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How to Throw Stuff Away Without Any Regret

How to Throw Stuff Away Without Any Regret

In the average American home, there are over 300,000 items.[1] That’s true even though 1 in 10 Americans (and rising) rent offsite storage[3] and even though the size of the American house has tripled in the past 50 years.[2] Do some math too: the average American home ownership tenure is about 9-10 years, meaning people are accruing 30,000+ items each year to reach the 300,000 total above.[4]

What is all this stuff, though? It can take many forms: loose change we’ve been hoarding, kids’ old toys, outfits that don’t fit or went out of style, screws and nails, stationery, or items that we have an emotional attachment to, like an old a concert program or record player.

People tend to keep more things because they believe that some day in the future, these things will be useful or gain value. This is right to an extent.  These items, especially ones with emotional memories, are not trash, but whether or not these things are useful for their owners is a question.

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It’s not easy to kickstart decluttering and deal with all the 300,000+ items, most people run into these three problems when they are trying to determine usefulness of an item:

  • Exaggerating or over-emphasizing its need in the future.
  • Underestimating the cost and space it takes up.
  • Ignoring the storage cost.

But here’s a way out.

The Declutter Formula

The best acronym to move past this is using the framework RFASR:

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  • Recency — “When was the last time I used this?”
  • Frequency — “How often do I use this?”
  • Acquisition Cost — “How difficult/expensive is it to get this?”
  • Storage Cost — “How much space and maintenance cost is it tied to?”
  • Retrieve Cost — “What costs are associated with retrieving it or it becoming outdated?”

As you ask yourself these questions, plug in this equation:

R (Low) + F (Low) + AC (Low) +SC (High) + RC (High) = Not Worth It

For example, a typical declutter scenario for many families is clothes, which often flows like this:

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  • Recency: “I last wore this over two years ago.”
  • Frequency: “Even back then, I didn’t wear it a lot.”
  • Acquisition Cost: “I could order something similar online in the next five minutes.”
  • Storage Cost: “This and similar items are taking up 3/4 of my closet.”
  • Retrieve Cost: “It’s so two years ago, too…”

In such a situation, you get rid of the clothing. It’s not going to add value or usefulness in the future.

If there’s an emotional attachment (e.g. a gift from someone you care about) try to remember this: when it was presented as a gift, it already achieved its primary goal. Two or more years later, it’s just clothing taking up space. That doesn’t change the connection to the gift or the person who gifted it.

While the declutter formula can help you get rid of the stuff you have already collected and help you decide whether you should collect or buy things, there’s always a dilemma when you want something more than you need it.

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To combat it, consider waiting a week to make the purchase. In the week, think about that equation and think about the relative degree of want and need. If you decide to purchase the new item, get rid of one item at your house. One in and one out is a relatively simple rule here.

The Hidden Perk of Decluttering

The real value of the declutter formula is more than saving money and space. It is also saving you mental energy.

There’s a massive amount of mental energy involved in organizing and cleaning old clothes and items, or even preparing yourself to do it. There’s also a large amount of mental energy involved in ignoring what you need to do, which is a common tactic of those with clutter. Think about this: if I hand you a white piece of paper with a large black dot and say “Don’t think about the dot,” you will have to try hard not to think of that black dot. That’s plenty of energy spent on trying not to think of the dot.

It’s the same with getting your house in shape. You know all that clutter is there. You know you need to declutter. But you keep finding ways to ignore or procrastinate on it, and that’s actually reducing your attention and priority away from where it should be.

The best way to re-focus on what matters to you and reduce distractions is by repeatedly applying the formula, you’ll have a house full of (a) things you like and (b) things that are valuable to you. That’s a huge win in the decluttering game.

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on March 23, 2021

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

You need more than time management. You need energy management

1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

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I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

2. Determine your “peak hours”

Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

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My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

3. Block those high-energy hours

Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

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Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

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Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com

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