How to let go of pointless possessions, in 6 easy steps
It's almost time for spring cleaning.
Gretchen Rubin is the author of many books, including the block-buster New York Times bestsellers The Four Tendencies, Better Than Before, and The Happiness Project. She also has a top-ranked, award-winning podcast, Happier with Gretchen Rubin, and a popular blog, gretchenrubin.com. She lives in New York City with her husband and two daughters.
GRETCHEN RUBIN: When people ask me for some ideas about how to approach clearing clutter, there are some that come up over and over. Now, I have a lot of ideas. Some work for some people and not for others, so nothing's universal, but there are some that people seem to find particularly helpful that really do strike a chord. And one is the ex factor. So this is when you're trying to imagine an outfit or, you know, a shirt or a skirt or a pair of pants. Ask yourself, if I was wearing this item and I ran into my ex on the street, would I feel good that I was wearing this item, or would I really wish that I was wearing something else? And if it fails the ex factor test, it's probably something that you can give away.
Another thing to keep in mind when you're clearing clutter is to think about other people. I mean, imagine far in the future, you're gone, your stuff is still there. And everybody's arriving at your place and having to deal with your stuff. Don't force other people to deal with your clutter. Think about it now. Like, are they going to want to deal with this broken bread maker, or can you take care of that now? Should you go through all those paperbacks that are falling into pieces now, or should you wait for somebody else to have to do it once you're gone?
One really helpful thing to do is to create a mystery box, because we've all had this experience where, like, there's a cord, but what is it a cord to? Or there's an attachment to the vacuum cleaner. Is it important? Is it not important? In my family, it's remote controls. We have all of these kind of loose remote controls floating around. And I'm like, I don't even know exactly what it controls, other than it controls something remotely. But what is it? I don't know. But they do feel important. They often look important. And so we can be reluctant to get rid of them. One thing you can do is you can create a box and put everything in there. If you're not sure exactly if it's useful, if it's necessary, put it in the box. So if you're all of a sudden looking for a cord, you can think, ah, I bet I put it in the box. Put the date on the box when you start it, and after a year, if you haven't gone in there to get anything out, well, then you can get rid of everything in the box.
One of my favorite clutter clearing tips is something that I figured out for myself, because I noticed that sometimes I'd be, like, walking through my house or looking through a closet or a cupboard, and I would think, should I get rid of this? And I would ponder it, and then I'd be like, mm, I guess I'll keep it. And then some time would go by, and then I'd find myself walking by and I'd think, eh, do I really need this? And then, like, well, I think I'll keep it. And now I'm like, probably I should have gotten rid of it the first time it occurred to me, but now, if it's occurred to me three times that I should toss something, recycle something, or give something away, I say I'm ready to let go of that thing. Three strikes, you're out.
One thing to think about as you're clearing clutter is can you put the spaces in your home to their correct use. Research shows that about 25% of people in the United States don't use their garage because they can't get their car in. They're using their garage for storage. And similarly, people have sun porches which are full of junk. They have rooms that could be libraries or music rooms or guest rooms or yoga rooms or meditation rooms or solariums. They could be anything, except they somehow become a junk room. So if you have a room in your house that's being used not for an idea that you want it to be used for that, or maybe it's supposed to be dedicated to an entirely different purpose, ask yourself, would it make us happier as a household if we actually could dine in our dining room, or actually put our car in our garage? Because often, when we get rid of everything we don't need, don't use, don't love, then we open up these spaces for a use that's actually much more satisfying.
One of my favorite tips about how to clear clutter and create outer order is the one-minute rule. And I have to say, for my sister Elizabeth, who's the co-host of my Happier podcast, this is the rule that she says has helped her the most. So the one-minute rule is that, if there's something that you can do in less than a minute, do it without delay. So if you can print something out and file it and delete the email, if you can hang up your coat, if you can put something in the garbage instead of just, like, throwing it on the floor or leaving it next to your computer on your desk, go ahead and do it. And what this does is that, in these little, tiny increments of time you know, so you're not having to spend a lot of time, energy, or money on clearing clutter just in these little interstices of your life, you're getting rid of sort of that scum on the surface of life, those little tiny tasks that are inconsequential on their own, but they build up. And we've all had the feeling of walking into an office or walking to your desk or getting in your car or walking into your bedroom and thinking, oh my gosh, I want to walk right out again, because I just see all this stuff I have to claw my way through. The one-minute rule keeps these things from accumulating. And that just gives us a much richer sense of optimism and energy, and just more space to move around as we go through our day.
- The "ex-factor test" is imagining wearing an outfit and determining whether you'd feel good in it if you saw your ex on the street.
- Another tip is to place stray accessories in a box and determine whether they are handy in your everyday life. If not, especially after a long period of time, get rid of the items.
- If there's something you can do in less than a minute that will make your life easier in the long run, do it immediately. "You're getting rid of the scum on the surface of life," says Rubin about doing so.
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How would the ability to genetically customize children change society? Sci-fi author Eugene Clark explores the future on our horizon in Volume I of the "Genetic Pressure" series.
- A new sci-fi book series called "Genetic Pressure" explores the scientific and moral implications of a world with a burgeoning designer baby industry.
- It's currently illegal to implant genetically edited human embryos in most nations, but designer babies may someday become widespread.
- While gene-editing technology could help humans eliminate genetic diseases, some in the scientific community fear it may also usher in a new era of eugenics.
Tribalism and discrimination<p>One question the "Genetic Pressure" series explores: What would tribalism and discrimination look like in a world with designer babies? As designer babies grow up, they could be noticeably different from other people, potentially being smarter, more attractive and healthier. This could breed resentment between the groups—as it does in the series.</p><p>"[Designer babies] slowly find that 'everyone else,' and even their own parents, becomes less and less tolerable," author Eugene Clark told Big Think. "Meanwhile, everyone else slowly feels threatened by the designer babies."</p><p>For example, one character in the series who was born a designer baby faces discrimination and harassment from "normal people"—they call her "soulless" and say she was "made in a factory," a "consumer product." </p><p>Would such divisions emerge in the real world? The answer may depend on who's able to afford designer baby services. If it's only the ultra-wealthy, then it's easy to imagine how being a designer baby could be seen by society as a kind of hyper-privilege, which designer babies would have to reckon with. </p><p>Even if people from all socioeconomic backgrounds can someday afford designer babies, people born designer babies may struggle with tough existential questions: Can they ever take full credit for things they achieve, or were they born with an unfair advantage? To what extent should they spend their lives helping the less fortunate? </p>
Sexuality dilemmas<p>Sexuality presents another set of thorny questions. If a designer baby industry someday allows people to optimize humans for attractiveness, designer babies could grow up to find themselves surrounded by ultra-attractive people. That may not sound like a big problem.</p><p>But consider that, if designer babies someday become the standard way to have children, there'd necessarily be a years-long gap in which only some people are having designer babies. Meanwhile, the rest of society would be having children the old-fashioned way. So, in terms of attractiveness, society could see increasingly apparent disparities in physical appearances between the two groups. "Normal people" could begin to seem increasingly ugly.</p><p>But ultra-attractive people who were born designer babies could face problems, too. One could be the loss of body image. </p><p>When designer babies grow up in the "Genetic Pressure" series, men look like all the other men, and women look like all the other women. This homogeneity of physical appearance occurs because parents of designer babies start following trends, all choosing similar traits for their children: tall, athletic build, olive skin, etc. </p><p>Sure, facial traits remain relatively unique, but everyone's more or less equally attractive. And this causes strange changes to sexual preferences.</p><p>"In a society of sexual equals, they start looking for other differentiators," he said, noting that violet-colored eyes become a rare trait that genetically engineered humans find especially attractive in the series.</p><p>But what about sexual relationships between genetically engineered humans and "normal" people? In the "Genetic Pressure" series, many "normal" people want to have kids with (or at least have sex with) genetically engineered humans. But a minority of engineered humans oppose breeding with "normal" people, and this leads to an ideology that considers engineered humans to be racially supreme. </p>
Regulating designer babies<p>On a policy level, there are many open questions about how governments might legislate a world with designer babies. But it's not totally new territory, considering the West's dark history of eugenics experiments.</p><p>In the 20th century, the U.S. conducted multiple eugenics programs, including immigration restrictions based on genetic inferiority and forced sterilizations. In 1927, for example, the Supreme Court ruled that forcibly sterilizing the mentally handicapped didn't violate the Constitution. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes wrote, "… three generations of imbeciles are enough." </p><p>After the Holocaust, eugenics programs became increasingly taboo and regulated in the U.S. (though some states continued forced sterilizations <a href="https://www.uvm.edu/~lkaelber/eugenics/" target="_blank">into the 1970s</a>). In recent years, some policymakers and scientists have expressed concerns about how gene-editing technologies could reanimate the eugenics nightmares of the 20th century. </p><p>Currently, the U.S. doesn't explicitly ban human germline genetic editing on the federal level, but a combination of laws effectively render it <a href="https://academic.oup.com/jlb/advance-article/doi/10.1093/jlb/lsaa006/5841599#204481018" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">illegal to implant a genetically modified embryo</a>. Part of the reason is that scientists still aren't sure of the unintended consequences of new gene-editing technologies. </p><p>But there are also concerns that these technologies could usher in a new era of eugenics. After all, the function of a designer baby industry, like the one in the "Genetic Pressure" series, wouldn't necessarily be limited to eliminating genetic diseases; it could also work to increase the occurrence of "desirable" traits. </p><p>If the industry did that, it'd effectively signal that the <em>opposites of those traits are undesirable. </em>As the International Bioethics Committee <a href="https://academic.oup.com/jlb/advance-article/doi/10.1093/jlb/lsaa006/5841599#204481018" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">wrote</a>, this would "jeopardize the inherent and therefore equal dignity of all human beings and renew eugenics, disguised as the fulfillment of the wish for a better, improved life."</p><p><em>"Genetic Pressure Volume I: Baby Steps"</em><em> by Eugene Clark is <a href="http://bigth.ink/38VhJn3" target="_blank">available now.</a></em></p>
Scientists discover burrows of giant predator worms that lived on the seafloor 20 million years ago.
- Scientists in Taiwan find the lair of giant predator worms that inhabited the seafloor 20 million years ago.
- The worm is possibly related to the modern bobbit worm (Eunice aphroditois).
- The creatures can reach several meters in length and famously ambush their pray.
A three-dimensional model of the feeding behavior of Bobbit worms and the proposed formation of Pennichnus formosae.
Credit: Scientific Reports
Beware the Bobbit Worm!<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1f9918e77851242c91382369581d3aac"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/_As1pHhyDHY?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Answering the question of who you are is not an easy task. Let's unpack what culture, philosophy, and neuroscience have to say.
- Who am I? It's a question that humans have grappled with since the dawn of time, and most of us are no closer to an answer.
- Trying to pin down what makes you you depends on which school of thought you prescribe to. Some argue that the self is an illusion, while others believe that finding one's "true self" is about sincerity and authenticity.
- In this video, author Gish Jen, Harvard professor Michael Puett, psychotherapist Mark Epstein, and neuroscientist Sam Harris discuss three layers of the self, looking through the lens of culture, philosophy, and neuroscience.
The father of all giant sea bugs was recently discovered off the coast of Java.
- A new species of isopod with a resemblance to a certain Sith lord was just discovered.
- It is the first known giant isopod from the Indian Ocean.
- The finding extends the list of giant isopods even further.
The ocean depths are home to many creatures that some consider to be unnatural.<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzU2NzY4My9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNTUwMzg0NX0.BTK3zVeXxoduyvXfsvp4QH40_9POsrgca_W5CQpjVtw/img.png?width=980" id="b6fb0" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2739ec50d9f9a3bd0058f937b6d447ac" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1512" data-height="2224" />
What benefit does this find have for science? And is it as evil as it looks?<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="7XqcvwWp" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="8506fcd195866131efb93525ae42dec4"> <div id="botr_7XqcvwWp_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/7XqcvwWp-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/7XqcvwWp-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/7XqcvwWp-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p>The discovery of a new species is always a cause for celebration in zoology. That this is the discovery of an animal that inhabits the deeps of the sea, one of the least explored areas humans can get to, is the icing on the cake.</p><p>Helen Wong of the National University of Singapore, who co-authored the species' description, explained the importance of the discovery:</p><p>"The identification of this new species is an indication of just how little we know about the oceans. There is certainly more for us to explore in terms of biodiversity in the deep sea of our region." </p><p>The animal's visual similarity to Darth Vader is a result of its compound eyes and the curious shape of its <a href="https://lkcnhm.nus.edu.sg/research/sjades2018/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer dofollow" style="">head</a>. However, given the location of its discovery, the bottom of the remote seas, it may be associated with all manner of horrifically evil Elder Things and <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cthulhu" target="_blank" rel="dofollow">Great Old Ones</a>. <em></em></p>
The newly discovered galaxies are 62x bigger than the Milky Way.
- Two recently discovered radio galaxies are among the largest objects in the cosmos.
- The discovery implies that radio galaxies are more common than previously thought.
- The discovery was made while creating a radio map of the sky with a small part of a new radio array.