This is podcast 122 and it’s about adding a third question: do I hate it? I’ve written about Marie Kondo’s favorite question: does it spark joy? And about my version, which adds a question: Do I love it? Do I need it? Now we’ll add that third question that comes in handy in some situations.
A friend suggested this new question. She had an oversized armchair that was in excellent condition, but it took up a lot of space in the bedroom. And she didn’t like it. The reason it was in such good shape is that she never sat in it!
Still, the chair had been there for a long time. It was serving a purpose. And it had cost a lot of money. We often justify keeping something because we don’t want to accept that we might have wasted money on it. All those are reasons for it to remain where it was.
There’s also the inertia effect. The property of inertia states that matter continues in its existing state of rest unless that state is changed by an external force. It’s safe to say that inertia is why clutter can be so hard to get rid of.
It can be bracing to confess that you hate something you own. It definitely doesn’t spark the least bit of joy. It’s very different from noticing that you don’t need it. Need is rational. Hate is emotional, as is joy.
Diving into the true feeling you have about a possession is liberating. You don’t have to pretend anymore! All the pretense falls away.
People often feel trapped by their possessions. They feel as though they are the custodians of their stuff and therefore responsible for it. The moment a new thing comes into your home, it starts to develop kind of stickiness, cementing it into place among all of your other possessions.
This is the reason that I always recommend removing items from their spots before you organize and purge them. If you thumb through your clothes while they’re still on the closet hanging rod, trying to pare down, you’ll get rid of far less than if you took everything out and laid it on the bed and looked at each garment away from the closet.
In the closet your clothes have that cemented in quality, or that stickiness. Change their environment by putting them on the bed breaks that association. You can focus on each item in turn.
You’ve also changed the atmosphere in the closet because everything you put in is something you love. Now it’s not a motley collection of some loves, some hates and some indifferents. The more the closet is populated with clothes you love, the harder it is to put something in there that you hate.
My friend had an easier time embracing how much she hated the chair because she’d had to move out of the apartment for renovations. Her goal for years had been to create a more spacious feel to the bedroom but the chair’s inertia was a big obstacle.
When she moved the furniture back in, it became glaringly clear that it took up too much space. Even though it was back in the room, it had been moved. Some of that sticky spell had been broken. That was fortuitous.
The energy of her feelings about the chair motivated her to post a photo of it right away to some friends, and one responded that he’d take it within a few minutes. She decided the chair had to go and she immediately took action.
The other benefit of using the energy of a strong emotion is that it can inspire you to move forward even if you don’t know what will happen next. My friend said part of her decision was to create space, literally, for the solution to the spot-to-pile-clothes problem to appear.
Another aspect of inertia is that when something is useful, we’re reluctant to give it up no matter how many negative aspects it has without having a substitute ready. That can put you in a push and pull situation where you’re going back and forth between half heartedly seeking a better solution and grudgingly holding on to the so-so solution.
Let yourself feel! Love your things and keep them. Or hate them and get rid of them. Have enthusiasm in both directions. It helps you make decisions faster and more resolutely.
What you can do right now. Find something you own that isn’t really doing what you need it to but that you have luke warm feelings about. Try on hating or loving it and see if that stimulates you to make a decision.