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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 September 23, 2020

      5 Reasons for Your Facebook Addiction (and How to Break It)

      5 Reasons for Your Facebook Addiction (and How to Break It)

      Facebook is embedded into lives around the world. We use it to connect with friends, share important milestones, and check in with the news. However, what may seem like harmless scrolling can become harmful if it takes up inordinate amounts of time and turns into a Facebook addiction.

      The first step to breaking any bad habit is to understand the symptoms and psychological triggers that made you pick up the habit in the first place. Below you’ll find the common causes, and the good news is that, once you’ve identified them, you can implement specific strategies to get over your Facebook addiction.

      Symptoms of a Facebook Addiction

      Do you find that the first thing you do when you wake up is grab your phone and scroll through Facebook? Is it the last thing you see before falling asleep? You may have a Facebook addiction. Here are some more of the signs and symptoms[1]:

      • You end up spending hours on Facebook, even when you don’t mean to.
      • You use Facebook to escape problems or change your mood.
      • You go to sleep later because you’re glued to your screen.
      • Your relationships are suffering because you spend more time on your phone than you do talking with the people you care about.
      • You automatically pull out your phone when you have free time.

      You can check out this TED Talk by Tristan Harris to understand how Facebook and other social media gain and hold our attention:

      Psychological Reasons for a Facebook Addiction

      A compulsive Facebook addiction doesn’t come out of nowhere. There are often root causes that push you into Facebook, which can ultimately manifest as an addiction once you become dependent on it. Here are some of the common causes.

      Procrastination

      Facebook can cause procrastination, but many times, your tendency to procrastinate can lead you to scrolling through your Facebook feed.

      Facebook capitalizes on your tendency to procrastinate[2] by incorporating a news feed with an infinite scroll. No matter how far down you go, there will always be more memes and status updates to keep you distracted from whatever you should be doing.

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      Thus, it might be helpful to change your perception of Facebook. Instead of looking at it like a place to be social or kill time, frame Facebook as the enemy of your productivity and purpose. Doesn’t sound as tempting now, right?

      Loneliness or Indecision

      Facebook resembles a boring reality TV show that is on full display during every hour of the day. Do you really need to tell everybody what you ate for lunch? I doubt it.

      You don’t share such trivial details to add value to people’s lives. You’re likely doing it because you’re lonely and in need of attention or approval[3].

      Seeking opinions from your friends could be a sign of indecision or low self-confidence. If you get a bad suggestion, then you can conveniently blame somebody else, thus protecting your ego.

      Social Comparisons

      Social comparison is a natural part of being human[4]. We need to know where we stand in order to judge our rank among our peers. And Facebook has made this all too easy.

      When we get into Facebook, our brains are bombarded by hundreds of people to compare ourselves to. We see our cousin’s amazing vacation to Europe, our friend’s adorable baby, our brother’s new puppy, etc. Everything looks better than what we have because, of course, people are only going to post the best parts.

      This extreme form of social comparison with a Facebook addiction can, unfortunately, lead to depression. One study pointed out that “people feel depressed after spending a great deal of time on Facebook because they feel badly when comparing themselves to others”[5].

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      People-Pleasing

      Facebook takes advantage of your desire for instant gratification[6]. Your brain receives a dopamine hit every time you see that red notification light up. Dopamine is a chemical in your brain that causes you to seek pleasure from things.

      Pleasure sounds nice in theory, but dopamine is responsible for self-destructive behavior if overproduced. Thus, becoming a slave to your notifications can destroy your self-control in a hurry.

      If that wasn’t bad enough, the human desire to be liked and accepted is at play, too. Every time you get a “Like,” your brain decides that means somebody likes you. Keep this up and you’ll turn into an addict desperate for another “hit.”

      Fear of Missing out (FOMO)

      Facebook wrecks your focus by preying on your fear of missing out. You check your Facebook feed during a date because you don’t want to miss any interesting updates. You check your messages while you drive because a friend might have something exciting to share.

      One study found that “a high level of fear of missing out and high narcissism are predictors of Facebook intrusion, while a low level of fear of missing out and high narcissism are related to satisfaction with life”[7].

      Therefore, while you may feel temporarily glad that you didn’t miss something, research shows that FOMO will actually reduce your overall life satisfaction.

      How to Break a Facebook Addiction

      Now that you know some of the causes of a Facebook addiction, you may be ready to break it. If so, follow these 5 steps to get over your addiction and improve your mental health.

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      1. Admit the Addiction

      You can’t fix a problem if you deny it exists. Don’t beat yourself up, but do try and be honest enough to admit you’re a Facebook addict. If it makes you feel any better, I’m a recovering addict myself. There is no reason to be ashamed.

      Telling a trusted friend might help you stay accountable, especially if they share your goal.

      2. Be Mindful of Triggers

      In order to discover the triggers that lead you to use Facebook, ask yourself the following questions. It may be helpful to write them down at a journal.

      • What did I do? (scrolling, sharing, notification checking, etc.)
      • When did I do it? (down-time at work, as soon as you woke up, right before bed, on a date, etc.)
      • What happened right before? (a stressful event, boredom, etc.)
      • How did this make me feel? (stressed, anxious, sad, angry, etc.)

      Once you’re aware of what pushes you to use Facebook, you can work on tackling those specific things to get over your Facebook addiction.

      3. Learn to Recognize the Urge

      Every time you feel the urge to update your status or check your feed, recognize that impulse for what it is (a habitual behavior—NOT a conscious decision). This is especially powerful when you complete step 2 because you’ll be able to make a mental note of the specific psychological trigger at play.

      Have a plan for when you feel the desire to use Facebook. For example, if you know you use it when you’re bored, plan to practice a hobby instead. If you use it when you’re stressed, create a relaxation routine instead of jumping on Facebook.

      4. Practice Self-Compassion

      Facebook is an epic time-suck, but that doesn’t mean you should criticize yourself every time you log-on to your feed. Beating yourself up will make you feel bad about yourself, which will ironically cause you to be even more tempted.

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      Self-loathing can only lead to failure. You might end up deciding it’s hopeless because you are “too lazy.”  If you want to break your addiction for good, then you need to be self-compassionate.

      5. Replace the Addiction With a Positive Alternative

      It’s a lot easier to eliminate a bad habit when you decide on a good habit that you would like to replace it with. I applied this idea by choosing to pick up a book every time I was tempted to check my feed.

      The result blew my mind. I read over a hundred pages in the first day! Trust me when I say those “few minutes of down-time” can add up to an obscene amount of waste.

      Having a specific metric to track is important. If you want to stay encouraged, you need to have compelling evidence that your time would be better spent elsewhere.

      For example, download an app to help you determine exactly how much time is spent on Facebook so you know how much of your life you’re losing to it. Then, when you find a healthy alternative, you can feel good about all the time you’re giving to it!

      Final Thoughts

      Facebook addictions aren’t uncommon in today’s technologically dependent world. In the pursuit of human connection, we’ve mistakenly taken our interactions online, thinking it would be an easier alternative. Unfortunately, this is no replacement for genuine, face-to-face interaction in real life.

      If you think you have a problem, there are things you can do to tackle it. Get started today and improve your overall well-being.

      More on How to Use Social Media Less

      Featured photo credit: Tim Bennett via unsplash.com

      Reference

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