Oh… thank you? – Obligation Clutter

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I may have seemed a little overconfident on the Guilt Clutter, but I know my limits.  Obligation Clutter can a tricky business. In part 2 of her series, Colleen at 365 Less Things has some excellent insight about what she calls Obligation Clutter:

What is Obligation Clutter? These are items that someone gave you that you no longer want, and sometimes never wanted in the first place, but you now feel obliged to keep it so you do not upset or offend the giver. They are often…

  • Unwanted gifts
  • Gifts that were once well used but now no longer suit your needs
  • An object given to you of sentimental value
  • Objects made for you
  • Family heirlooms (Probably the hardest of all to deal with)

Colleen feels that honesty is the best policy, and that if someone wonders where a particular item has gone, you simply inform them that you no longer wanted to keep the item for whatever reason.  Their relationship with you is what matters, not the item they gave you.

The quote that really resonated with me: “Quite often the situation is only as big as you blow it up to be in your own mind.”  If only that were always true!  I actually regifted something once, only to have the two people meet and – unlikely as it might seem – discuss the gift and discover what I had done.  Now, the regiftee loved the gift, much more than I ever would, but the original gifter was very unhappy with my lack of proper gratitude.  Still, I think the pain that incident caused was not as great as the pain of keeping that item for the past 12 years would have been.  If I think about it logically, that was a single incident in my lifetime; that’s still pretty good, statistically.

One drawback of being a former hoarder is that people got into the habit of giving me things that they wanted to get rid of but couldn’t actually bear to part with.  They knew that I would take in stray stuff like other people might pick up a stray cat (or like my mom used to bring home stray people from the bus stop) and if they ever wanted to see their stuff again, they knew where to find it. Now that I am trying to reduce my possessions, I have been turning things down.  People are shocked (and – I think – a bit put out).

  • {Clutter} released: All the hamster stuff is gone!  Thank you, Craigslist family from Scapoose!
  • {Stress} released: A little karaoke at the church picnic, a little photo-sorting fun with Cindy, and a bouquet of flowers for myself…  an excellent day.

6 thoughts on “Oh… thank you? – Obligation Clutter

  1. I Lori in OR,
    I loved what you had to add to this conversation. I particularly liked your attitude when it came to accepting that one bad experience is good statistically. Some people would let that experience dictate their attitude from that moment on but not you. Brush yourself of and just keep at it. Did that person remain friends?


    1. Thanks, Colleen! Actually, the person whose gift I had given away did not remain friends. I’m not sure if that would have happened anyway, though; it was the mother of a student I was teaching, and often they move on as their children grow up. The receiver of the gift was my mother-in-law, and luckily she still loves me and was not offended!


  2. I had to laugh – i just KNOW you were referring to me in one particular paragraph. It’s a good thing I don’t remember what I’ve given you to “curate” or I’d want it back.


    1. … sheepish grin… If it makes you feel any better, you are only one of the many I was referring to in that paragraph! I should have gone into business. Believe me, if I ever decide to part with anything that was yours, I’ll give you first dibs.


  3. Yes, then I can start a blog on reclaimed clutter. I always figured, you have about 2000 more square feet of “storage” than I do.


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