Getting Rid of The Plastic Hairball

It’s a giant hairball made of old cables.

It lives in every household, and it sits in a drawer somewhere. It’s made of old phone chargers, USB cables, a couple of obsolete adaptors, a few rubber bands, a hairpin for sure. I have it, you have it, everyone has it.

In my case, it fills out a couple of large Samlas, those clear plastic IKEA boxes. Over the years, I kept every single cable that my old appliances did not need anymore. Of course, they did not need them, but I did, maybe someday, so I kept them.

Every time I wanted to get rid of it, severe pain in my stomach made it impossible. What if I need to power up an Epson printer that only works with that specific type of charger? It doesn’t matter if I haven’t had an Epson printer in 15 years, nor do I plan to have one ever again.

The pain of wasting space in my house with that useless plastic hairball is sharp but even more acute is the pain of throwing everything out.

When we need to part ways, we stop thinking logically. As a result, we enter a state called “amygdala hijack,” and we fail to distinguish between consequences that will happen and consequences that might happen, like the possibility of an Epson printer in the house.

We picture our life in the very current state, with a gaping void in it. We ignore what we could gain, and we focus on what we certainly lose. It’s the same loss-aversion fallacy that kept us alive as a species for the last 20,000 years that now makes us hold onto that Nokia phone charger.

There are three valuable hacks they can help us:

Visualization

Instead of dreaming that an old cable will save the day, we better focus our imagination on the positives of getting rid of that mess.
What if I need that mini-USB cable? Just go on Amazon and buy it new.
In the meanwhile, you have more space for your Lego creations, ok?

Celebration

To properly process a loss, we need to find closure. To part ways with your plastic hairball, have a ceremony, a celebration, a sort of a funeral service. It’s about finding a moment to celebrate how every strand of the hairball served its purpose. For example, this charger was my faithful travel buddy for two years. This earpiece kept me connected to my E-TAC phone while I was commuting. Etc.

Delegation

Find a trustworthy friend, invite them over for a snack. Show them the plastic hairball and give them 20 bucks, saying: “I’m leaving the house for 15 minutes. When I’m back, I don’t want to find that thing anymore. I don’t want to know how you do it, and we won’t talk about it ever again in the future. So just do it, and this money is yours.”

Leave the house for 20 minutes. Yes, give it 5 minutes more than necessary, just in case. Voilá! The plastic hairball is gone.

Of course, these are oversimplifications, but the reality is that we need to get rid of the plastic hairball because it occupies space in our houses and our heads. So don’t let it happen. Don’t let the sedimentation of the past engulf your present and limit your future.

Let those cables free, and be free yourself as well.


Thanks to Mujidat Oladeinde for the review.

Photo by Martijn Baudoin on Unsplash

Published by Luca Sartoni

I lead a team of engineers across three continents at Automattic. I love hiking, photography, and 3D printers.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: