bookshelf with colorful books

Your Result

Create calm by clearing out unwanted items or tasks

To be happier, consider a habit that will create calm by clearing out unwanted items or tasks.

Why this aim is likely to make you happier

When we create habits that help us regularly clear out unwanted items or tasks, it’s much easier to move smoothly and easily through our days. With too much “stuff,” we might feel overwhelmed by gifts we feel obliged to keep, items we imagine might be useful in the future, or clutter we haven’t made time to clear out. Getting rid of these items can make us feel lighter and more in control of our space.

We might also have the same problem with how we spend our time. While we don’t always have control over our time, we might be able to reflect on our tasks, responsibilities, and habits to spend less time on tasks we don’t enjoy, don’t value—or at least get them done more efficiently.

Aims you might consider

Never bring home “free” items

Practice the one-minute rule: if there’s something you can do in less than a minute, do it without delay

Limit social-media time to two slots a day

Clear out unwanted items one shelf, drawer, or box at a time

Regularly unsubscribe from unwanted emails

Set up auto-pay for your bills

Sort mail as soon as it arrives

Once a week, schedule time to clear out your inbox

Make a plan to regularly assess your workload

Delegate or outsource a chore or task

Know Yourself Better

Self-knowledge is an essential aspect of happiness, because we can create a happy life only on the foundation of our own nature, our own values, and our own interests. 

As you consider ways to create calm by clearing out unwanted items or tasks​​​​, ask yourself:

  • Do you know how you spend your time? You might be surprised. Try time-tracking for a week to understand better how you’re using your time.
  • When given a choice, would you prefer to save money, time, or effort?
  • Are you a finisher or an opener?
  • Consider your Tendency. Learn whether you’re an Obliger, Questioner, Upholder, or Rebel by taking the free Four Tendencies Quiz.
    • If you’re an Obliger, get accountability to make sure you’re not saying “yes” to too many projects. Remember, saying “no” to one person might mean saying “yes” to something more important.
    • If you’re a Questioner, ask yourself, “Could someone else get more use out of this item I’ve been hanging onto? If I haven’t opened this box in years, do I really need it?”
    • If you’re an Upholder, you might be prone to getting stuck in routines that don’t serve you anymore. Remember to ask yourself, “Why am I doing this? Am I the best person for this task? Is there a better way to accomplish this?”
    • If you’re a Rebel, consider how items or tasks fit the identities you’d like to cultivate, and get rid of anything that supports outdated ideas.

A few notes of caution…

  • Identify the problem. While a big closet cleanout or delegating a time-consuming task at work can be satisfying and give us some breathing room, try to identify the behavior that caused the build-up in the first place.

  • Remember, one of the biggest wastes of time is to do well something that we need not do at all. Consider whether you’re spending time and energy on a task that’s actually someone else’s responsibility, or that’s not necessary. For instance, are you carefully filing paper versions of documents where you could easily download the digital version if you need it?