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One Question to Help You Successfully Declutter Anything

One Question to Help You Successfully Declutter Anything

There’s no getting around it – we have more possessions than ever before. The average American home, which has tripled in size over the past 50 years,[1] now contains a staggering 300,000 items.[2] With all these possessions and extra living space, you’d be forgiven for thinking that we’d know when to stop acquiring stuff. Yet 10% of Americans also feel the need to rent offsite storage too![3] Clearly, we have a problem.

Just imagine how all that stuff piles up over time. If the average home has 300,000 items collected over the course of 10 years, that’s 30,000 things per year. It’s a mind-blowing thought. Needless to say, no one needs to hold on to so many items. Yet it’s not always easy to decide what to keep and what to let go. If you’ve ever looked around your home and realized that it’s time to scale back, you may have become overwhelmed by the sheer size of the task.

Where should you start? And, most importantly, how can you avoid letting go of something and then regretting it later?

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The simple, powerful question that will help you declutter

What’s the solution? When considering whether or not it’s time to relinquish an item, ask yourself this question: If I had to move to another country tomorrow, would I bring it with me?

    That’s it. This one question will soon help you identify what you absolutely need in your life, and what’s just taking up valuable space in your home. It will immediately help you discern what is most important and useful to you, and what can be thrown or given away.

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    Why bother decluttering in the first place? There are several benefits. First, you’ll save space. Second, a tidy room can aid concentration. Ignoring unnecessary stuff and searching through messy drawers and piles takes up valuable mental energy which could be channeled towards more productive tasks.

    Finally, if you have fewer possessions, you will save time when it comes to cleaning and maintenance. Quite simply, the less you own, the less time you will spend organising and re-organizing your home.

    How the question helps you to decide

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      Ditch the unnecessary

      Once you start thinking about your answer, other questions will naturally arise. You’ll start to consider whether you actually use the item on a regular basis, when you next expect to need it, whether it takes up a lot of time or space, and whether it can be easily replaced. For example, you might have purchased a slow cooker with the intention of using it to make dinner several nights a week, but then shoved it to the back of the cupboard and forgotten about it. If it is just sitting there, taking up useful cupboard space, why hold onto it? It’s time to say goodbye!

      Another common example is clothing. Most of us are guilty of holding onto clothes that don’t fit us, aren’t in fashion any more, or just don’t fit with our lifestyle. For instance, if you used to work in an office but have spent the last few years raising your children full-time, you don’t need to keep those smart suits that have been gathering dust in your wardrobe. If you choose to go back to work in an office environment, it’s easy to buy a couple of new suits. Don’t let sentiment override your judgment.

      Try this RFASR formula:

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      • Recency – “When did I last use this?”
      • Frequency – “Exactly how often do I use this?”
      • Acquisition cost – “How expensive and/or difficult is it to get this?”
      • Storage cost – “How much does it cost me to store this?”
      • Retrieve cost – “What will it cost me if this item becomes outdated, or I need to retrieve it from storage?”

      Let’s look at another example. Suppose you have two lawnmowers in your garage, despite the fact you only have a small yard. Focusing on one lawnmower in particular, you figure that you last used it months ago (Recency), you have only used it approximately once a year (Frequency), it is not hard to buy new lawnmowers (Acquisition cost), storing it costs you in terms of space (Storage cost), and repairing it will be a hassle in the future because it is quite an old model (Retrieve cost). Therefore, you decide to get rid of it.

      Stop collecting

      Getting rid of unnecessary items is only one half of the equation. Once you have finished decluttering, adopt a new approach to shopping. It might be difficult at first, especially if you are tempted by new items or convince yourself that something might come in useful at a later date. For instance, if you have recently cleared out your kitchen of unused cookware, you might feel compelled to buy some attractive new crockery whilst at the mall, just because it looks good and because you now have some extra space. However, it’s slippery slope – unless you check yourself, you’ll end up back where you started!

      If you cannot realistically imagine how you will use a new item, don’t buy it. If you know that you wouldn’t bother taking it with you when moving abroad, don’t buy it. You get the idea – make a point of acquiring only what you truly need.

      Start today

      Decluttering can be a daunting task, but you don’t have to get it done in one session. Why not set aside 20 minutes per day for a month, taking it one room at a time? Remember, keep that simple question outlined in this article at the forefront of your mind. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how easy it becomes to let go of things you do not need.

      Featured photo credit: Picjumbo via picjumbo.com

      Reference

      More by this author

      Leon Ho

      Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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      Last Updated on July 2, 2020

      7 Ways To Stop Being Lazy And Start Getting Things Done

      7 Ways To Stop Being Lazy And Start Getting Things Done

      “I’m going to take a lazy day today.”

      Okay, there’s nothing wrong with this. It’s called a day off, and it’s a magical thing.

      But when every day is a “lazy day,” there’s a problem. Sometimes we just need a kick in the butt to get us up and moving, so we can handle our business effectively.

      Often, laziness has a deeper and darker cause that we don’t want to think about, let alone acknowledge. Here are 7 ways to stop being lazy and become more productive.

      1 Find Out the Root Cause

      Are you burned out from working 27 hours a day, 9 days a week since before you can remember? This is a signal that you need a rest or a change.

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      Human beings are not meant to work all the time. Our paleolithic ancestors worked, on average, about 20 hours a week. (Yeah, we members of modern society are getting hosed.) Maybe you feel overwhelmed, are afraid to fail at the task, or you just don’t want to do the task; these are discrete problems with separate solutions.

      Finding out the root cause of your laziness can help you make the changes you need to make to be a more effective and energetic person.

      2. Find Your Passion for the Work

      You started doing what you do for a reason, but sometimes, even the tasks we love the most can become dreary and mundane. When this happens, remind yourself why you started doing it in the first place.

      You must have had a passion for it at some point, or you wouldn’t be bothering with it. Remind yourself of the good points of the work, not just the parts that suck.

      3. Break up Your Time

      People work more efficiently when they have ample rest time. Working in short, focused bursts is far more effective than trying to slog through the task all at once. Not only will you be happier with the end product, but you’ll feel better and more energized after completing it.

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      Learn about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

      4. Look at Ways You Can Do the Task More Efficiently

      When possible, work smarter instead of harder.

      We’ve already talked about why working hard doesn’t work as well. If you can find a better way to do the task, you’re more likely to enjoy it because you’re not simply performing the task by rote, but rather, using your creativity and imagination to their best effect. This will make you feel better about the job and probably enjoy it more, too.

      Try these 12 Ways to Work Smart.

      5. Ask for Help or Support

      Sometimes, we just need a little extra backup. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help from a more motivated coworker, friend, or family member. This is a useful way to get you up and moving, because they will motivate you to do the task.

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      At the same time, you may be doing them a favor by motivating them to work harder. A little friendly competition never hurt anyone!

      Learn How to Ask for Help When You’re Afraid To Do So.

      6. Think About Why You Don’t Want to Do the Task

      This sounds like a rehash of number 1, but it’s really not.

      Some jobs we don’t want to do because they’re just not fun. Mowing the lawn, cleaning the house, or getting under the car and replacing the alternator all have one thing in common. People don’t like doing these jobs because they take time and energy, they’re not pleasant, and we know that sooner or later, we’ll just be doing the same thing all over again.

      However, instead of thinking about why you don’t want to do the task, think about the benefits. Your car will run better, the Homeowners’ Association won’t be leaving you a nasty gram for the sixth time this month, and your house will look nicer and feel more welcoming.

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      By turning a negative into a positive, you’ll find your outlook about these tasks will be more positive too.

      7. Force Yourself

      Sometimes there’s just no getting around it. All the good advice and wishes in the world won’t make the job look any better. In these cases, you need to remember you’re an intelligent, mature member of Homo Sapiens, and get off your butt.

      While it may not be fun at the time, you can look back on the task you did later and say, “Yeah. I did that.” You shouldn’t have to force yourself out of bed every morning (this is a warning sign of depression that you should NOT ignore), but every once in a while, we need to force ourselves to do something we just don’t want to do.

      Believe it or not, you’ll be proud of yourself once the task is done.

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      Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

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