Friday, February 5, 2016

52 Weeks to a Simpler Life – Tip #21 – Eliminate the Extras & Spares

Okay, it's always good to have an extra corkscrew or pair of scissors, right? How about batteries? Isn't it maddening that just when you need to use some battery operated device (and there are more and more of those devices these days) the battery in the device is dead and you don't have a spare. If it's great to have one pair of glasses, but shouldn't you really have a spare set in case you misplace the first pair?

How many items can you list that you have duplicates, back-ups, spares and convenience copies of? If you're like most average consumers, you likely will end up with a good size list. It's smart, right? Remember the old Boy Scout motto, “Be Prepared.” There is probably some corollary of Murphy's law that says, “if you one have one of something you use regularly, you're bound to lose it.” Not necessarily so. Read on . . .

To Duplicate or Not To Duplicate, That Is The Question

So, what's the real deal here. Does it really make sense to have duplicates of all kinds of things? Or, is it just costing you unnecessary expense to purchase them and taking unnecessary space to store what ever it is?

I believe there is another corollary of Murphy's Law that states, “If you have more of something than you actually need, when you misplace the original one, you'll forget where you put the spare.” That's usually because you haven't needed it in 25 years (or whatever number of years).”

Now, I know this is true because it has been the case for all of my adult life. I may have experienced it during my childhood and teens, but I'm trying to block that from my memory. There's another corollary to Murphy's Law that states, “If you lose something and can't find the spare, you'll find both of the missing items as soon as you purchase, yet, another one. So, now you have three (or maybe 4, 5 or 6).

So, why exactly, should you eliminate all or most of your extras and spares? Actually, it's pretty simple and points to your primary memory, your sub-conscious and some subliminal levels of functioning. Here's a theory and I believe it's pretty accurate. If you only have one of a specific item, you will most likely be much more careful with handling whatever it is. You will establish a specific pattern of handling the item If you misplace it, because of your habit, you'll almost always be able to backtrack or reverse your motions for a period of time until the last time you recall having and using whatever it is.

I have had a manicure set that I've been using since 1973. Count them, that's 43 years at this writing. Yes! I'm still using the same set. Now, I'll be honest, I've had many pairs of nail clippers, tweezers and fingernail files since 1973, but I don't believe I could lay my hands on one of them if my life depended on it right now. However, I always know where that 43 year old manicure set is. I can give you a list of other items and the story is the same.

So, if you place a value on the specific items, regardless of whether they are for personal grooming, kitchen utensils/appliances, tools, specific items of clothing or any number of other categories, you will make sure you keep track of them. Therefore, we really don't need duplicates and spares of most things if the primary item is of significant importance and value to us.

But Wait, There's More

Indulge me. I just had to say that. There certainly may be certain items with an extreme level of importance you should consider having duplicates of. This list isn't anywhere near as long as the list of items you can eliminate, however.

Here are some examples. Spare keys are an important item. The chances are probably very good (except in the cases of a few people I know) that you handle your keys in a very specific way, specifically because they are so vitally important. Who wants to accidentally get locked out of their vehicle on a dark night in the parking lot of a, now, closed shopping mall? Or, how about this? There's a terrible storm outside, you open the door to check the mail and your small dog takes off running after the mailman. You run out the door to get your dog and the door slams behind you. At that very instant you realize – uh-oh, your keys are in your jacket pocket or your purse or on the hook next to the door. Yes, the door is locked.

Wouldn't these be great times to have spare keys in your pocket, maybe in a special hidden inside pocket just for a spare key? Maybe it could be hidden somewhere on the outside of your car in a magnetic key box made for that purpose. You might have a spare key carefully concealed outside your house (but not under the door mat, please). You can now get in your car and head home or get in your house and dry off.

I actually travel with several spare keys. I always handle my regular set of keys exactly the same way. However, that being said, I have actually locked the keys in my van a few times. Fortunately, I know precisely where those spare keys are located and I'm in my van within seconds.

I use a sizable number of batteries because of my nomadic, traveling lifestyle. A lot of my devices are battery powered. Not having spare batteries while staying overnight or for a prolonged duration in a national forest could be very inconvenient without spare batteries.

But, I don't need two corkscrews, two can openers, duplicates of similar screw drivers, multiple pairs of the same shoes. I require a few pairs for for specific purposes. While men may not be quite as guilty of having too many pairs of shoes, many women have a shoe obsession and must have shoes they may wear as infrequently as once a year or even less frequently. If you're trying to simplify your life, select a few, perhaps three or four pairs of comfortable shoes that can be worn with multiple clothes for most all occasions you normally find yourself involved in.

Enough, Still May Be Too Much

We humans are, apparently, pack rats by nature. I don't know why it is, but we seem to believe that if one is good or even great, two is even better and even more is the best, yet. That's not necessarily and, often, not at all true. We really don't need everything.

Most of us only need one computer. But, many of us have several. In some cases, there may be a pragmatic reason for multiple computing devices.

Over a span of some 36 years, I've had somewhere in the range of probably 24 computers. That's basically about one computer for ever one and a half years. There were times when I used multiple computers in my businesses. Since I had several employees, it made sense to have additional computers. Currently, I have two non-working computers, both repairable, my main laptop (I'm composing this article on), a tablet computing device, a smart phone that is virtually as powerful as my current laptop, a tower computer that is not currently operational and at least two non-working and probably not repairable laptops in storage.

Does this make any sense? Absolutely not! Most of these computing devices are scheduled for liquidation or elimination in the very near future. Once gone, the space is freed up and they are forgotten. They served their purposes and I've moved on.

I just mentioned shoes, and in another tip I spoke about paring down the wardrobe. I'm still working on that. I've given away enough clothes to clothe a small homeless community of men. How did I accumulate them? I just figured I might need them someday. So, I took up space and expense keeping them. Better I should have allowed someone else who truly needed them, more than me, the privilege of having them.

How about your kitchen cabinets and pantry? When I was preparing to vacate my small ranch in the Shenandoah Valley and take up the mobile, nomadic lifestyle nearly 7 ½ years ago, I had so much food I'd accumulated that, for whatever reason, I never got around to consuming. I had too much. And much of it was in duplicates. So, I gave it away to a food bank, as I recall. I gave away bookshelves (plural) of books for the same reason. I wasn't going to read them. Some were still unread.

How about that cupboard full of plastic, glass and metal storage containers of all shapes and sizes and all the covers that go along with them. Does the photo above look familiar? That's what one of my container storage cabinets looked like. Of course, you can never find a matching cover when you need it. How about eliminating everything in those cupboards except what you ACTUALLY USE. You know it's only a small percentage of them.

I remember as a kid we used to get jelly in decorated glass jars that became drinking glasses when we finished the jelly. We had shelves of those glasses. See how easy it is to accumulate?

How about your bathroom. Do you still have a pile of thread worn towels in the back of the linen closet, just in case you run out of the good towels in the front of the closet? How many bottles of fingernail polish and remover do you have in the bathroom. How about various kinds of band-aids, shampoo that you started, but didn't like. Are there spare razors that never get used? You're keeping them just in case the apocalypse occurs and you can't buy any at the local, then, non-existent convenience store, right?

Am I drawing a clear picture here? Believe me. I'm not talking through my hat. I've walked the walk and I'm still working at eliminating.

The Bottom Line

So, the apocalypse is currently on hold for the foreseeable future. We will likely never wear most of those shoes, clothes, etc. Storage containers multiply like rabbits. They just appear, so get rid of them before they take over your kitchen. You don't really need a new blender and the old one in the closet that you'll never use again. You're never going to buy a handle for the hammer with the cracked handle, you just bought a new one to replace it. I guarantee, by the end of the year you'll have likely acquired a significant number of new pens with a businesses name and phone number on it, so get rid of all the pens in your multiple drawers, purse and attache case. A new supply is on the way.

So, Tip #21 in the 52 Weeks to a Simpler Life is (drum roll, please) eliminate all – that's ALL – the spares and extras of virtually everything you with the exception of the very few items I mentioned.

Live free and be happy. EH


Anonymous said...

2 duplicates we need for sure is:

1) a house key


2) a car key , I carry them both day & night, rain or shine on myself, they are in 2 separate key-rings attached to my pants waist, the only time I'm apart from them is when I shower, I even sleep with them on!!

Richard Rosen said...

Less is indeed more. After reading your suggestions, I realize how often my eyes catch hold, and my thoughts follow, on things that are duplicates, triplicates and…. Result: mind clutter and less focus on what I am doing.

Your mention of duplicate screwdrivers gained my attention. Next chore: check my tool collection of many years. Looking forward to it. And from there….

Steve said...

Duplicates are good when properly organized. I've got multiple tool kits: one for the house; one for the truck; one for the wife's car; and one for the hunting rig. It's the same dealt for first aid kits, raincoats, flashlights, and other frequent duplicates. The key is proper organization; we can leave on a camping trip almost in any vehicle at a whim.

Without that organization, duplicates are maddening.

Richard Rosen said...

Good point Steve about tool kits for different locations. I too have them in my car and my wife's, even a few basics at my desk so I don't have to go the garage for a simple need.

Earl Mark said...

These tips are so useful. I totally agree that it helps to figure out ways to add better storage to any area in the house. When you have such storage that has been carefully designed, you have storage that can really and truly utterly help simplify many aspects of your entire life. Looking forward to reading your next post.

Earl Mark @ Eastway Lock