Just in Case: Is It Good Sense or a Stumbling Block?

"Just in case" might be the most tempting phrase when it comes to keeping things we don't need.

But it's a little like an alcoholic's "Just one more" or an unfaithful partner's "Just this once."  It's the top of a slippery slope.

A portal to good memories...

Remember the portkeys in the Harry Potter series?  A portkey is a magical object that transports the person who touches it to another place.  That's why some of us feel the need to hang on to material items.  The touch of your grown child's old Teddy bear or your high school sports uniform can immediately take you to the past – to a rosy place of comfort and good memories.  The physical item seems to make the memory closer and more tangible.

A cherished photo, a letter, a piece of jewelry, some furniture, or something else might be useful, beautiful, and provide a connection to a loved one or to the past.  But when do all of those physical items become something other than a portal to good memories?  When do they become a heavy weight that holds us down, or chains that bind us?

  • When your "just in case" items are stored in the back of a closet, in a jam-packed garage, or in the middle of a huge pile in off-site storage, they aren't readily available should a need or desire arise.  You may not even remember you have them or be able to locate them if you do recall their existence.
  • When your "just in case" items sit in a box in the basement or make your living space uncomfortably crowded, they no longer function as effective memory triggers.  Either they're completely out of sight and out of mind, or they're a regular stumbling block that complicates daily life.  They blend in to the general noise and chaos of your home, and you may no longer pay them conscious attention.
  • When your "just in case" items number beyond common sense (perhaps the seventh set of sheets for your bed, the third TV, the fourth can of Lysol, or the fifteenth reusable shopping bag), you're sacrificing space that could be better used, and making it harder to organize and access the things you actually need on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.
  • When your "just in case" items could be valuable to someone else right now, but you keep them hidden away until you or someone else stumbles upon them years later, they may no longer even be useful.  They've lost their "just in case" potential simply by aging out of desirability.

... or a danger signal?

junk drawer
"Just in case" sounds like frugal practicality, but like your Depression-era grandma's hundreds of saved bread bags and dozens of jars of nails, screws, brads, bolts, nuts, picture hangers, and thumb tacks, there's a point beyond which it looks like you've lost the capacity for rational decision-making.

Would someone else looking at your stash think you're flirting with danger?  Would they think you're simply justifying a harmful habit?

Good memories are a wonderful gift, but why not free yourself to make new memories instead of always looking to the past?  Why not celebrate the fact that you have what you need for today, with a little extra in reserve, rather than worrying about what you might need in some imaginary future?

And if you need help, it's available.


  1. Another excellent, well-written post. Thank you!

    1. Thank you so much, Dawn! Glad you found it useful.

  2. I've been slowly but surely persuading my husband that some of the just-in-case items in our storeroom could be converted to money by putting them on Craigslist. We made $130 dollars yesterday.

    1. Good for you, Linda! The money might convince him, if nothing else will.


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