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Last Updated on February 25, 2018

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  • Retrieve Cost — “What costs are associated with retrieving it or it becoming outdated?”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 December 17, 2018

Read this and stop feeling overwhelmed…for good!

Read this and stop feeling overwhelmed…for good!

We live in a time of productivity overload.

Everywhere you turn are articles and books about how to be more productive, how to squeeze 27 hours of work out of every 24, how to double your work pace, how to do more and more all in the name of someday getting out of the rat race. Well this is about the side effects of those ideas. If we aren’t multitasking, we feel lazy. If we aren’t doing everything, we feel like we’re slacking. We compare ourselves to others who we think are doing more, having more, getting more and achieving more, and it’s driving us crazy. We feel overwhelmed when we think we have too much to do, too much is expected of us, or that a stressor is too much for us to handle. And we respond by lashing out with emotions of anger, irritability, anxiety, doubt and helplessness.

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This season especially is the most stressful time of year. Between the holidays, final exams, family gatherings and general feelings of guilt that it’s the end of the year, it’s easy to get overwhelmed thinking of all the things you still need to get done. But if you use these tips, not only will you get the important stuff done, you’ll keep your sanity while doing it!

    Is this you?

    Change your thought pattern-stop thinking negatively

    When you feel overwhelmed, the first thing you do is start thinking negatively or begin to resent why it’s your responsibility in the first place! The first thing you have to do is to stop! Stop thinking negatively immediately. Instead, focus on the positive. If you’re stuck in traffic, think of how great it is to have some time to yourself. If you’re rushing trying to get things done by a deadline, think how lucky you are to have a purpose and to be working towards it. If you’re stressing about a final exam, think of how fortunate you are to be given the opportunity of higher education. After you’ve changed your thought patterns, you must then say to yourself “I can do this.” Keep saying it until you believe it and you’re more than halfway to ending feeling overwhelmed.

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    Take a deep breath/change your body posture

    When you’re stressed certain things happen to your body. You start to breath shallowly, you hunch over, you immediately tense up and all that tension drives your feelings of stress even more. Relax! Straighten your posture and take at least ten deep, cleansing, breaths. Force yourself to smile and do something to change your state. It could be as simple as giving yourself a hug or as silly as clapping your hands three times, throwing them up in the air and shouting “I GOT THIS!” Think to yourself, how would I sit/stand if I had perfect confidence and control of the situation?

    Focus on right now

    Now that you are in a better state of mind and are no longer thinking negatively, you need to focus on the here and now. Ask yourself this question: What is the most important thing I have control of and can act on right now? Keep asking yourself this until you have a concrete next step.

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    Take Action

    Now that you know what’s most important and what to do about it, do it! Start with the first step and focus on getting that done. Don’t worry about anything else right now, just on what your first step is and how to get it done. Once that’s done with, determine the next most important step and get that done.

    Let go of what you can’t control (the gambler’s theory)

    Seasoned gamblers understand the importance of due diligence and knowing when to let go. The Gambler’s Theory is that once your bet is placed there is nothing you can do, so you might as well relax and enjoy the process. The time to worry is when you’re figuring out the best odds and making the decision of what to bet when you can actually take action. I used this one a lot in college. After an exam, there is absolutely no point in stressing about it. There’s nothing you can do. And the same goes for feeling overwhelmed. If you can do something about your situation, do it, focus and take action. But if you’ve done what you could and now are just waiting, or if you’re worried about something you have no control over, realize that there’s no point. You might as well relax and enjoy the moment.

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    yoga-422196_1280
      Relax and enjoy the moment

      Stop feeling guilty

      Finally, stop comparing yourself to others. If you are at your wits end trying to keep up with what you think you should be doing, you aren’t being fair to yourself. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t strive for improvement, just don’t go overboard because you feel like you have to. Only you know what’s really important to you, and your personal success journey so focus on what your top priorities are, not someone else’s.

      Everyone feels overwhelmed sometimes. The important thing is to realize it’s normal and that you can do something about it by taking focused and deliberate action. Happy Holidays!

      Featured photo credit: Stress Therapy via flickr.com

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