Free Stuff that Isn’t Really Free

Seems like everywhere you turn these days there are opportunities to get items for free.  At first glance, this seems like a great deal.  What’s better than free, right? Unfortunately, what seems like a bargain in the moment often ends up costing us, even if we didn’t have to shell out any money.  How can that be?

The reality is that everything we own, owns a piece of us. Every belonging that ends up in our home or office

…takes up space, and…needs to be stored, maintained, and/or cleaned

Think about a drawer. How much of the contents are supplies you need and regularly use vs. random items that have been shoved inside? Do you ever wonder “Where did all this stuff come from?” Odds are that at least some of it was free, but now you are stuck figuring out what to do with it.


Free stuff brings clutter


Some common “free offenders” are:

    • Phone books
    • Hangars/pins/collar stays from the dry cleaner
    • “Free Gifts” from the makeup counter
    • Toiletries bags from international flights
    • Brochures
    • T-shirts
    • Company promotional items
    • Inherited clothing/furniture/décor
    • Party/Wedding Favors
    • “Happy Meal” toys
    • Trophies/Awards
    • Prizes
    • College Promotional Materials
    • The “free” of “buy one, get one free”
    • Greeting cards
    • Address or gift labels
    • Cups/mugs/sports bottles from events
    • “Free” shipping (if you spend just a little more…)
    • Catalogs

As with all possessions, we need to be active in getting rid of items we don’t love or don’t use. Many of us feel guilty getting rid of an item because “it was such a great deal” or “it didn’t cost anything.” Perhaps we are reluctant to let go because it was given to us by a friend or relative and we think it will hurt his/her feelings if they find out we have passed it on.

But hear me now: guilt is not a reason to keep something in your space. In fact, guilt is a negative emotion, and if we keep an item out of guilt, we begin having a negative association with the giver – the exact opposite of what was intended.  No friend, relative or company wants you to feel frustrated when you look at something they gave you.

Of course, the best way to minimize the “free” clutter is to block it off at the pass. When you return from a conference, toss/donate anything you don’t want right away. Resist the temptation to buy something simply to get another item (or shipping) for free – unless it is something you are already intending to purchase. Don’t mindlessly stick items into a drawer, cabinet, or closet. Instead, ask yourself “Do I love this?” If the answer is “no,” donate it right away.


Getting a bargain is a wonderful thing, but only if it meets your needs and desires. Otherwise, what appeared to be free will cost you time, space and serenity.


Submitted by Seana Turner, founder & President of The Seana Method.

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