This article originally appeared on SimpleProductivityBlog.com. It has been revised and updated.
A friend and I were having lunch when I told her about my inability to throw out an orchid. A gift, it had stopped blooming a few years ago, although putting forth healthy shoots. I gave my husband another orchid, but when he asked if I would get rid of the non-blooming one, I said no. After all, all the special needs animals seem to collect at my house. Why would I give up on a plant just because it no longer bloomed?
My friend introduced me to the stock theory to eliminate clutter. I have her permission to relate it.
The Stock Theory To Eliminate Clutter
If you are considering buying a stock, you decide partly on how much it costs now. You also have to know what the prospects are for the company at the time, as well as projections for the near future.
In the Stock Theory To Eliminate Clutter, you decide if you would buy the object today, at today’s prices, knowing what you know about the usefulness and the current state of the item. If not, it should leave your house.
Applying the Stock Theory To Eliminate Clutter
Applying It to Stuff
I ask myself a series of questions when I am going through my belongings. Some of them are practical: do I use it? am I taking care of it? Some are emotional: do I love it?
But the stock theory adds another question: would I buy this article today, knowing what I know about it in its current state?
For example: I have a Cuisinart food processor. It sits in a high cupboard and rarely gets used. I considered it. I don’t really use it – most of the time I will either chop/shred things by hand in small batches or use the chopping blade on my blender. I am taking care of it. Loving it? Well, this is not one of those appliances that inspires emotion. Now the stock question: would I buy it today knowing what I know? The answer is yes. When I do need to shred large amounts of cheese, this is my go-to. This happens about four times a year, and takes minutes rather than an hour to shred 10 pounds of mozzarella. It stays.
Another example: I have the complete paperback set of the Outlander series. I read the first two and then the series languished. Not because of the content, but because of the books themselves, thick and hard to transport. I have every intention of finishing the series. I have used it, and it is well-cared for. I love the story (although on the first book, which I thought was Highlander, I confess to being disappointed by the lack of swords and decapitation; this was soon put aside in the love of the story). Would I buy these again? No. So out went the books, and I got the series in a format more conducive to how I read: on my Kindle.
Applying It to Activities
The Stock Theory can also be applied to other areas of my life. Activities, for example. All I have to ask myself is if I would get involved with the activity knowing what I know now.
For example: I love to do cross stitch. I got involved in a beautiful Teresa Wentzler piece that was on really tight fabric with single strands of color together to get the shading. This thing sat in my music room. I loved the picture of the final product, but the work was too concentrated for me to do in five minute gaps. And I didn’t feel I could move on to another project while this one was going. So as I went through all of my craft projects, I asked myself: would I buy this again knowing what I know now? The answer was no. And I took the fabric off the frame and tossed it in the garbage. No regrets.
Another example: I have been a Girl Scout leader since my daughter was a Brownie. Managing a troop of girls and their parents is not for the faint of heart. I was also drafted into doing work at the next level of the organization, the service unit. Girl Scouts took up a lot of my time. Besides the weekly meetings, I was also processing paperwork weekly and cross-checking training. When I knew something had to give in my schedule, I looked at all my Girl Scout activities. I decided to split them into parts – the troop and the service unit. The service unit, with its nitpicking and infighting, was something I would never have gotten involved with had I known. So I resigned. Being a troop leader has a lot more rewards, but I couldn’t keep up with the schedules and paperwork. So I made changes: we now meet twice a month; I have a co-leader to handle the schedules and paperwork; and in the fall, the girls will take over planning their own meetings.
The stock theory gives me another guideline to measure the keep/abandon factor for both things and activities.
Over to you: apply the stock theory to something you are thinking about getting rid of, and see how it works. Share your success below!