Monday, November 14, 2011

High Marginal Value Cleaning

The law of diminishing returns is called a law for a reason. The more of something you do, eventually the payoff decreases. It might increase at first (e.g. if there's network effects or economies of scale), but sooner or later, it turns negative.

But if you're clever, you can use this to your advantage. Take the lazy bachelor's approach to cleaning. Suppose (entirely hypothetically in my case, I assure you), your bathroom is quite dirty. In the case of cleaning, the first efforts at cleaning have huge payoffs. Just wipe the floor with a paper towel and you'll pick up maybe 70% of the filth. And it only takes 5 seconds! This is clearly a huge return on effort. But if you really want to get the floor clean, you'd have to get the mop and bucket, run the water, put in detergent, scrub the floor, and wait for it to dry.

In other words, that last 30% is going to take you 10 minutes, minimum. Honestly, who's got that kind of time?

The answer, of course, is people who are OCD about dirt, clean for a living, or have too much time on their hands.

It will come as no shock to those who know me in real life that I would self-classify as none of those three. Okay, maybe the third one is true (see, for instance, this blog), but I don't have the inclination to spend it cleaning.

If you don't believe me, just ask David Ricardo:

You should listen to your friend David Ricardo, he's a cool dude.

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