The new minimalist: how far can disownership go?

My twenty-something friends talk about all the various ways of streaming music, movies, series, and books. (Recently I heard that not a single singer in Spain sold more than 90,000 albums in 2016 [article in Spanish]). They also have a belief that they will never earn nearly as much as their parents did (youth unemployment in Spain is higher than 40%). This got me wondering how far a sharing economy based on music-streaming and social media models could take us?

Back when Unclutterer started, PJ Doland had a great series of articles about extreme minimalism, talking about someone who actively rejected ownership on a grand scale. But what if extreme minimalism wasn’t a choice? What if with the steadily shrinking middle class and the rise of the uber-rich, owning things became prohibitive for a large portion of society?

A coworker told me recently about the years she spent in Nicaragua where amongst the poorest levels of society, there isn’t a strong concept of ownership. If one person in the community has something (like a newly drilled well in the case of my coworker), it is considered to be the property of the whole community.

Jacki has talked about office sharing and Jeri wrote about sharing items to reduce clutter. To add to my growing awareness of the disownership trend, I saw an article about co-owning a home with friends and what risks and traps to avoid.

The creative part of my brain has put all these pieces together and has formulated a question that I find myself very curious to explore: What would a non-ownership world look like?

I’m not talking about a Utopian socialist/communist society. I am talking about the next steps of an increasingly corporatocracy that excludes more and more people from belonging to it without the support of friends and family.

That question has prompted me to take a new look at the Extreme Minimalist Monday theme. Occasionally over the next little while, I am going to take a look at the extension of sharing/streaming technology into day-to-day life and how it might affect the level of clutter/organization in the lives of people who participate in it.

Let me give you an example.

Here in Spain, social media Influencers (yes, with a capital “I”) talk about the importance of carving out a unique fashion style and always being on the edge of whatever is coming next. Obviously these Influencers don’t have TARDIS-like closets that are infinitely larger on the inside than the outside, so they have to do something with all the clothes they discard when they move onto the next trend.

And so Chicfy was created (website in Spanish). It’s an app that’s part Instagram and part eBay. Users create their store, put up photos of the clothes they want to sell, (usually relying heavily on the selfie photography style) and gain followers. These followers then buy the clothes and when they tire of them rework them into a different style that will encourage their own followers to buy something.

At some point someone needs to physically buy (or sew) the clothes, but instead of sitting unused in a closet, or ending up in a landfill, they get passed along, the way children’s winter boots used to go from oldest to youngest siblings until the soles wore out.

I personally don’t know anyone who uses the app, and the song that they use to advertise the service is an incredibly irritating earworm that has become a streaming hit. For an extreme minimalist, it could be a good way to opt out of the consumerist society that demands we buy only new, while still staying on the edge of what’s considered fashionable.

Now then, taking this to the next level, will buying new clothes become something only the rich do, while the rest of us buy progressively more worn-out wardrobes along some social-media-created scale of affordability?

Organizing pet clutter

I have two dogs that I love dearly, Batgirl and The Bug. But boy, do they bring on the clutter — toys, leashes, food, treat bags, beds, shredded toys, slobbery tennis balls, and my favorite, fur — lots and lots of fur. If you’re a pet lover, I suspect this sounds familiar. Fear not! Your furry friend need not be a source of incessant clutter. In this article, I’ll share tips for keeping pet clutter under control and out of sight.

Let’s start with something simple: food. This will be easy or difficult to stash away, depending on the pet. A small container of fish food, for example, is easier to store out of sight than a ten pound bag of dog food. For that reason, I’ll focus on the latter.

While Bug loves his food, I don’t love the unsightly bag that his kibble comes in. To keep it stored away yet accessible, I needed a nice looking bin. The answer was one of these “half barrels” as it fits my home’s decor and is something I don’t mind looking at. It easily accommodates a large bag of dog food plus a bag or two of treats. If you have a spare cabinet that you’re willing to dedicate to pet food, even better. Just make sure it’s convenient for you, but not your pet, to access.

With that sorted, let’s move on to toys. My dogs are worse than toddlers when it comes to carpeting the floor with a huge mass of toys in various states of ruin. Pets are super cute and we love buying toys for them but the more they have, the more we must pick up, so we limit the number of toys they have. We have a small basket that sits on the floor that holds the half-dozen toys they have access to. Occasionally we go through the collection of toys and get rid of anything that’s badly damaged or potentially harmful. For example, that stiff rubber chew toy can get quite misshapen and potentially scratch their gums. Throw those toys away.

Leashes and harnesses are the next thing on the list. I bought a dedicated hook to hold these items and I installed it on the wall right next to the back door. That way it’s out of sight yet very convenient when I need it. You don’t want a dog who needs to “go” waiting around while you hunt for the leash, trust me.

Now, a controversial subject — pet clothes. I don’t like them. Yes, Fido looks super adorable in that little sweater. Perhaps he’s prone to cold and genuinely needs that doggie argyle. In that case, I understand. Keep him comfortable and warm. But the goofy outfit that’s meant only to delight Fido’s human is not my cup of tea. If your pet actually requires clothing, find a convenient, safe place to store it. Preferably near the leash.

Finally, the items you don’t use daily like a carrier, shampoo, outdoor toys, and so on could all live in one location. Perhaps a large plastic storage bin, or a shelf in the basement or garage, clearly labeled.

Pets are members of the family with all that entails, including the clutter. It doesn’t take much to gain control of it, and it’s just as easy to let it get out of hand. Set up a few stations, buy some nice storage containers, and enjoy your pets even more.

Making time to read

In the past I’ve sometimes dedicated a blog post to a book I’ve read that I thought would interest Unclutterer readers. But this time I’d like to recommend a reasonably short article in the Harvard Business Review:8 Ways to Read (a Lot) More Books This Year,” by Neil Pasricha.

This isn’t dry academic theory — it’s what Pasricha actually did to increase his annual book-reading rate from five books a year to 50 books last year and probably around 100 books in 2017. And as I read through his list of eight strategies, I could see how the ideas behind them could be applied to forming other new habits and reaching other goals.

The following are a few of the ideas he shared:

Set up the house so it’s easy to grab a book and hard to fall into mindless TV watching

Instead of relying on will power to switch from TV watching to book reading, Pasricha set up his environment to support his goal.

Last year my wife and I moved our sole TV into our dark, unfinished basement and got a bookshelf installed on the wall beside our front door. Now we see it, walk by it, and touch it dozens of times a day. And the TV sits dormant unless the Toronto Blue Jays are in the playoffs or Netflix drops a new season of House of Cards.

Write ongoing short book reviews to share with others

If you write reviews on Goodreads or send out monthly reviews to an email list, you’re making a public commitment to reading — your friends will notice if you stop. To me, this sounds better than just publicly proclaiming on January 1 that you’re going to read a certain number of books that year, because such claims are easily ignored. This is a way of continually celebrating that you’re living up to your personal commitment. And you get to share some cool books with others!

Have no compunctions about quitting a book before you finish it

Pasricha explained his mindset this way:

It’s one thing to quit reading a book and feel bad about it. It’s another to quit a book and feel proud of it. All you have to do is change your mindset. Just say, “Phew! Now I’ve finally ditched this brick to make room for that gem I’m about to read next.”

He also suggested looking at another article: “The Tail End” by Tim Urban. Urban looked at measuring his remaining life in terms of activities and events, figuring he might have about 60 Super Bowls left to watch and 300 books left to read, excluding books he read for work. That 300 figure (or whatever the number is for you) can make it easier to give up on a dud.

Make use of all those little bits of time that are easy to overlook

As Pasricha explained:

In a way, it’s like the 10,000 steps rule. Walk around the grocery store, park at the back of the lot, chase your kids around the house, and bam — 10,000 steps.

It’s the same with reading.

When did I read those five books a year for most of my life? On holidays or during long flights. … When do I read now? All the time. A few pages here. A few pages there.

Nothing that Pasricha did was all that unusual, and much of it is standard advice for anyone trying to build a new habit: make it as easy as possible to do the right thing, make a public commitment, celebrate your successes, etc.

What did seem unusual was how he combined all eight strategies to reach his goal. It’s a good reminder that forming new habits often isn’t easy, so it’s helpful to look at multiple ways to support those new-habit efforts.

Reader question: Scanning old airmail letters

Reader Sam wrote in to ask:

“I have been sorting things and found a suitcase full of old airmail letters from my parents. I want to scan and save them as they go back to the 1950s. What is the best way to scan, organize, and sometimes translate them into English? Any advice is welcome as I want to start the project soon. Is it best to scan all of them first or organise them one-by-one?”

Thank you for this great question Sam. How exciting to find your parents’ airmail letters! It is a wonderful portion of your family history that deserves to be preserved. Paper, especially airmail paper, ages quickly and can become brittle so you are wise to embark on this conservation project.

I would suggest that you first organize the letters and then scan them. This way you will know exactly what you have before beginning the scanning process. Because airmail paper is delicate, you should handle it with cotton gloves to prevent oil or dirt from your fingers damaging the letters.

It is probably easiest to sort the letters by date. Don’t be too fastidious on your first sort through. You can do a first run by separating the letters by year and then second sort by separating each year by month.

Store the letters in acid-free boxes, preferably unfolded. Be very careful in unfolding the letters and straightening the creases. You do not want to damage the paper. Do not use tape or glue to fix torn letters. If you are worried about a letter falling apart, place it in an acid-free sheet protector. By storing the letters in the acid-free boxes, you are keeping them protected while waiting to be scanned.

Scanning can be a rather long process and there are a few things to think about before you start.

Use a flatbed scanner. Scanners with auto-feed could very easily rip or tear your letters beyond repair.

You want the electronic version of the letter to retain the quality of the original document yet be of a reasonable file size. You may need to scan one letter at several different quality levels (colour or greyscale; 200, 400, 600 dpi; JPG, TIFF or PDF) to determine what the right balance is.

Once you’ve found the correct settings, scan one letter and note the file size. Multiply the file size by the number of letters you have and add about 20%. This will be the amount of space the files take on your hard drive. Should you need to, purchase an external hard drive on which to store your files.

Once you have determined the scanning parameters, decide on a file name format. Personally, I prefer a combination of date and name. For example, 19580214_Mom2Dad.pdf would be a letter sent on February 14th, 1958 from your mother to your father. By using the format YYYYMMDD_name, all of the files will stay in chronological order on your hard drive.

Now you can begin your scanning process. Remember to handle the letters carefully and wear the cotton gloves. Once scanned, you can return the letter to its acid-free storage box. You can leave an index card between two letters as a bookmark in case you don’t get finished scanning the entire box in one sitting. Do not use paperclips or staples as they can warp or rip the paper.

When you’ve completed scanning, send the electronic files for translation and keep your original documents preserved. You can name the electronic translation as YYYYMMDD_name_translated

If you’d like to keep a paper copy of the translation with the original letter, use an archival pen to write the translation on archival paper. Home printers do not have archival quality ink and the ink may do damage to your airmail letters if they are stored together.

If you’re having difficulty deciding how to scan your letters, take a few to your local archive or a nearby college/university’s archives department. They should be able to provide recommendations. Some community archives will, for a fee, take on a private conservation project. If the archives cannot help you, they may be able to recommend a private company who would be able to convert your paper documents to electronic ones. If you choose to take this path, we recommend that you organize and properly store your letters first.

All the best of luck with your family heritage project Sam!

Organized wardrobe for men in their 40s

As 2017 begins I find myself closer to 50 than 40, and that means change. I pay closer attention to my diet, my children are becoming teenagers and words like “investments” have entered my vocabulary. Lately I’ve also been taking a good look at something else — my wardrobe.

I’ve always been a “jeans and T-shirt” kind of guy. A baseball hat and a pair of sneakers have rounded out the look that has been my unofficial uniform since I was in high school. It’s casual and comfortable, but there is one little problem — I’m not in high school anymore.

To paraphrase 1 Corinthians 13:11, it’s time to put childish things behind me. In this case, the wardrobe of my youth. In this article, I’ll describe how to organize a respectable wardrobe for a man in his 40s. I’m not an expert in the world of fashion or style (see the previous paragraph for proof), so I scoured the internet for some direction, which I’ll share with you here.

Edit

Step one is to edit the wardrobe. I suggest actually laying everything out on the bed to get a good overview of what you’ve got. First, note items that you haven’t worn regularly because of size, condition or style, and set them aside. Next, ID the items that you’ve kept around for their sentimental value but stopped wearing long ago. Finally, anything that’s simply worn out – those old sneakers, for example – go in yet another pile. With that done, it’s time to say goodbye.

You’ve got several options here. Items in good condition can be donated to local charities. Clothing that someone wouldn’t buy in their current condition should be re-purposed as rags, dress-ups for the kids or even “work clothes” for painting, gardening, engine repair, etc. Additionally, some Goodwill stores recycle these well-worn clothes to be used again, but in a different form.

As for the sentimental T-shirts, here are a few ides for dealing with those. A few years ago, my wife took several of mine and made them into a beautiful quilt that I keep on the bed each winter.

Lastly, consider handing down anything that’s still decent to your kids. My 13-year-old looks pretty cool in dad’s old Van Halen T-shirt.

Be honest about size

Well not size as the number printed on the clothing tag. I’m talking about how the item fits. I mentioned the fact that I’m not 18 anymore. Back then I played soccer and my shape was a bit different from what it is today. That said, I’ve bid goodbye to the slim-cut jeans, pants, and shirts that I wore long ago. Now, this doesn’t mean that I need to start going up in size. In some cases it means simply moving from a slim-fit to straight-leg style.

Items your closet should have

At this age, you want to be prepared for several eventualities, from a clothing perspective that is. Weekend events could bring anything from weddings to softball games. Here’s what you should have around so you’re not scrambling at the last second.

  1. A suit. One that fits and looks good.
  2. A nice hat. It might sound silly, but my wife is sick of the sweat-stained Red Sox hat that I love so much. I recently got one of those tweed caps and it looks a lot better.
  3. Decent loungewear. A 20-year-old can get away with brightly logoed boxers and a T-shirt on Saturday mornings. I have several pairs of what I call “lounge pants” (essentially flannel drawstring pants) and decent, solid-color tees. Just don’t wear your lounge pants out of the house. Ever.
  4. Dress shirts. Somewhere between three and six of them depending on your lifestyle.
  5. Shoes. Sneakers are for kids. Have a brown pair and a black pair, something casual and something dressy.
  6. Socks. Invest in a few pairs of quality black and brown dress socks that won’t slide down your legs and wrinkle up between your toes. Leave the white gym socks for the gym.
  7. Accessories. Get a brown and a black belt and a couple of good quality ties that coordinate with your dress shirts and suit.
  8. Pants. Have at least one decent pair of jeans and a few pairs of casual pants in your regular rotation.

As I said, I’m not fashion expert. But I do want to dress like an adult. With a little effort, you too can organize a respectable wardrobe. We “men of a certain age” have to stick together, and look like grown-ups while we do.

Is good enough the real enemy of good?

Pareto Principle: the 80-20 ruleWhen it comes to productivity, you’ll often see people quote the aphorism often attributed to Voltaire: “Perfect is the enemy of good.” If we worry about being perfect, we won’t get anything done because perfection is impossible to achieve and we will never move on to other projects.

Or alternatively, we fall victim to the Nirvana fallacy, not starting anything because we know it will never be perfect.

One of the supposed cures for perfectionism is to ascribe to a belief in good enough. For most of my life, I’ve been a huge fan of the Pareto Principle, that 80% of the result from 20% of the effort is good enough. For the most part, it has worked too. I’m productive, I clear away to-do lists quickly, and my house is livable.

Then I met my husband. He’s not at all a good enough person. But neither is he a perfectionist. He’s a “do the job well until it’s finished” person. Yes, he does have perfectionist tendencies and believes that everything can always be improved upon, but he doesn’t let his perfectionist ideas get in the way of getting things done.

When facing most household and work projects, I used to get to 80% and say to myself: “Wow, what a difference. It’s mostly functional and much better than before.” And I’d stop. My husband, on the other hand, keeps going until he gets to 95% and everyone who comes into the house says: “Wow! That’s impressive!”

If I’m going to be honest with myself, impressive is much better than mostly functional.

This got me thinking. Why am I really a good enough person? Is it because I want to be productive? That I don’t want to fall into the never finishing or never starting traps? Not in the slightest. It’s because I’m lazy. Saying that good enough is a decent place to stop, allowed me to quit working on something. I didn’t need to put in more effort because I wasn’t really interested in great, only in good enough. And, having made this confession to myself, I realized that perfect is not the enemy of good. The true enemy is good enough.

  • At work, when preparing emails to clients, I’ve had to send out the email a few times because of errors in the mail merge fields.
  • In the kitchen, the plastic containers were mostly accessible, but getting that one we use only rarely was a real pain to reach.
  • On the bookshelf, everything fit but it wasn’t as visually appealing as it could have been.

Since adopting a good (or great) approach to projects instead of the borderline good enough, my productivity is even higher at work, my kitchen is much more usable, and my house always generates a “wow” any time someone new visits.

How about you? Which for you is the bigger enemy of good? Perfect or good enough?

Unclutterer welcomes new writer Alex Fayle to the team

It gives me great pleasure to welcome a new writer to the Unclutterer team. — Alex Fayle. Alex is originally from Ontario, Canada. He has a Masters of Information Studies from University of Toronto. Alex ran an organizing business for several years and is a former president of Professional Organizers in Canada. In 2006 he moved to Europe and currently lives in the Basque region of Spain.

Welcome Alex!

Unitasker Wednesday: Wash and Drain dish tub

All Unitasker Wednesday posts are jokes — we don’t want you to buy these items, we want you to laugh at their ridiculousness. Enjoy!

In my kitchen, I have two rather large stainless steel sinks. I can fit my biggest stock pot in either one. One of the great things about my kitchen sinks is that when I’m finished washing my dishes I simply pull the plug and the water goes down the drain. I clean my sinks regularly because they can harbour germs. Cleaning two functional and practical sinks clean takes time and effort so I cannot fathom why I would ever need another sink especially a very small, plastic, portable one.

wash and drain dish tub

The Joseph Joseph Wash and Drain dish tub is basically an expensive plastic washtub with handles and a drain. It is smaller than the average bar sink. I’m not sure even sure it would fit my smaller pots and pans. I would suggest that if you have a perfectly functional kitchen sink, the Wash and Drain dish tub would fall into the unitasker category and would probably not be something you would use.

However, If you do not have a functional kitchen sink, perhaps you’re camping, living in a dorm or RV, or undergoing home renovations, the Wash and Drain dish tub might come in handy.

Thanks to reader Melanie for pointing out this unitasker to us.

How to organize your Facebook backups

For better or worse, many of us share a lot of information via Facebook. Everything from weekend plans to photos of lunch get posted, shared, tagged, and shared again. After a year of use, that’s a whole lot of memories and data uploaded to Mark Zuckerberg’s little creation. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a local backup, safe and sound? You can even organize regular Facebook backups and keep them stored nice and tidy on a drive of your own. It’s easy to do. Just follow these steps:

  1. Log into Facebook and go to the Settings page. You can find it by clicking the disclosure triangle on the far right of the page. A menu appears. You may have to scroll a bit to find Settings.
  2. On the left-hand side of the Settings page, make sure General Settings is selected. There’s a list on the right. At the very bottom, you’ll see “Download a copy of Facebook data.” Click that link.
  3. You’ll be taken to the download overview screen. Simply click “Start My Archive.”

What exactly is backed up? As Facebook explains it:

“Timeline info, posts you have shared, messages, photos and more. Additionally, it includes information that is not available simply by logging into your account, like the ads you have clicked on, data like the IP addresses that are logged when you log into or out of Facebook, and more.”

Like me, you might not want or need all of that information. Unfortunately, there is no way to pick and choose what is backed up, at least as of this writing. Also, there is potentially a lot of sensitive information in the resulting archive. Keep it in a safe location.

Once you click Start My Archive, Facebook will get busy creating your backup. Soon you’ll get an email with a link. Click it, and you’re taken back to Facebook one more time. At last you’ll have the opportunity to share the zipped (compressed) file to your computer. Navigate to that folder and explore the archive.

You’ll find a file labeled “index”. Open that file for a HTML page linking to all of the files you downloaded. Photos, for example, are in a folder called Photos, and sorted by album.

If you’d like to have an app take care of this for you – and grab data from several other social media services at the same time – consider digi.me. It offers free software for Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS that will back up posts from Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and several other social media networks to your local drive.

The thought of a compromised or hacked social account sends shivers down my spine. If you feel the same way, take the time to back up these services. You’ll be glad you did.

Get organized for winter home maintenance

Winter brings its own list of required tasks. I’m not talking about shoveling and salting, though that must be done, too. The colder months are a great time to get the following maintenance done so that you’ll be prepared for the harsh weather and ready for the infamous “spring cleaning.”

First, attend to your best friend during the winter months: the furnace. You really ought to have annual maintenance performed by a pro, and the start of winter is a great time to get that done. With that sorted, there are other tasks you can easily perform yourself:

  1. Change the filter monthly. On mine, it’s a big square filter that easily slides in and out. My local hardware store carries just the size I need. If you’re unsure, ask your service pro or even the nice folks at your hardware store. I use Google Calendar to remind me to change the furnace filter monthly. In the reminder notes, I jotted down the size of the furnace filter so that it’s easy to look up when I get to the hardware store.
  2. Adjust the ducts/dampers. My house uses forced hot air for heating and cooling. Each winter, I adjust the dampers a bit to ensure that hot air is forced to the bedrooms. Just be sure not to close off air completely to any level or room.

Next, step outside, grab the ladder and prepare to clean the gutters. No, it’s not an enviable job but winter storms will fill them with debris from nearby trees quickly. Additionally, heavy show and ice could cause them to pull away from their mountings and fall from the house entirely. While unpleasant, it’s an simple chore to complete:

  1. Wear long sleeves and gloves
  2. Use a good, reliable ladder. When I worked as a custodian I was introduced to the Werner 6 ft. Fiberglass Step Ladder, and I loved it. It is lightweight, reliable, and steady as a rock.
  3. Throw down a plastic tarp or a drop cloth to catch what you clear out. It’s much easier to clear away like that.
  4. Use a scoop. You can buy one if you like, or just use the kids’ beach shovel. They won’t be needing them for weeks.

If you have a fireplace, get the chimney inspected. Flammable creosote builds up and must be removed. Your local chimney sweep can take care of that for you. (When I was a teenager my father had me clean our family’s chimney. It wasn’t pretty. Don’t be like my dad. Hire a professional.)

Finally, clean vents that lead outdoors: the hood above the stove, the clothes dryer, etc. Also, when it does snow and you’re clearing the walkway, make sure to free these openings, too.

Regular home maintenance saves you money in the long run, teaches valuable skills, familiarizes you with how your home works, and helps prevent big issues down the road. Put these things on your calendar and rest easier every winter.

Organizing for hot desks

The terms “hot desks” and “hot desking” have nothing to do with temperature. It a business term used for shared office desks. Instead of assigning each employee a desk, offices will provide spaces with desks that are occupied as required. This is usually done for sales people and remote workers who only occasionally work at the office. A business can save money by implementing this practice because it doesn’t have to maintain unused space.

If you work in an office with hot desks, you’ll need to organize yourself and your belongings a bit differently. No longer can you leave piles of files stacked on the desk or sticky notes on the computer monitor as reminders of what tasks to work on. Alternative solutions include my favourite project managing system, On Top of Everything but you may prefer a combination of paper planners, digital calendars, and/or to-do lists.

In some hot desk offices, employees may have lockers where they can store their computers and a few personal belongings. If you do not have a locker, you should invest in a durable briefcase that is easy to carry around, holds all of your items, and can be locked when needed.

Here are a few things you might wish to carry in your briefcase:

Organizers: A Grid-it (or two) will help keep your computer cables and other items organized and easy to find. Even though your office may provide supplies, a plastic divided container is useful for keeping a small stash of paperclips, staples, etc., close at hand.

Sanitizing wipes: Clean the arms of the chair, telephone, and any other items touched frequently by multiple people. As a courtesy to the next person, use the wipes again before you leave the desk.

Temperature control: I’m always cold while working at my desk. I carry a pashmina type shawl with me to wrap around my shoulders. If you’re always warm, a portable fan may be useful.

Noise control: If you’re more productive when it is quiet, use earmuff-type noise cancelling headphones rather than the smaller ear buds. If your co-workers can see you’re wearing headphones, they will interrupt you only for important matters.

Name tag: Since employees change desks frequently, you may wish to get a simple nameplate to display at your hot desk so your co-workers will know where to find you.

If you have experience hot desking, please chime in with organizing tips for our readers.

One critical time management technique: saying no

As I noted when writing about the pitfalls of time management, some time management strategies are truly helpful. One of those is learning to say “no” at the right time.

Andy Orin at the Lifehacker website asked Jason Fried, the CEO of the software company Basecamp, about his best time-saving shortcut or life hack, and he replied:

Saying no. Techniques and hacks are all about managing what happens when you say yes to too many things.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of saying yes to too many things. If you find yourself overcommitting on a regular basic, you could use the technique that Ana Menendez wrote about for confronting her mistakes when she was a reporter. When she made a mistake that got into a published story, she was required to complete a form that included this information:

The error:
The correction:
How the error happened:
How I will prevent it from happening again:

When you find yourself overcommitting yet again, reflecting on why this happened and how you’ll prevent it from happening again, could be useful.

Elizabeth Grace Saunders wrote an article entitled “Quitting as a Productivity Tactic” where she recommended dropping some things from your to-do list. I like the two questions she suggested asking yourself: “Does this make me happy? Do I need to do this?”

Some tasks you’ll need to do even if they don’t make you happy, such as filing your tax returns. But you might realize you’re participating in some activities because they were enjoyable in the past, but no longer are. Or you may find things that you started doing because you thought they were important, but now you can see they really aren’t.

But sometimes you may need to make some difficult choices and eliminate things that you really do enjoy. As Leo Babauta explained on his blog, Zen Habits:

You might have to say No to certain work projects, or community groups, or committees or boards or parent-teacher organizations or coaching sports or some other worthwhile activity.

I know, it seems horrible to say No when these are very worthy things to do. It kills you to say No.

But the alternative is that you’re going to do a bad job at each one, and be stressed beyond your limits, and not be able to focus on any one. …

Saying No to worthwhile projects, and letting go of the idea that we can do everything, is very difficult. But it’s not more difficult than trying to do everything and not getting enough sleep and being overly stressed out. Saying No is hard, but it means you say Yes to focus and sanity.

When you’re organizing stuff, you’re aware of the physical limitations. There’s only so much that can be fit into a closet, cabinet, or garage. If there’s too much stuff for the given space, it’s time to unclutter. Similarly, you can’t fit 28 hours of activities into a 24-hour day. So you may need to unclutter your schedule and to-do list by saying no to some things. As with any uncluttering, that can be challenging — but you’ll almost certainly feel much better when you’re done.