Not unlike my earlier post, “Editing Your Life,” I’m still obsessing over the ideas of cutting to make space for things that matter. Let’s talk about that in your house. I’ll admit that there’s a recurring theme to this post: DONATE THINGS. THROW THINGS OUT. If you’re the ultimate pack rat, skip this post.
- Old clothes- You’re saving clothes that fit five years ago for when you drop that elusive twenty pounds. Chuck it. Donate it to one of the many needy causes out there. Drop it in a church bin. Whatever. Make it leave. It doesn’t matter that it was once expensive. If it’s not useful to you, how much is it worth? And shoes? Really. Look at all your shoes and tell me you’re really using all of them. Keep your Top 5 pair.
- Books- I just heard you gasp. Yes, you bibliophiles. There are books on your shelf — I know this as well as I know my name — that you will never refer to again, and that aren’t especially valuable. Donate them to the library. Get your kids to sell them on Amazon.com or eBay for summer money. Whatever. But really take a look at your shelf and ask yourself just which books you really use for reference, or keep because you know you’ll reread the story again, and then determine which you’re keeping “just in case someone wants to borrow them.” Chuck the latter. Everyone has access to books. If you feel really bad, ship the books to a developing nation program (Anyone here have good links to such?)
- Electronics- Do you have a seven year old camcorder that you used a lot when you first got it, but haven’t even charged the battery in well over a year? Give that to a school. Let kids use it for producing movies. It’s out of date. It’s not useful any more. Cheaper, smaller, better, faster ones exist. Feeling like you’re throwing away money? Try selling it on eBay and see what it’s worth.
- Dishes, Pots, Pans- Some folks keep things around “just in case” they need it. Consider how much stuff is in your home and really give that another look. Do you think you’ll be deep frying dough again any time soon? Do you need twenty glasses in case you have a party like the one you had four years ago? Donate this. Plenty of people can make use of it.
- Old computers- You want to do something great for your community? Take all your old, functioning computers, throw Ubuntu linux on them, and give them away to various community services. Give the working peripherals away, too. You’ve got your system. What are you really going to do with those other clunkers?
- Furniture- Some folks keep furniture around for “just in case” as well. I think this all stems back to a time when things weren’t so readily avaialble, but ask yourself: when was the last time you needed an emergency dresser or extra kitchen chair? The world economy is built for such emergencies these days. You need something quick and cheap? Go to WalMart or IKEA or your local craftsperson of note. Donate the old stuff in your house to people starting out families or who’ve survived a fire, or who otherwise need the stuff.
It’s not what these things cost you when you bought them that determines their value. But if you start looking around your home (or your business for that matter), you’ll find that there are things that linger in your home that cost you something else: ease of use of your home, extra expense (for instance, if you have to rent a storage space because your house is so cluttered), upkeep time when doing housework. There are costs related to those things sitting in your house for free, and I argue that more often than not, they outweigh the benefit of having such things around “in case you need them.”
Finally, try this as a method for determining what should go: pretend your house has suffered a terrible fire or flood. What would you wish above all else survived the experience? Everything on your list that didn’t qualify for that question? Chuck it.
–Chris Brogan tries hard to simplify through reduction and editing, including cutting back on superfluous words on his posts at [chrisbrogan.com].
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