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No Mess, No Clutter For 4 Weeks.

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Today is a special anniversary. It’s been four weeks of no mess and no clutter. A few of my work colleagues were fascinated by this achievement when I told them and asked me to write about it.

The process to get there was grueling. It made me sick, it was stressful and it was hard. It was worth every second though and it can help everyone reading this.

Here’s what I learned:

The past no longer has to haunt me.

After two weeks, I realized that I had let go of the ex-girlfriends, failed startups and memories that held no significance in my life. Throwing out junk and decluttering helps you deal with the past.

You may think you have dealt with the past but the objects that are left over are the last remaining bits that must be dealt with.

There’s something so freeing about letting go and dealing with your past. It creates space for you to excel in the future and empty your mind. No longer will a dumb pair of socks that your ex-partner bought, remind you of the way they complained about you all the time.

I saved money and lots of it.

It’s only been four weeks and my bank account is thanking me for the tidy up. Now that I know what I have, I can stop buying more batteries, screwdrivers and stationary that I already have.

“Once you’ve lived without clutter, you become like a prison guard, guarding your home against possessions you’ll never use”

This results in fewer purchases and my debit card thanks me.

I was spending hundreds of dollars every year buying things that I might use on a rainy day in a few years. That rainy day came often, yet I never used the items I was stockpiling.

Thanks to these little changes, I now have more money to invest in stocks and my new startup.

You quit letting other people’s junk become your burden.

People die and leave you stuff.
People move countries and leave you stuff.
People ask you to look after their stuff.
People give you stuff that you’re too scared to throw out in case they find out and get upset with you.

You can’t keep letting other people’s possessions become your burden. Set yourself free and let go of possessions regardless of where they came from or who will care. It’s the only way to declutter.

It’s obvious what I can live without.

Now that more than 50% of my possessions are in either charity bins or at the recycling center, I now know what I can live without. Here’s what I was wrong about.

– I thought I needed coconut oil. It turns out that I hate the taste and haven’t used it for two years. Throwing it away reminded me that I could live without it.

– I thought I needed fifteen different pyjama tops. It turns out I only ever wear three of them. The other twelve pairs are not my size and remind me of my old body which I’m not proud of.

– I thought I needed tons of bedding and as it turns out, I rotate the same few doona covers and sheets because they have bright colors that make me happy. The black and grey ones are depressing and I subconsciously never choose to use them.

– I thought I needed to buy in bulk. It turns out I don’t have the room and it feels better to live in a decluttered environment. Buying in bulk was only making the retailers rich, and me sad.

I’m surrounded by objects that make me happy.

That’s the result of having no mess and decluttering. Items that you keep (only keep the stuff that brings you joy) are now all around you. Everywhere I now look, I see useful possessions that get used and make me happy.

Decluttering allowed me to have more of what I love, and less of what I don’t. Being happy is a decision.

“It takes lots of small decisions about what to throw out, to get to a point where your limited number of possessions can bring you joy”

I also know everything I have now because I have so few possessions. This makes me happy.

My life is now organized.

Being organized is a massive time saver. No longer do I need to go on the equivalent of a twelve day Easter Egg Hunt to find a belt I want to wear. It’s now either the black one or the brown one.

This feeling of being organized is addictive and if you do one big tidy up, and you don’t stop until its done, you’ll never go back to your messy ways.

Being organized equals time, which equals money baby!

P.S – Before you send me an email full of rage over how simple I make this all sound, try it for yourself. Take a risk. Embrace the fear. I’m not the only one who has decluttered. There are thousands of us on the Internet that you can look up who’ve had the exact same experience.

If you want to increase your productivity and learn some more valuable life hacks, then join my private mailing list on timdenning.net

Tim is best known as a long-time contributor on Addicted2Success. Tim's content has been shared millions of times and he has written multiple viral posts all around personal development and entrepreneurship.You can connect with Tim through his website www.timdenning.net

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Christopher Moskowitz

    Feb 21, 2018 at 3:53 pm

    I’ve decluttered every once in a while, but never did I go that deep into it. Now I know to get the maximum results, I have to go that deep into it and get rid of all of that clutter.

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Life

What Les Misérables Taught Me About Our Values

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Who am I? The ultimate question many of us try to answer. When I think of values, I think of Victor Hugo’s 1862 book, “Les’ Miserables”. In Hugo’s book, Jean Valjean, is used as a protagonist to highlight the power in redemptive love and compassion. Valjean goes into prison for stealing a loaf of bread, entering as a simple and decent man. His time in jail seems to have an unrepairable effect, where he emerges from the chain gang as a tough, bitter criminal who hates society for what it has done to him. (more…)

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7 Ways You Can Increase Your Concentration Right Away

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In today’s world, an overabundance of information and a large number of distractions is making it increasingly difficult to concentrate on performing the necessary tasks. In this article, I propose 7 simple methods that will train your ability to concentrate, while not taking you from your usual activities. (more…)

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5 Simple Hacks to Help You Develop the Habit That Will Transform Your Life

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It’s excruciating when we know what’s killing us but we can’t do anything about it because as you know, it is not easy to pull the brake on a high way. According to Napoleon Hill, “remember this always – the best (and one might say the only) way in which old habits may be removed is to form new habits to counteract and replace the undesirable ones”. (more…)

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Why Do We Have An Unconscious Bias and How Can We Manage It?

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When I hear someone using my name once in a while throughout the conversation we are having, I cannot stop myself thinking “this person must have read Dale Carnegie’s books or must have been influenced by someone who read them…” Have you just recalled a similar moment and it felt nice?

As Dale Carnegie famously said, “Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and the most important sound in any language”. Why did Dale Carnegie highlight the importance of an individual’s name to that person in his “How to Win Friends and Influence People” book published in 1936?

Each and every one of us wants to feel special and unique. I guess he recommends using the person’s name in the conversation because that is one of the easiest ways to grab that person’s attention so that we can enhance the chances of getting our point across. However, I am more interested in this from the other side; hearing our names directly addresses our individuality, our need or desire to feel special and unique.  

Let’s park this one for now and we will come back. 

Categorization is essential to our survival

There is countless scientific research telling us about how our brains recognize similarities and put things into categories, which has been crucial to our survival in evolution and still helps us with a lot of things from learning new things to coping with the continuous influx of massive amounts of information through our senses. 

The continuous influx of information is mostly handled by our subconscious mind rather than conscious. It is estimated that our brains receive about 11 million bits of information every second through our senses, of which only 40-50 bits can be processed by our conscious mind. We process more information than we are aware of. The magic here is the subconscious mind.

An example is when you are at a very loud party where you hear a lot of words flying around without you recognizing each one of them, then suddenly, you immediately catch it when you hear your name. Your subconscious had been processing all of those words, without your awareness, but informed your conscious mind when your name was out there because it was relevant to you.

In order to most effectively process this much information and inform the conscious mind with only the relevant ones, our subconscious employs categorization as one of its strategies.

When our ancestors encountered some deadly predators in the African savanna, their subconscious prompted their conscious mind to immediately fight or flight by categorizing the information gathered through their senses into “predator / life threat / take action”. Most probably we are not descendants of the ones that were frozen rather than fighting or flighting! 

Although it is a completely different situation, the same strategy applied in remembering lists. Let’s look at the below two lists.

  1. lion, eagle, shark, leopard, hawk, whale, panther, falcon and dolphin 
  2. lion, leopard, panther, eagle, hawk, falcon, shark, whale and dolphin

The second list is easy to remember because it is reordered into relevant groups even though the content of the both lists are identical.

Subconsciousness is the magic and categorization is one of its key strategies. It is essential to our survival, learning new skills and processing information as well as bringing back the information we had processed and stored. 

This amazing skill has its drawbacks

As a result of our brains’ categorization strategy, we also categorize people, especially if we don’t know them as well as our closest ones.

Imagine I am sitting at the table next to yours while you are having your favorite coffee and working on your computer or reading your novel at your neighborhood coffee shop. I stand up, very calmly grab your bag, and start walking away. Your reaction might be quite different depending on my outfit. It could be much more vocal and harsh if I have a dirty T-Shirt and a pair of torn jeans on. However, if I have some navy colored, 3-piece suit and well-pressed white button up shirt on, you might even say something like “Excuse me, you might have picked up my bag by mistake”. (There is an experiment done by social psychologists which reported similar results)

Similarly, I would not be surprised to hear that my co-worker’s spouse is very skilled and knowledgeable in English grammar and literature because he is an English teacher. However, I would not expect it from my co-worker herself because she is an outstanding chemical engineer.  

This is defined as unconscious bias or stereotyping, as a result of our subconscious brain’s categorization strategy. The outfit I have at the coffee shop impacts your response to my action, because it puts me into a different category in your mind depending on my outfit. My co-worker’s and her spouse’s backgrounds make me put them into different categories, which might mislead me sometimes.

Just like we categorize things, it is very natural that we categorize people.  

The key question here for me is; how do we truly treat people as individuals so that they feel unique, just like as they would want, while we know that our brains categorize people

We can overcome unconscious bias 

Leonard Mlodinow, in his enlightening book “Subliminal”, suggests that “if we are aware of our bias and motivated to overcome it, we can.” That doesn’t mean that we need to fight our brain’s categorization strategy. We just need to employ our conscious mind more when we are working or dealing with individuals. 

Our unconscious bias might tell us scientists are bunch of technical nerds who cannot understand abstract concepts that marketers are talking about or it might say that marketers are some daydreamers who need to be grounded by scientists to the real world all the time. I am an engineer and I love thinking in abstract terms and I worked with quite a lot of marketers who thought primarily in factual and concrete terms. 

Spending some effort to learn more about individuals will help overcome unconscious bias. Gathering more information and qualities about them will make it easier for us to treat them as individuals rather than a member of the category we put them in our minds. 

The moral of the story here is to recognize the fact that our brains do categorize, and it is essential; but also, to recognize that every individual wants to feel unique. When we appreciate these two and keep reminding them to ourselves, we are one step closer to figuring out our own way to overcome unconscious bias and treat people more like individuals. 

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