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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

      How to Increase Brain Power, Boost Memory and Become 10X Smarter 4 Self-Help Tips You’ll Want to Avoid How to Drastically Increase Your Free Time How to Delegate Work Effectively (The Definitive Guide for Leaders) How to Live in the Present and Make Your Time Count

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      Last Updated on June 13, 2019

      10 Best Success Books You Need to Read to Be Great at Business

      10 Best Success Books You Need to Read to Be Great at Business

      Take a minute and think about some of the most successful people you know.

      I’d bet they’re great with people, are super-productive, and think differently than most. After all, that’s how they got to be where they are today.

      Jealous of them? You don’t have to be.

      You can learn these same skills by studying some of the best business and success books that can help you take your game to the next level. Here’re 10 of my favorites:

      1. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

        Dale Carnegie’s best-selling book that helped to launch a personal growth empire should be required reading for everyone who wants to learn how to build and nurture relationships for a lifetime.

        Read this book and you’ll learn some simple advice than can help you build popularity points within your current network and just as important, expand it to others.

        Get the book here!

        2. Focal Point by Brian Tracy

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          Got a lot on your to-do list? Of course you do. But what separates productive people from others is their ability to focus on a singular task at a time, and getting it done before moving on to the next one.

          Sounds simple in theory, but this can be extremely difficult in practice. In Focal Point Brian Tracy offers tips to help build discipline and organization into your day so you can get more stuff done.

          Get the book here!

          3. Purple Cow by Seth Godin

            Creating a “me-too” product can be easy at the start but can doom you to business failure. That’s why marketing maverick Seth Godin recommends creating a product that is truly different from anything already available in the marketplace.

            In essence by making the product different you’ll be building the marketing into the actual product development…which just makes your actual marketing a helluva lot easier.

            Get the book here!

            4. The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz

              If you’ve struggled with procrastination or small thinking, this is the book for you. In it Schwartz offers practical advice that can help you get inspired and motivated to create a bigger life for yourself. And with it can be a more lucrative and rewarding career.

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              Get the book here!

              5. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankel

                It can be difficult for lots of people to keep things in perspective, especially when working on high priority and urgent projects at work.

                Man’s Search for Meaning can be a life-changing book in the sense that it can open your eyes to a first-hand experience of one of the greatest atrocities in the history of mankind, while also teaching a valuable lesson about having purpose.

                Get the book here!

                6. The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss

                  Solo-entrepreneurs can learn a ton from the guy who made lifestyle design popular. But guess what? The 4HWW isn’t just for guys and girls who want to start a small online business.

                  Smart moves like outsourcing, following the 80/20 rule, and automating processes should be made by entry-level workers and established executives alike.

                  Get the book here!

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                  7. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

                    I remember sitting on a couch and opening this book on a Saturday morning, thinking I’d get through a chapter and then get on with my day. Instead, about 12 hours later, I was finished with the book. The concepts in it were mind-blowing to me.

                    To think that thoughts can create your reality sounded a little far-fetched at first. But after going through the book and understanding that your thoughts create your beliefs, which lead to actions, which then lead to habits….well you can get where I’m going with this.

                    If you focus your thoughts on success, achieving it will be much more likely than thinking about obstacles, failures and everything else that can get in your way.

                    Get the book here!

                    8. The One Minute Manager by Kenneth Blanchard

                      If you’re going to read one management book in your life, this should be it. It’s simple. You can read it in an afternoon. And the advice works.

                      Get the book here!

                      9. The Lean Start-Up by Eric Ries

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                        Before you create any sort of business you’ll want to give Lean Start-Up a read through. Doing so can save you money, time and other resources you could have potentially wasted otherwise.

                        Get the book here!

                        10. The Monk and the Riddle by Randy Komisar

                          The story Randy Komisar shares in the Monk and the Riddle offers advice about not just about how you need to think when starting a new business, but also about how to build a life you’re passionate about.

                          Understanding the technical aspects of launching a start-up is great, but if you don’t have the staying power to stick with it when the going gets tough then it’s not likely to work.

                          This book can help you understand this lesson before you spend blood, sweat and tears on a project that you’re heart isn’t into.

                          Get the book here!

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