Less clutter more time

Never say I don’t practise what I preach. Life took over and blogging took a back seat at the end of 2014. However this didn’t progress the campaign for a shorter working week anywhere except my own life, so I am back on the blog.

It’s one of those ultimate paradoxes – there’s no escaping the fact that kickstarting a debate and setting up a campaign require many hours of hard work. It’s a bit like the years when I administered subscriptions for Ethical Consumer magazine, at the same time as the magazine was urging its subscribers both to subscribe by direct debit and to change bank account for ethical reasons. Many hours of paradoxical extra work required.

But then, a shorter working week is about being more active, not less – it’s just the type of activity that is different. Anyway, I digress.

Today an article by Tim Harford, the FT’s ‘undercover economist’, caught my eye – Why more and more means less. It’s very new-year appropriate – it is all about the benefits of decluttering. He cites lots of reasons why this is a good idea:

  • Storage is expensive, as is a bigger house
  • You might be keeping stuff solely because you can’t think of a reason to throw it out (the ‘status quo bias’); instead, he advises, you should only keep things if you know a good reason to do so. As William Morris said, “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”
  • Stuff has 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.”
  • Too much stuff carries not only the costs of storage but also the opportunity cost of not appreciating what you have because it’s stuck at the bottom of a crate.

I love all these. I would add a few more.

  • Less stuff means fewer costs which means the potential for shorter working hours.
  • If you spend less time looking for things stuck at the bottom of a crate you can spend more time on the activities you really want to do.
  • Less stuff means fewer carbon emissions.

Win win win win win win win.