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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

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      Leon Ho

      Founder & CEO of Lifehack

      The Lifehack Show: Yoga to Combat Stress and Improve Your Life with Nicole Lovald How Systems Thinking Makes You a Smarter Person How Do You Change a Habit (According to Psychology) How to Learn Quickly And Master Any Skill You Want What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

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      Last Updated on March 25, 2020

      How Do You Change a Habit (According to Psychology)

      How Do You Change a Habit (According to Psychology)

      Habits are hard to kill, and rightly so. They are a part and parcel of your personality traits and mold your character.

      However, habits are not always something over-the-top and quirky enough to get noticed. Think of subtle habits like tapping fingers when you are nervous and humming songs while you drive. These are nothing but ingrained habits that you may not realize easily.

      Just take a few minutes and think of something specific that you do all the time. You will notice how it has become a habit for you without any explicit realization. Everything you do on a daily basis starting with your morning routine, lunch preferences to exercise routines are all habits.

      Habits mostly form from life experiences and certain observed behaviors, not all of them are healthy. Habitual smoking can be dangerous to your health. Similarly, a habit could also make you lose out on enjoying something to its best – like how some people just cannot stop swaying their bodies when delivering a speech.

      Thus, there could be a few habits that you would want to change about yourself. But changing habits is not as easy as it seems.

      In this article, you will learn why it isn’t easy to build new habits, and how to change habits.

      What Makes It Hard To Change A Habit?

      To want to change a particular habit means to change something very fundamental about your behavior.[1] Hence, it’s necessary to understand how habits actually form and why they are so difficult to actually get out of.

      The Biology

      Habits form in a place what we call the subconscious mind in our brain.[2]

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      Our brains have two modes of operation. The first one is an automatic pilot kind of system that is fast and works on reflexes often. It is what we call the subconscious part. This is the part that is associated with everything that comes naturally to you.

      The second mode is the conscious mode where every action and decision is well thought out and follows a controlled way of thinking.

      A fine example to distinguish both would be to consider yourself learning to drive or play an instrument. For the first time you try learning, you think before every movement you make. But once you have got the hang of it, you might drive without applying much thought into it.

      Both systems work together in our brains at all times. When a habit is formed, it moves from the conscious part to the subconscious making it difficult to control.

      So, the key idea in deconstructing a habit is to go from the subconscious to the conscious.

      Another thing you have to understand about habits is that they can be conscious or hidden.

      Conscious habits are those that require active input from your side. For instance, if you stop setting your alarm in the morning, you will stop waking up at the same time.

      Hidden habits, on the other hand, are habits that we do without realizing. These make up the majority of our habits and we wouldn’t even know them until someone pointed them out. So the first difficulty in breaking these habits is to actually identify them. As they are internalized, they need a lot of attention to detail for self-identification. That’s not all.

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      Habits can be physical, social, and mental, energy-based and even be particular to productivity. Understanding them is necessary to know why they are difficult to break and what can be done about them.

      The Psychology

      Habits get engraved into our memories depending on the way we think, feel and act over a particular period of time. The procedural part of memory deals with habit formation and studies have observed that various types of conditioning of behavior could affect your habit formations.

      Classical conditioning or pavlovian conditioning is when you start associating a memory with reality.[3] A dog that associates ringing bell to food will start salivating. The same external stimuli such as the sound of church bells can make a person want to pray.

      Operant conditioning is when experience and the feelings associated with it form a habit.[4] By encouraging or discouraging an act, individuals could either make it a habit or stop doing it.

      Observational learning is another way habits could take form. A child may start walking the same way their parent does.

      What Can You Do To Change a Habit?

      Sure, habits are hard to control but it is not impossible. With a few tips and hard-driven dedication, you can surely get over your nasty habits.

      Here are some ways that make use of psychological findings to help you:

      1. Identify Your Habits

      As mentioned earlier, habits can be quite subtle and hidden from your view. You have to bring your subconscious habits to an aware state of mind. You could do it by self-observation or by asking your friends or family to point out the habit for your sake.

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      2. Find out the Impact of Your Habit

      Every habit produces an effect – either physical or mental. Find out what exactly it is doing to you. Does it help you relieve stress or does it give you some pain relief?

      It could be anything simple. Sometimes biting your nails could be calming your nerves. Understanding the effect of a habit is necessary to control it.

      3. Apply Logic

      You don’t need to be force-fed with wisdom and advice to know what an unhealthy habit could do to you.

      Late-night binge-watching just before an important presentation is not going to help you. Take a moment and apply your own wisdom and logic to control your seemingly nastily habits.

      4. Choose an Alternative

      As I said, every habit induces some feeling. So, it could be quite difficult to get over it unless you find something else that can replace it. It can be a simple non-harming new habit that you can cultivate to get over a bad habit.

      Say you have the habit of banging your head hard when you are angry. That’s going to be bad for you. Instead, the next time you are angry, just take a deep breath and count to 10. Or maybe start imagining yourself on a luxury yacht. Just think of something that will work for you.

      5. Remove Triggers

      Get rid of items and situations that can trigger your bad habit.

      Stay away from smoke breaks if you are trying to quit it. Remove all those candy bars from the fridge if you want to control your sweet cravings.

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      6. Visualize Change

      Our brains can be trained to forget a habit if we start visualizing the change. Serious visualization is retained and helps as a motivator in breaking the habit loop.

      For instance, to replace your habit of waking up late, visualize yourself waking up early and enjoying the early morning jog every day. By continuing this, you would naturally feel better to wake up early and do your new hobby.

      7. Avoid Negative Talks and Thinking

      Just as how our brain is trained to accept a change in habit, continuous negative talk and thinking could hamper your efforts put into breaking a habit.

      Believe you can get out of it and assert yourself the same.

      Final Thoughts

      Changing habits isn’t easy, so do not expect an overnight change!

      Habits took a long time to form. It could take a while to completely break out of it. You will have to accept that sometimes you may falter in your efforts. Don’t let negativity seep in when it seems hard. Keep going at it slowly and steadily.

      More About Changing Habits

      Featured photo credit: Mel via unsplash.com

      Reference

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