It's a little ironic that right after I published my last post, I found out I would be leaving my hectic job for a different position within my company. I thought for sure that a less stressful job, closer to home would mean more time to write. After 5 months at my new job though, I'm just now writing again.
I have however, been spending more time with my family. I actually get to see my wife and most of my kids in the morning before leaving for work. I also haven't been taking out my laptop in the evenings and weekends to get prepared for the next meeting. It's been nice. The busy times help you appreciate the less busy periods of life even more.
One thing I've found regardless of where I go, I end up having a conversation with someone who is struggling with the same clutter problems that I am. Right after coming to my new job, I had nearly the same conversation I've had many times with other people. We usually agree on a few things that happen at home.
I wish I had the ultimate solution to all of it, but I don't. We can read another book on decluttering or watch another episode of Marie Kondo, but unless we act on the lessons from those resources, we're just wasting time. So I want you to know two important things. First, you're not alone. Second, it's only going to get worse if we just keep buying things we don't need.
You aren't the only with too much clutter
Like I said earlier, I've had the same conversation over and over. People everywhere are struggling with the amount of clutter in their homes. Have you ever had someone over who saw your basement for the first time. I always apologize to people for the way mine looks. The usual response I get is something like "this is nothing, mine is a lot worse".
Here's an idea. The next time you're thinking of taking some items to donate somewhere, you call up a friend and see if they have some stuff to get rid of too. In my case, there's a brewery near the local Salvation Army store. I like to drop off a car load at the Salvation Army and then celebrate with a pint.
Stop buying things you don't need
Clutter is like calories when you're trying to lose weight. If you burn 500 calories by working out but then eat 1000 calories at the pizza buffet every day for lunch, you're not going to make any progress. We have to resist the bargains at our favorite discount store and we have to resist the mindset that because we got rid of something in our home that we just made space for something else. Fight that urge and enjoy the extra breathing room instead.
I'll leave it at that and keep this post short. I've been neglecting my website and my Facebook page lately but I'm going to change that. Expect to see more posts but probably short ones and more content being shared on Facebook even if it's not my own. Thanks for reading.
You blink and over 4 months goes by. I can't believe I haven't posted anything since last September. In that time, I've started a new, much busier job, taken on the titles of Cub Scout Den Leader and Church Youth Group Leader, and the baby just turned a year old. I've been busy.
I thought I was already busy since the baby came along, but the new job has been insane. I didn't like sitting at a desk waiting for the workday to end, but now my day flies by and I'm rarely at my desk. The problem is when it's time to go home, I suddenly feel like there is a lot left to do. I end up staying a few minutes longer.
A few minutes extra quickly turns into an hour until I decide to just pack up my laptop and go home. I pick up the baby at daycare, go home and cook a quick dinner for everyone before we need to head out to whatever activities the kids have that evening. Later, I often end up pulling out my laptop for a few minutes to prepare for the next day.
This has turned into a bad habit that I'm trying to break. I know that my family has been affected by my new schedule and it's not fair. I started reminding myself that the company has been running for a long time without me and it will continue do so when I'm gone. Whatever is not done will still be there tomorrow.
As it also turns out, only in the last couple of years have I learned to appreciate certain music. Some of my friends would call it blasphemy, but I just couldn't listen to Pink Floyd. At some point, one of their songs caught me in just the right mood and I really listened. I don't know why but suddenly I realized how good some of their lyrics are. Now one of my favorite songs is Time. (lyrics from https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/pinkfloyd/time.html)
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you
I am constantly reminding myself that when I'm older I will never wish I had spent more time at work. I will wish that I had spent more time at home with my family before my kids are grown and become busy with their own lives. I'm declaring a late New Year's resolution to slow down and spend more time with my family before it's too late.
Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time
Do you ever wonder where the time goes when you start looking at your phone? You have a few minutes to sit down and relax so you grab your phone and open up your favorite social media app. The next thing you know an hour has gone by, that laundry still hasn’t folded itself, and the dishes are still on the counter. Do you know what you’re really spending your time on when you look at your phone?
Thanks to an app called Rescue Time, I have recently learned what I’m doing and it was enlightening. I first installed it a few months ago and kept checking the app to see my stats. It was a bit confusing at first and I almost gave up and uninstalled it. The app shows color coded usage for either today, the last 7 days, or the last 30 days. Sometimes I would just get the message “waiting for data from your motorola XT1585”. The color coded pie chart and color coded list of apps looked cool but I had no idea what the colors meant.
The numbers were scary though. My most used app by far is Waze because of my long commute. Aside from 17 hours of trying to avoid traffic jams, looking at the last 30 days told me that I spent 10 hours on Facebook, and 3 hours texting. This wasn’t that helpful other than to point out to me how much time I wasted on Facebook. I already knew it was too much.
The real magic happens when you log into the Rescue Time website. Suddenly you see details and find out what all those colors mean. The basics of it are that there are Categories and Sub-Categories which Rescue Time actually does a pretty good job of figuring out on its own.
You can completely customize this by putting apps in whatever Category you choose or adding your own. Then, every app (i.e. Activity) gets assigned a Productivity Score of Very Distracting, Distracting, Neutral, Productive, or Very Productive. This was a little bit of a time investment but once I spent time adjusting all these, the reports and dashboards are more useful.
Here are just a couple of screenshots. The first is my monthly dashboard from July where you can see 17% of the time I was on my phone it was on Social Networking. Don’t be too impressed by the large Reference & Learning bar because I categorized Waze under Reference. You can tell Rescue Time to completely ignore an app so I might do that with Waze.
You can see in the next image one of the nice features of Rescue Time. You can drill down in more and more detail. Here is July’s usage by day. You can go further in detail by picking a day to see exactly what time and how long each app was open.
There are many more reports and dashboards available as well as a weekly email report you can sign up for. This is all just the free version too. A Premium plan is available for $72 per year but keep an eye out for deals if you’re interested.
You can also install Rescue Time on your Apple, Windows, or Linux computer to track your activities and websites. I haven’t tried this feature out yet but I’m sure the results would be a little depressing. As much as I try, I know I’m not the most productive person when I get a screen in front of me.
If you keep finding yourself wondering at the end of the day where in the world your time went, then you need to try out Rescue Time or something like it. Just remember, the data from Rescue Time is only as good as your willingness to to take back your wasted time. Challenge yourself or others by competing for the highest productivity score or at least set some goals for yourself. Pretty graphs aside, you will still need to find your own motivation to remove yourself from the digital world and see what else you're missing out on.
I hate to admit this but here it is. I was (am) a compulsive Facebook window shopper. I think I spent more time looking at stuff I could buy on Facebook than scrolling through my friends’ posts. It’s been such a good medium for selling and giving away our unwanted things that I realized some bargains could be found nearby.
Like all shopping, I try to stick to things I actually need but it’s not easy. Facebook, like any online marketing giant has algorithms to keep showing you things you might be interested in. Let’s face it companies like Google and Facebook are just marketing wolves in sheep’s clothing. For example, I recently decided that I really wanted, no needed, my own desk at home. As soon as you search for “desk” in the Facebook marketplace or even view a couple of postings, it will suddenly seem like that’s the only thing anyone is selling. Then, the algorithm says “hey, people who have searched for desks have also looked at these things” so it starts showing you some other stuff mixed in with the desks.
Facebook Marketplace: come for the cheap desks; stay for the dining room sets and pool tables.
I browse Facebook Marketplace the way people used to browse through shopping malls. I went in thinking I could use a small desk but then think maybe we should replace our kitchen table too. It’s easy to get out of control and start thinking you NEED all kinds of things.
I had to get a grip and here’s how I did it. One, I tried to visualize where another desk would go and the effort it would require to make it happen. Two, I looked around the house to see if there was a way to use something I already have.
It turns out that we actually have 6 desks in our house. That’s one for everyone including the baby. The problem is that most of them are not being used because either their tops are covered or they are just in a bad spot. Once I realized that, I decided we just need to clean and rearrange the ones not being used.
I’ve mostly stopped looking but since I still haven’t cleaned off any of the desks and rearranged I still catch myself looking through the marketplace occasionally. Every time I do I just ask myself again where it will go and remind myself that we have enough stuff.
So the next time you see a bargain or think you really need a new something-or-other, first take a look around at what you already have. You just may realize you can easily make do with what you have.
Are you paying a monthly bill to store your belongings that you don’t have room for?
How long have you been doing so?
I recently talked to a friend who first rented a storage unit a few years ago when she moved back in with her parents. She was proud of how much she has eliminated from the storage unit lately but wasn’t sure about getting rid of some of the larger furniture. She feared how much it would cost to buy a new living room set if she moved into her own place. That’s understandable at first. However, when we added up the $100 per month she’s been paying for over four years, she realized she’s spent around $5000 on storage.
Therein lies one of the major pitfalls of renting a storage unit. Their purpose is supposed to be for short-term usage, like during a move for example. Unfortunately, about 9% of American families rent storage space and more than half of them have been renting for over a year.(1) Keep in mind that the $100 per month my friend was paying is hardly the upper limit for storage costs. Depending on the size, monthly rent can reach as high as $150 or more.
The self-storage industry has a history going back to England when banks began storing valuables for customers going on long voyages. The trend grew until vaults were overflowing and banks began using storage space at moving companies. By the 1850’s, warehouses were being built just for storage of personal items.(2)
The first modern self-storage units in the United States were built in Texas in the 1960’s and the concept spread.(2) Now, there are about 50,000 storage facilities in the U.S. and the industry generates around $38 Billion in annual revenue.(1) Clearly, we have a lot of important things that we need to keep even though we can’t make room for them in our homes.
When Paying for Storage Makes Sense
I don’t want to bankrupt the self-storage industry. I do think they serve an important purpose in some cases. However, I want everyone who is spending their hard-earned money on storage to weigh the cost against the value of the items being stored.
With that in mind, here are a couple cases where it might make sense to rent storage.
1. In between moves, especially when buying or selling a home.
Changing apartments can sometimes be a problem if your lease is up at one and the other won’t be ready for a few weeks. Store everything you don’t need in the short term until the new place is ready. The same situation can arise when buying and selling your home.
If you’re trying to sell your home and you have a lot, I would first advise you to purge, and then purge some more so you don’t have to rent storage. However, if you want to stage your house for sale you may still need to remove some things temporarily to make it look better. First, see if you can store a couple things in a friend’s or relative’s basement though. Just don’t overstay your welcome.
2. Storing something valuable that you can only use periodically
There are limited cases where this will make sense. Say you have a valuable motorcycle or something larger that you can only use seasonally. It might make sense to protect it from the elements during the winter if you can’t make room for it in your garage, assuming you have one. This is also common for boats, RVs, etc.
3. For business purposes
If you own a business and need space, a storage unit can be much cheaper than renting a larger office to store records or equipment for your business. This makes sense especially for contractors and lawn care companies.
That’s about all I can think of. There may be other specific situations where it makes sense but remember, every payment you make for storage can make the contents less valuable.
The bottom line is if you have no other choice but to rent storage, you want to rent the smallest one possible. Purge as much as possible first and then empty out your storage as quickly as possible.
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, 2020
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