But… what if I need 12 towels today?

But... What if I need 12 towels today?
(via Kevin Steinhardt on Flickr)

Spring has sprung here (yay!) and I spent an hour yesterday changing our linens over from winter to summer. As I was packing away the heavy sheets my eyes fell on our towels. Or, more specifically, our collection of towels.

We are a family of four. We do not need 12 full-sized bath towels. Plus beach towels. Plus 4 kids towels. Plus hand towels. Plus bath mats. While hardly excessive in Western terms, it is ridiculous to own so many.

Even with guests, illness or bad weather I have never gone close to needing all these towels. The ones on the bottom of the pile? I couldn’t tell you the last time I used them. So they’re gone. 6 full-sized towels, 2 kids towels, 4 hand towels and 2 bath mats. Donated.

And the annoying thing? I could have let go of more if it weren’t for that whiny voice in the back of my head saying, “Yeah, but what if…?”

What if what, exactly? That’s the $64,000 question.

What if I need all 12 towels at the same time?

Yes, messes occur and washing machines back up and guests visit, but the what-ifs and the maybes are not a good enough reason (for me) to hold on to the excess. If there is a flood, or a defrosted freezer or a family-wide illness, we will work it out.

I now look back at the things we held on to for so long, to placate that whiny voice saying, “Yeah, but what if…?” and I wish we got rid of them sooner. I can honestly say there has not been one single thing I regret having de-owned.

Not one single thing do I think of and say, “Oh, I wish I still had that.”

Part of the reason is because stuff simply isn’t as important to me now. Stuff doesn’t hold the weight or the status that it used to, so it’s OK not to have it. And it’s even more OK not to want it.

But the other part is that I’m no longer afraid of the what-ifs. Sometimes I still listen to them, but I know that, really, the world will continue to turn even if I don’t have enough of the same-sized dinner plates.

Which brings me back to our towels and the obvious truth that sometimes – despite all the lessons of simplifying over the past 4 years – it’s still hard to live with just enough.

So maybe the question shouldn’t be, “How many towels do I need?” but rather, “If I am wet, can I get dry?”

If the answer is yes, then I have enough.

And this afternoon, I’ll be taking those excess towels out of the linen cupboard and in to my ever-running donation bag. After all, we have enough.


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