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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  • Retrieve Cost — “What costs are associated with retrieving it or it becoming outdated?”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 July 10, 2020

The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

 

Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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