Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 6, Issue 8;   February 22, 2006: How Not to Accumulate Junk

How Not to Accumulate Junk


Look around your office. Look around your home. Very likely, some of your belongings are useless and provide neither enjoyment nor cause for contemplation. Where does this stuff come from? Why can't we get rid of it?

When I moved recently, I learned two things. I discovered that if you have a home office, then when you move, you have to move both your home and your office. Maybe I could have figured that out some other way, but the move did create a unique opportunity. As many do, I used the move as motivation to sort through my accumulated junk and keep most of it.

Computer monitors being recycled by the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection

Monitors about to be recycled at an event sponsored by the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection. Photo courtesy NDEP.

That's how I discovered my personal rules for accumulating junk. To get rid of my junk, I've been violating a different rule every day, and I'm getting pretty good at it. You probably have your own rules, but if you don't know what they are, you can use this list as a starting point.

Here are my rules (plus some others) for accumulating junk:

  • I might need it someday
  • I can't remember why I'm saving this, but it might be important
  • I think I can get rid of this, but I'm not 100% sure
  • I know I'll use this eventually, when I get the time (or energy)
  • I don't need this now, but if I ever do need one, it will either be expensive or impossible to find
  • Violate a different rule
    every day, and soon
    you'll have less junk
    Remember when we used these? Wow — I bet you can't even get them anymore.
  • Maybe I can sell this on eBay — oops, the going price is still too low.
  • I borrowed this, and I should return it, but I'm so embarrassed that I've had it so long…
  • I can't throw this out — maybe it isn't mine
  • Hmm, I wonder where the missing parts of this are — maybe I'll find them
  • I don't actually know what this is, but I'll keep it until I can figure it out
  • Ah, this is that box of stuff I sealed up when I last moved, thinking I would toss it if I didn't open it in a year. Can't remember what's in it. Better not throw it out yet.
  • This was a real bargain. Be a shame to get rid of it.
  • If I lose X pounds, I know I look good in this
  • This is a great book. I should read it. [RecycleBooks.org]
  • This was a great book. Maybe I'll read it again.
  • This was a great movie (album). I know I'll want to watch it (listen to it) again if I ever get another VCR (turntable).
  • Who's that standing next to me in this picture? Better keep it until I can scan it.
  • Ah, my first planner — maybe. You never know when you'll need an alibi for 7:30 AM, Tuesday, March 23rd, 1993.
  • That computer has sensitive data on it. I better keep it until I can erase it. [GreenDisk, Tech Soup and the Computer Recycling Center]
  • Look at that, the postal rates for 1987. Neat-o.
  • I wonder how long I have to keep these financial records. Legally, I mean. Better keep 'em. [Women's Institute for a Secure Retirement]
  • Another ballpoint pen. Might come in handy sometime.
  • Wonder what's on this floppy (Zip disk, removable cartridge, mag tape)? Better keep it for now.

Throwing things away might take some practice. If violating even one of your rules is too hard, start with something easy. Pick up a dead leaf from the ground, and then throw it away immediately. Then work up from there.

After you've made some progress, you might find that offloading junk can create new problems. I now have a slightly used empty bookshelf. Should I fill it or get rid of it? Go to top Top  Next issue: Interviewing the Willing: Strategy  Next Issue

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