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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Things Take Time

One of the things that decluttering makes you realise, is how much time you spend on things. Time that you would prefer to be spending on something else. 

This was particularly highlighted for me when I decided to tackle a pile of magazines that I pulled out of my coffee table. I have long had an addiction to magazines.  This is inspite of the fact that I am well aware that they promise so much and deliver so little. Well, actually, I used to read Smash Hits as a teenager and loved it.  In my 20's I moved onto The Face and loved it too. (Wikipedia tells me that these magazines were both created by the same person.)  These magazines were relevant to me at the time and let me know about the music and fashion that could actually become a part of my life, that is, I liked them and could afford them. For some reason, now magazines are full of $2,000 handbags and $500 t-shirts, all of which look like crap; who buys these things?

But I digress - back to the pile of magazines.  My intial strategy for dealing with it was just to flick through them  (about 20) and see if there were any pictures suitable for my vision board.  I thought that they were all magazines that I had read and decided to keep (new rule - never keep a magazine unless you own a library), but a number of them I had only half read.  So of course, that meant I had to read all the unfinished magazines as well as look for pictures before I threw them away. 

I started reading a copy of Vanity Fare, but after a time period that seem FOREVER, I had only read a couple of articles and there were lots left.  It was then I realised that I have no interest in learning about some rich woman who can no longer afford the upkeep on her mansion in the Hamptons, nor do I care about some Wall Street bloke who has become the go-to guy for the USA government since the global financial crisis because he doesn't work for any of the banks, etc.  So I tossed it.

I then picked up a copy of Shop Till You Drop.  I bought the first issue of this magazine and found a great pair of shoes in it, which I bought and to this day they remain my favourites.  As a result, I keep coming back to this magazine to hopefully have similar experiences but every time I am disappointed.  This magazine has become one of the worse offenders for advertising luxury brands (seriously, who spends $5,000 on one outfit?) and its full of demands - buy these jeans! read this website! decorate your home all in white!  If one of your friends spoke to you like this you would tell them to piss off, yet so many woman's magazines are the same.

In the end, I invoked the economics rule of sunk costs.  A sunk cost is a cost paid in the past that you cannot recover.  The idea is, that you should not think about sunk costs but only the benefit you can derive in future. This is at odds with how people actually behave. People buy things and then try to get their money's worth. So the more you pay for something, the longer you hold onto it and use it, trying to justify the cost. For example, you don't throw away magazines you haven't read.

The more you think about this however, you realise this traditional approach only makes sense if you don't place any value on your time. If you look at things from the sunk cost perspective, you say - I bought these magazines over a year ago, I'm never going to get the money back that I paid for them,  reading them is going to take up time that I could better spend on other things, hence I have got all the value out of them I am going to get and so should throw them away.  So I did, and it felt great.

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