From Cents to Seconds

Do any of these statements sound familiar?

"It was so inexpensive I couldn't pass it up!" (or "It was so cheap, I bought two!")

"I love free samples."

"I feel bad throwing this out because I spent so much money on it."

"I am keeping this because one day I might need it and I don't want to have to spend more money to replace it."

I'm guessing you've said these things before because it is so easy to place an economic value on our stuff. This makes sense. In order to acquire an item we generally exchange money for it - money that we spent a lot of time working to earn. Unfortunately, there is a big problem with this value system. When it comes to our stuff, it is not about the money we spent on it. The true cost of something is the amount of time we choose to devote to it.

Money is a renewable resource. We always can earn more of it. Time, on the other hand, is much more precious. We will never have the ability to earn more time. Time is a nonrenewable resource. When a client tells me that they feel guilt about the money they have spent on their stuff, or that they brought something into their lives only because it was inexpensive, I ask them to shift the conversation from cents to seconds.

I categorize time into two types: mental time and physical time. Mental time is the amount of time we spend thinking about something, and the emotional toll it these thoughts take on us. Physical time is the number of seconds we spend taking care of our possessions, and the physical toll it takes on your body.

Protecting your mental time should be the highest priority: you should strive to only have stuff in your life that brings you joy and enhances your emotional wellbeing. Likewise, only hang on to stuff that does not take up more than its fair share of your physical time. Are you always moving things out of the way to get to other stuff? That's physical time. You will never get those seconds back. A few seconds might not seem like a lot but the accumulation of wasted seconds over your lifetime is tremendous. Five seconds a day is thirty minutes a year. Thirty minutes a year is forty hours over the course of an average life. That's an entire workweek. If you wanted to actually value that time financially, you could consider that moving something out of the way, every day of your life is equal to your average weekly paycheck. It's time to consider if that thing you are hanging on to, that you might need in the future, is really worth it.

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