming up with new ways of using things you already have helps extend their usefulness, too. If none of the above options for meal trays is available, I’m confident I could come up with another solution (piece of plywood? picture frame? puzzle box?), feed the child myself, or just hand the kid a bowl and a spoon.

– saving money and resources – of course, without needing something specific, you save money and resources (water, soap, oil, cloths, etc) in replacing or maintaining it, an underrated environmental benefit. It also can go to someone who really has no other alternatives, or whose life is altered by the change (eg, someone who is forced to eat in bed every day).

– becoming skilled – as this article demonstrates, you can learn to pour without a funnel (one of the things I don’t have in my house for, say, refilling an oil bottle, though this article is about automotive uses). With practice, you get better at doing things a different way, without a specialized tool. And maybe spill less!

– practice being mindful – by doing things in a slower, more deliberate way, or using things in a new way, you pay closer attention, and you are forced to be present to what you own and how you use it

Take a look at an item near you. What would you use if you didn’t have it?

Then look at your "to buy" list, wishlist, or something you’ve got in a shopping cart. What would you use if you couldn’t buy it?

Difficult times have shown us that we can have new relationships with so many things by making our own, or even doing without. By winnowing out those unnecessary things, the remaining items take on a greater significance, and the most important of all emerge: those things that are not things.

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