One thing that prevents me from getting rid of more clutter in my life is the worry that someday, for some reason, I’ll want it again. Maybe I don’t use the rice cooker now, but what if I need it in the future? It’s thinking like this that keeps me from achieving the simple life I long for.

After writing about the idea of having recently, I decided to re-read Your Money or Your Life, one of the best books about personal finance, frugality, and conquering consumerism. In it, authors Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin share an answer to this problem:

[One] individual realized that he had many possessions that he wasn’t using and no longer wanted, but had been hanging on to because he “just might need them someday.” His creative solution was to sell these belongings and set aside the proceeds to be used to replace any of them he might find himself in need of in the future. Meanwhile, his money was earning interest, his life became simpler, and someone who might really need these items was getting use out of them.

This is a fantastic idea. Rather than keep the stuff you aren’t using, you sell it to somebody who will use it, and then stash the proceeds for future use. It’s sort of like “Stuff insurance”.

Last September, Kris and I purged hundreds of books from our shelves. We loaded them into her car and spent a Saturday morning driving around Portland from used bookstore to used bookstore. We sold nearly all of the books, picking up $358 for a couple hours work.

Last year, the money went to retiring my debt, but if I were to do something similar today, I could use the cash to start a new subaccount at ING Direct, a sort of Stuff Replacement Fund. As I sold my comic books, my compact discs, my DVDs, and so on, I could take the proceeds and place them all in the same account, a safeguard against the things I might really need.

Of course, there’s little chance I’ll need any of this Stuff ever again. I have two friends who have been ruthlessly purging clutter for the past couple years, and they say they never long for the things they get rid of. After a few years in this Stuff Replacement Fund, I could simply fold all the money into my normal savings and go on with life.

(Another solution shared by reader Megan P. last August is to purge clutter with a de-accumulation bag.)

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