Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

6 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Doing Anything

Life involves decisions: left or right, black or white, big or small, to be or not to be. While we don’t want to be too prescriptive as to what constitutes a “LifeEdited” decision consistent (it looks different for different people), we have some fairly universal questions to ask yourself when in decision mode.

Below are 6 questions that work for almost any decision–whether it’s about tasks, purchases, work, recreational activity, etc.

Note: the questions are sequential; if you answer yes to one question, you don’t need to answer the following ones. For example, question #1 is “Can I do without it?” If you answer “yes”, then it’s pointless to ask the following questions because there is no longer and decision to make.

Here they are:

  1. Can I do without it? This should be the gatekeeper for all decisions. Nothing simplifies like elimination. Do I really need this? Do I really want this? Do I really have to do this? Look at the full picture, e.g. you might want a Porsche, but don’t want to pay for it. You might want an opulent lifestyle, but don’t want to work so hard to get it. Doing without leaves us less to maintain, manage, clean, pay for, and so on. It also allows us to pay closer attention to the things we can’t do without.
  2. Can it be digitized, automated or done by someone else? This question removes spatial or temporal volume from our lives. You might need an item or something done, but ask if it can take up less space and time. Can your old tax returns be put on PDF’s? Can your bills be put on auto-pay? Might you be better off hiring someone to fix the toilet than doing it yourself? Our lives are often lost in teaspoons–small purchases and tasks that eventually create great mounds of clutter and confusion. Seize every opportunity to reduce volume.
  3. Can it be shared, borrowed or rented? For most of the 20th Century, ownership was the aim. But today, there are many great ways of accessing and using without the burden of owning. Ask yourself, is it totally necessary to have fulltime possession? If you only need a car once or twice a week, might it make more sense to use Zipcar rather than keeping a car on standby? Can you borrow a dress for that event? Possession requires maintenance, storage and money. Some things are worth that price. Many are not.
  4. Can this be combined with something else? Can that table also be my desk? Can I get a Murphy bed instead of a traditional one? Can I pick up my laundry and groceries? If we’re going to get or do something, why wouldn’t we make it as efficient as possible?
  5. Can it be made smaller? Assuming you need to have or do it, assuming it can’t be digitized, borrowed or be made multifuctional, can this be smaller–either spatially or temporally? Can I find bowls that nest or tables that stow? Can I spend less time paying bills, weeding through junk mail or email? Less space and less time equals more room to live.
  6. Can it be made better? You can apply this question to all fields. If you’re buying stuff, remember that something might be twice as expensive, but if it lasts 4 times as long, it’s half-priced. Wherever possible, get the good stuff you like. Same principle holds true for tasks. If you’re going to do a job, why not do a high quality job? It might take a little longer in the short-term, but save time and energy in the long. This question asks, “What would your life be like if everything you had and did was of excellent quality?”

This post was originally published on June 20, 2012

  • I just found your website and absolutely love it. You are right about the rampant consumerism and the effects it has on our planet and especially on ourselves. I hope everyone picks up ideas from your site. Thank you for being so thoughtful.

    A. Kingsley Bishop

  • This website has been right on time for me. Since I was busy this spring my spring cleaning has turned into a summer project. Operation “Heal the Hoarder” (lol) is well underway and my home & life are definitely being “edited.” Thanks for the tips on how reduce stress by simplifying life.

    Jessie Jennings

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  • Paula from Germany

    “Should I visit an art exhibition this Sunday?” The answer to question number one “Can I do without it?” is probably “yes”. I am a huge fan of your site and have been inspired by the sentence “the city is my living room”, taking advantage of what the city has to offer instead of spending too much time in my small apartment (39 square meters). But if I follow today’s advice, I would have to stay home in the future. I am sure that’s not what you mean.

    I therefore suggest that you exclude recreational activities from your article. After all, since my edited lifestyle safes me time and money, I now have a lot of that on my hand to spend on experiences.

    • lifeedited

      hi paula,
      i get your point, and perhaps we should have been more precise in our language. that said, you might say that going to the museum is something you cannot do without, which, to our mind, is a far more valid necessity than a 12th pair of shoes. many forego the former (the museum) to work, pay, shop for, and store the latter.

  • Deborah Masterson

    I, too, am a HUGE fan of your site. I was pretty well on the path when I found it, but the subscription (Q#1 no; Q#2 yes!) gives me a welcome kick/stroke when needed. Last weekend I took ALL my clothes out of my closet, and put half back. The rest are history. I recommend this exercise. I considered getting a Tshirt that says “EDIT RUTHLESSLY,” but then I’d have to get rid of one of my remaining clothing treasures. I love ALL my clothes now.

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