Monday, January 05, 2015


A book on decluttering by Marie Kondo has been getting rave reviews of late. That the topic of spring cleaning and decluttering can justify an entire book is somewhat beyond me, and yet stacks of books have been published on the subject. Writing for the Financial Times, economist Tim Harford highlights two tips from Kondo's book that have an economics and cognitive error logic behind them.

Status Quo Bias

Instead of thinking whether something is worth throwing out, ask if there is a compelling reason to keep the thing. I ask myself this question repeatedly when trading i.e. if I didn't have this trade on right now, would I put it on? If not, then the trade needs to be exited, or in spring cleaning world, the thing in question needs to be chucked.

Diminishing returns (from Tim Harford):

"My second error was a failure to appreciate the logic of diminishing returns. The first pair of trousers is essential; the second is enormously useful. It is not at all clear why anyone would want a 10th or 11th pair. It’s good to have a saucepan but the fifth saucepan will rarely be used. I love books but I already own more than I will be able to read for the rest of my life, so some of them can surely go.

The trick to appreciating diminishing returns is to gather all the similar stuff together at once. Once every single book I owned was sitting in a colossal pile on my living-room floor, the absurdity of retaining them all became far easier to appreciate."

Harford also points out that while stuff is getting cheaper to buy, space remains at a premium. Something to keep in mind when buying gifts for others and when constructing your own wish lists.

And here are some more selected tips from Kondo, scavenged from the internet :

- Discard first, sort later.
- Start with the easy stuff (leave things like photos, sentimental objects until later).
- Put everything in each category in one place first (e.g. bring all your books together in a pile, and then attack)
- Throw away everything you don't love. 
- Ditch your paperwork. You'll need to save contracts, insurance policies, etc, but payslips, statements, etc can be found online. End up with two piles: stuff to keep, stuff to process.
- Don't buy expensive or complicated storage equipment  - my observation is that adding storage space is often ends up like an exercise in building roads to ease traffic. It works for a while but eventually the traffic builds up to fill the roads and stuff increases to fill all the storage space, plus a little bit more.
- Store clothes effectively
- Let go with love

Over the past couple of days, I've gotten rid of almost two bin bags worth of stuff, and there is more to follow. Not bad goings, especially as my living space is a single room! 

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