unclutterer's throw away a thing a day challenge

Andrei Marks · July 23, 2010

Orange Square Cleans Up Books

Productivity is greatly enhanced by organization, and organization is greatly enhanced by simplifying the amount things that need to be organized. This works in many different contexts, but here I’m going to apply it in a very general and very physical sense. A day or two ago Lifehacker introduced me to Unclutterer’sA Thing A Day” challenge.

A Thing A Day

It’s been up on the site for two months and people are really into it!  Here are the rules:

Welcome to the ATAD challenge ! The challenge is about getting rid of one object a day, for... a month ? A year? It´s up to you how long you want your challenge to last. Whether you give away, trash or donate the object is immaterial, but it must be gone from your life and space. Putting it into storage doesn´t count; though you are allowed to, say, collect the things in a box to donate them at the end of the month. Oh, and you´re also allowed to cheat and fill your quota ahead of time, like throwing out 7 things on Monday, making that a week´s worth of ATAD. By telling us on here what you got rid of today will not only help with the accountability issues, you´ll also help others rethink their possessions (he got rid of his xyz ? Come to think of it, do I really need mine ?) So, what did you set free today ?

The Story of Stuff

Finding out about this nicely dovetailed with my first viewing of The Story of Stuff, which is part of a consumption awareness project. Anyhow, getting rid of a thing a day and minimizing one’s need for stuff are basically a match made in heaven. Granted, if you just throw things away, then accumulate them, and then throw things away again you’re missing the point. But if you get rid of enough things through recycling, donation, and yes, just throwing away some things, and then manage to stay in a low consumption state afterwards, then you’re a step closer to organization heaven. It’s a two-fer in essence, you do the planet some good and you do yourself some good. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9GorqroigqM]

greenovalNen on Twitter

Set card: Two Empty Green Ovals

Also, I think I’ll use this as an excuse to post things on Twitter. I’ll be able to keep my ATAD project updated and I’ll also put up other thoughts. Another idea I had was tweeting the moments when I’m able to successfully overcome a consumer tendency and the like. My twitter page is at greenovalNen.  Tego is actually an acronym for “two empty green ovals,” which I picked by drawing a random card from a Set deck. Nen is a Japanese word. WWWJDIC provides this definition:

念【ねん】(n) sense; idea; thought; feeling; desire; concern; attention; care;

But greenovalNen’s nen focuses on the concept in Zen philosophy. This is from a short essay (by Mark L. Dotson) written about Katsuki Sekida’s cognitive psych interpretation of nen:

In his book, Zen Training, Sekida's focus is on thought-impulses, or, as they are called in Japanese, "nen." According to Sekida, the mind operates in a particular way. The way the mind operates is "only one nen at a time." You cannot really do two things at once because you cannot be conscious of two things at once. Nen actions make their appearance before we are aware of them. A thought impulse occurs without our being aware of it. If you are going to become aware of a nen action, it takes a separate nen action to become aware of the first nen action. First-nen occurs, for example, when one has an experience of a beautiful sunset. Before the awareness of "just how beautiful it is" dawns on you, you are momentarily held spellbound in the grasp of the experience. Then, immediately, there follows second-nen, which reflects on first-nen.

I’d be interested in reading about what cognitive scientists have researched on this subject. Okay, this turned out to be a little more rambling then I thought it would be. Follow greenovalNen in any case! Ah yes, and my first ATAD item is a folder full of random handouts and notes from a few semesters back.  I’ll be keeping the folder but everything inside gets recycled!

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