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10 Things You Need To Discard To Downsize Your Life Space

10 Things You Need To Discard To Downsize Your Life Space

Two years ago, I downsized my belongings so I could move into a studio apartment from a two bedroom house. It sounds impossible, right? Especially when you consider that I’ve had most of these belongings since childhood. I’m not exactly a pack rat or a hoarder, but I couldn’t stand to get rid of things that were still useful, or had emotional meaning to me.

Once I started eliminating belongings, it was impossible to stop me! I cut my belongings down to a manageable amount—so much so that I was able to move all by myself, with just one pick-up truck. It was an incredible feeling, and I’ve been able to keep my life space clutter-free since then. I highly recommend this type of purge for everyone, whether you’re downsizing or spring cleaning. Donate these items to friends or charity—don’t throw them away!

1. Clothes you don’t wear.

Everyone has clothes they’re saving for a special occasion, or for losing ten pounds, or just in case you find the right shoes. Stop thinking like that! Most people wear the same ten to fourteen outfits over and over and over again—and that’s okay! You don’t have to wear new clothes each time someone sees you. Be honest with yourself and admit you’re never going to wear that shirt that’s a size too small, or those pants that hit above your ankle, and get them out of your closet. Once you start pulling a few items, you’ll be able to really assess what you wear and don’t wear. If you’re in doubt, try wearing these clothes! See if they’re comfortable and look good. If they do, move them to the front of your closet so they’ll stay in rotation.

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2. Books.

This one was hard for me because I’m a huge book nerd. I love owning my favorite books, and I can never resist picking up new-to-me books when I find them for a dollar or two at a used bookstore. As a result, my five bookshelves were crammed with books I’d never read. Just like with my clothes, I found myself going back to the same books when I wanted to pick something from my shelf. I made myself start reading books I’d never read, and found that, more often than not, they weren’t good enough to keep. The library received many boxes of donations from me! Now I only buy books I know I want to own. The rest I get from the library or read on a tablet.

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    3. CDs and DVDs.

    Getting rid of CDs and DVDs seems like a small step, because they don’t really take up a lot of space on their own, but when you have massive collections, they take up way too much room! I’m not a big movie person, so the only DVDs I own are a few favorite TV shows and movies. I could have still gotten rid of them, though, and watched things on Netflix, or rented from the library or Redbox.

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    As far as my CDs, I put most of them on my computer so I could listen to them on my iPod. The only CD player I have is in my car, so I don’t really have a need for physical CDs anymore—I just need the music. Again, I couldn’t get rid of my favorites, or the ones with really cool album art, but I downsized greatly in this area.

    4. Sports and musical equipment.

    I had taken three months of guitar lessons, then never picked the instrument back up again. Why did I still have a bulky acoustic guitar in my house? I just couldn’t get rid of it, because you never know—maybe I’ll get the urge to pick it back up and miraculously remember everything I learned ages ago. Um, no way. I sold the guitar and greatly preferred the cash. If I ever want to learn again, I can rent one from a music store. Same with sports equipment – rent it when you need it! Of course, if you’re on a team or play the keyboard nightly to unwind, don’t get rid of your equipment and instruments. Check and see if renting your necessary equipment is cheaper than buying it and keeping it up to date, but trust your gut about needing your own belongings.

    5. Bags and baggage.

    I love purses. I love getting a new purse and transferring all my belongings from the pockets of one to the zippered compartments of another. Then I toss the old purse in a box and keep it. Forever. Sometimes I reuse purses, but more often than not, I prefer to buy a new one. Same with backpacks and laptop bags. How many do I really need at the floor of my closet? I picked out my most used favorites and donated the others to charity.

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    6. Kitchen gadgets.

    Look around your kitchen. What gadgets do you have? A mixer, a toaster, a microwave, a popcorn maker, a coffeemaker, etc etc. I used to have all of those, too, until I lived in a place where my kitchen was the size of a walk-in closet. Then I realized that leftovers taste better warmed up on the stove than zapped in the microwave, and the broil setting on the oven toasts bread nicely. That coffeemaker is still vital, but cutting down on other appliances that just had one use opened up the counter space for my coffeemaker, as well as plenty of room for prep work when cooking.

    7. Items from the past.

    I was hanging on to a lot of keepsakes from elementary school, past trips, and long ago relationships that didn’t have any emotional significance for me anymore. If you look at something and can’t remember where you got it or why you kept it, you can probably get rid of it! And sometimes getting rid of reminders from a past relationship will make you feel lighter, even if it was just a small envelope of pictures.

    8. Decorative knick-knacks.

    You don’t need cute little porcelain figures all over your shelves! I know people have collections—I collect vintage cameras, and it seems like every guy I’ve ever known collects unopened superhero toys. You don’t have to get rid of something that has value to you, but don’t collect just to collect, and don’t decorate with clutter. Use your collections as decoration by putting them in the empty spaces of your bookshelves, or above your cabinets in that space that is never used.

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    9. Unused furniture.

    I used to have a couch, three arm chairs, a love seat, and a bench seat. I never had enough company over to use all of those seats, and I had my favorite chair and rarely tried a new location on my own. I got rid of a lot of that seating, and it made the room seem three times as large. Not to mention it’s way easier to move two armchairs than it is to haul around a couch! If your furniture is just for decoration or making a room look full, seriously consider getting rid of it and keeping only what you use.

    10. Things bought in bulk.

    When I lived in a 400 square foot apartment, I bought things as I needed them. I’ve stuck with this habit ever since. I used to buy paper towels and tissue in bulk, which meant I needed room to store what hadn’t yet been used. It is sometimes cheaper to buy in bulk, but if you buy only what you need, when you need it, then you’ll just be spending the money necessary to get what you need.

    Featured photo credit: Lara604 via flickr.com

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    Last Updated on July 17, 2019

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    What happens in our heads when we set goals?

    Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

    Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

    According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

    Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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    Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

    Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

    The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

    Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

    So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

    Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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    One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

    Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

    Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

    The Neurology of Ownership

    Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

    In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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    But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

    This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

    Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

    The Upshot for Goal-Setters

    So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

    On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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    It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

    On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

    But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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    Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

    Reference

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