Free Stuff Is Not Free

I was listening recently to my local classical music station, WQXR.  They are now a public radio station and they were having a pledge drive. They were offering all sorts of premiums to induce listeners to donate money. My first thought was, “Hey, I’m a monthly supporter of this station. How come I never get any free stuff?” Then I realized that I didn’t want any free stuff. I have enough tote bags and mugs, and I already own plenty of CDs that I never listen to.

When we get free stuff, we feel like we are getting away with something. But free stuff really isn’t free. Once it comes in your house, it depletes your energy. First, you need to figure out where keep it. Then you need to remember to use it. (One of the most frequent statements I hear from my clients is “I’d forgotten I had that!”) Years later, you may come across it and realize you never used it, and then you pay for it in aggravation, especially if it has a long-past expiration date on it.

You not only pay in energy, you also pay in real estate. If space is at a premium in your home, it may be hard to find someplace to keep this free item. Finding a place for that item means you won’t have room for something else.

When we pay for something, we have made the judgment that it is worth the money we spend on it. We are more likely to value it and keep track of it. Free stuff, however, has not been assigned a value by us, so we are more likely to forget about it.

At the annual conference of NAPO (National Association of Professional Organizers), some of the vendors at the Expo hand out free samples of their products. At my first few NAPO conferences, I was very excited to get free stuff. However, it would sit in my closet for years without being used. Now, I don’t bring anything home from the conference unless it’s something I know I will use in the near future, or that my clients will use.

When you are handed a goody bag at an event, go through it and only bring home the items that you know for sure you will use. Give the rest of the items away to your fellow attendees, or toss them in the nearest trash can. Whatever you bring home, find a place for it right away with similar items. If something comes in an impossibly small package that will likely get lost among your stuff, toss it.


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