Follow the Decluttering:
As Thanksgiving quickly approaches, I’m increasingly finding myself being enticed by advertisements for Black Friday deals offering great prices on things I don’t really need. This past weekend I was very close to buying a new Fitbit to replace the one I have which still mostly works (the display stopped working) because a store was offering 10% off all electronics. If you’ve ever bought a Fitbit product, you probably know that it’s one of those odd products where the cost is pretty much fixed and you will pay the same price no matter where you buy it. Typically, the best you can do on a Fitbit is find a store willing to throw in a small gift card or some sort of bonus item, so when I saw that I could get the latest and greatest version for 10% off, it seemed like an obvious decision.
What follows is essentially my thought process, with some added suggestions, as I fought my instincts of an impulse shopper. I’m presenting it as a 5-step method to deal with the whole “Black Friday” spectacle in case you really are going to do some shopping.
In the end, if I do decide to get a new Fitbit, I may buy one online but probably not. More than likely, I’ll continue to use the one I have until it really does quit. I am glad that after looking and debating for a while about which model to get, I realized I’ve gotten along just fine with no display on my current Fitbit and I hated the idea of being rushed into a decision because a sale was ending in a couple of hours. Take control of your shopping and fight the urge to fill your home with things just because of a limited time offer. Guess what, Black Friday will be here again next year and they will continue to come out with new and better gadgets.
In the sidebar, I mention that I am a veteran. I served in Iraq with the US Army Reserve. Today I had the honor of speaking at a local school for their Veterans Day Ceremony. I thought for my post today, I would just tell you what I said to them. The following is, more or less, my speech from this morning. Thank you to everyone who has served and thank you for all of the gratitude I've received from friends and family today.
Thanks for having me here. My name is Dave Lubke. I used to be in the 983rd Engineer Battalion out of Toledo, and I had the honor of being the commander of Charlie Company for Operation Iraqi Freedom III. Ten years ago now, I was getting very anxious to return home to my wife and my 2-year old son. I had just lost my third soldier of the tour; Thanksgiving was coming up and we were hoping to be home for Christmas.
This past weekend, my niece in Chicago called me up because she needed to interview a veteran for a school project. She started off with some of the basics like what branch of service, what rank were you, what job title did you have, and where did you go. One of her questions kind of hit me though. She said, “Do you remember what it was like when you arrived there?” I replied “Absolutely!”. It was a very long flight from Indiana to Kuwait and it was the 27th of December here when we left. We stopped in Germany on the way. When the plane landed in Kuwait, I looked at my watch and it was exactly five minutes before my 31st birthday. We stayed up all night to try to get adjusted to the time change, so I guess it was probably the longest birthday I’ve ever had.
I could go on for hours about what we did in Iraq, but what I want to highlight today is the impact that the US Army has had on my life. First, I grew up on a farm and there were 7 kids. My parents didn’t have a lot of money available to send me to college. I received an Army ROTC scholarship and was able to go get a degree in Mechanical Engineering from a private university that I never would have been able to go to otherwise. It was all paid for by the Army and the university. The best part was that I met my wife there.
The Army has taught me leadership skills in ways you can’t learn in a classroom. I’ve traveled around for the Army and met people from all over the world. I was at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri for some training and worked with officers from Greece, Latvia, Jordan, and a few other countries. After spending a year in a war zone, I have lifelong friends that I share an indescribable bond with that you cannot get anywhere else. The US Army, and probably the other branches of service too, reward things like initiative, creativity, and hard work unlike any other organization does. You can have the opportunity to be put in positions of responsibility you will never get in the corporate world. I am still sometimes in awe of the responsibility I was entrusted with. I was responsible for 130 soldiers and millions of dollars in equipment. These people and their families were looking to me to bring them to a war and back alive. I regret that I was not able to live up to that expectation for some of them.
If you caught it at the beginning of my speech, I mentioned that I had lost three soldiers. Today, I ask that we all honor the memory of SGT Andy Eckert, SPC Kendall Frederick, and SFC Matt Kading as well as all of the men and women who have worn a uniform in defense of the freedom that we enjoy today. Thank you.
Think about the last time you washed your dishes and put them away. What did you do with the silverware? Did you just toss it all into a drawer so everything is in one big pile? While I'm guessing there are a few people who do that, most likely you opened a drawer that is dedicated solely to silverware and separated the knives from the forks from the spoons etc. with a tray. Why do we do this? Wouldn't it make emptying the dishwasher a lot faster if we just had a big drawer to throw it all in?
Yes, it would make that part of our day faster, but what about when we need to retrieve something from that silverware pile? Assuming you don't slice your finger on a steak knife, setting the table for dinner would be an exercise in frustration, fishing through a pile of tangled silverware for just the pieces you need. Take this ridiculousness even further and let's say you don't even have a dedicated silverware drawer. Instead, when you put away the clean dishes, you just put everything in whatever drawer or cupboard you happen to have open at the time. I can't even imagine how annoying this would be when you want to find a spoon to eat your morning yogurt.
Ideally, everything in your kitchen has a specific place. Shouldn't everything else in your home? When I walk in the door, my coat and shoes go in the closet. My keys go on the key rack. My wallet has a place just above the keys. When it's time to go out the door I know where everything is. I'm not going to claim that my whole house is that way but for the most part, the items I need regularly have a home, even if that home is a particular spot on the floor in the corner of the office.
I believe that consistency is the key here. I admit that the floor is not the ideal place for the backpack I take to work every day, but I always know where it is and it's readily available. Not only that, but I keep things in exact places inside that backpack. I have a small thumb drive that I keep some important files on and use almost daily. It always lives in the same pocket inside a larger pocket of my backpack. In another specific pocket I always keep my checkbook and my badge for work. If I'm not wearing my badge or writing a check, they get put right back in the same pocket. Always.
Practice consistency. Think of something that you often find yourself looking for. Where's the first place you look for it? You know when you first decide you need that item, there's a good chance that one particular spot comes to mind where you should look first. Maybe that's the place it needs to be? If there's not room there, make room. If you really think about it and decide that's not the best place, then pick a spot and make a conscious effort to always put it there when you aren't using it. Are you tired of searching for the TV remote? Pick a spot and proudly proclaim "This is where the remote will live when it's not being used!". The trick here is with shared items like the remote control, that EVERYONE needs to know where its home is and consistently put it there when they're done. In my case, we had several remotes between the TV, stereo, DVD player, etc. that I was tired of seeing all over the living room. I put a small basket out on an end table and keep them all in it. Training the kids to put them away has been a challenge but most of the time the remotes end up back in the basket.
Now, imagine if everything you needed on a daily basis was easy to find. You can do it, and I can do it, but the first step for most of us is to free up some space so that everything we actually use has a home. I'm working toward that goal and you should too.
My family uses Cozi for our calendar, shopping, and to-do lists. The best part is that it's free.
Copyright Dave Lubke and www.davelubke.com, 2018
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