Saved From The “What If” Monster

I had a close call today.  Luckily, I came to my senses in time.

Let me explain.  Last year, I went online and ordered a storage ottoman for my living room.   When it arrived, we absolutely loved it.

This would have been the happy ending of a nice story, except that a few months after we got it, we noticed one of the legs wobbling.  Further investigation revealed structural damage to the base unit where the leg was attached.  I contacted the company and even thought the item was no longer manufactured, they managed to find another base unit and ship it to me, along with another set of legs.  We set it up, it was very stable, and our happy ending was achieved at last.

Except that I decided to hold on to the defective unit and the old legs.  I told my husband, “What if the new one malfunctions and it’s worse than the old one and we want to go back to using this one?”

As a Professional Organizer, if one of my clients told me this, I would very gently explain that this was not the optimal use of space and that it would be best to let this item go.  I was violating my own Organizing Principle # 5: “One in, one out.”

All I can say is, “Physician, heal thyself!”

So this defunct ottoman base and the box of extra legs sat in an out-of-the-way corner of the living room for about a month.  I kept telling my husband that we were going to carry it down to the basement of our apartment building, where we have a small storage cage.  First I wanted to wrap it in plastic so that it wouldn’t get dusty.  But we didn’t, and there it continued to sit.

We had my family over on Mother’s Day so we carried the spare ottoman parts into our bedroom.  Over the last few days, my husband started pulling the plastic off the dry cleaning he had received recently, so that we would have enough plastic to cover it.

This morning, I said, “Let’s take the ottoman down to storage today”.  (I was getting tired of seeing it standing in the corner of my bedroom).  Then suddenly, a lightning bolt hit me.   Why exactly was I holding on to this bulky, defective item?   The new ottoman had been performing like a champ for over a month, and even if it did develop a defect, wouldn’t I throw the whole set of them away and pursue an alternative ottoman style?

So I carried the ottoman out to the living room and asked my husband to dispose of it.  He was surprised but did not stop to ask questions.  Out it went.

I now have a renewed understanding of how this kind of thinking develops.  I have walked a mile in your shoes.  Luckily, I came to my senses before this item was out of sight in my storage cage, or who knows how long it would have remained in our lives.

What organizing advice can I derive from this experience?  If you feel insecure about disposing of an old item after you have replaced it, keep it nearby, but put a “dispose by” date on it.  (Don’t put the item in the basement or attic or storage unit, where you will forget about it. )  I felt more secure getting rid of my old ottoman after the new one had held up for over a month.   When your dispose-by date arrives, evaluate whether the new item is meeting your expectations.  If so, discard or donate the old one.  If the new one is not holding muster, then return it and reinstate the old one.

(Psst . . . I’ve still got the box of extra legs.)

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