There’s an old joke about treadmills. It goes something like this:
One time I bought a treadmill, now it’s the most expensive clothes hanger in my home.
People laugh—they know it’s true.
The fact is we often buy items with good intentions but never end up using them.
Of course, in the scenario above, if the treadmill was only serving as an extra clothes hanger in the corner of our bedroom, that would be one thing. But the reality is, that unused item is more than a hanger.
It is taking up space—lots of it.
It is taking up valuable physical space in your home.
It’s another physical object, in your home, that you need to dust and clean and vacuum around. It’s just another thing to walk around every day… or pack up when you move.
But more than physical space, it also takes up mental space in your mind.
As Randy Alcorn says, “Every increased possession adds increased anxiety onto our lives.” And that is definitely true.
That unused item (a treadmill or anything) is visual clutter in your home. It calls for your attention every time you walk into the room. It surfaces guilt that you wasted money on it. It causes regret every time you see it. And it serves as a constant reminder that at some point you have to decide what to do with it.
Our unused items are not passive, they are active. They take up space—physical space in our home and mental space in our mind.
Which leads me back to the old adage about treadmills: One time I bought a treadmill, now it’s the most expensive clothes hanger in my home.
There’s a lot of truth in that statement—maybe more than we realize.
If a treadmill is not being used as a treadmill, what is it exactly? If it’s not being used for exercise, is it even a piece of exercise equipment? Maybe it really is just an expensive clothes hanger in the corner of my room.
This question quickly extends far beyond exercise equipment. We could begin to ask the same of other items in our home that are not being used.
If a shirt in my closet is never being worn, what is it? Is it actually a piece of clothing? Or is it just a piece of fabric hanging in my closet?
If a coffee mug in the back of my cabinet hasn’t been used to serve a drink for as long as I can remember, is it really a coffee mug anymore? Or is it just a piece of ceramic taking up space and gathering dust?
If there are countless tools in my garage that never get used, are they really tools anymore?
If that plastic spatula is never used, what has it become? Just something I need to rearrange every time I open the drawer?
If a book has never been read, is it really a book? I mean, isn’t the purpose of a book to provide education or entertainment? Clearly it isn’t doing that. Is it just a collection of papers, bound together, taking up space on my bookshelf?
If that old desktop computer is never used, what is it? It’s certainly not something I use to solve problems or accomplish tasks. It’s just a big box of electronic components sitting on a desk.
If I never listen to the CDs… if we never use the camping gear… if those old phones are just sitting in a box… if I don’t know what these cords go to… if I never play that piano… if that purse never gets used… if I never wear that pair of shoes…
It seems to me, the items in our home should serve a purpose. They should be used for the reason we purchased them.
If they are not, they are no longer serving their purpose.
They are only taking up space.
Or being used as a really expensive clothes hanger.