Time to come clean – I’m a recovering packrat. I had waaaaaaaaay too much shit, and now I’m down to just too much shit. And it gets in the way of moving towards FI – at least for me.
I’ve had inklings that a minimalist/simple path was better for me. When I moved out to Colorado in May of 2000, I arrived with only my car, cat, computer, and clothes. I bought a bed for $10 at a garage sale, and life was simple and sweet. I liked having little around me, but I missed my stuff. So I flew back to Florida, loaded up a moving truck, and hauled it all to Colorado (as if driving I-70 once already through Kansas wasn’t bad enough).
I was now awash in my own excess – books, clothes, knick-knacks and bric-a-brac. And I thought that’s what I wanted. I had a great chance to simplify – but instead I blew it and dropped a wad of cash driving that rental truck cross country.
So I clung to my junk and even brought my skis (which I used once) to Florida when I moved back in 2004.
And then when my wife and my dad and I went on a trip to Norway in 2009, I experienced the joys of simplicity again. Everything is expensive in Norway, so we were mindful and careful about what we bought at the grocer, and how much we ate. When a quart of milk is $5 and a six-pack of beer is $36, you make different choices.
But those memories faded away as we settled back into our daily routine back in Florida.
And even though my wife was (rightfully) bugging me to simplify, I kept my stuff (and kept buying more stuff).
But as the idea of gaining FI before 65 (way before 65) took hold, I started to look around and realized that my stuff was (is) dragging me down for lots of reasons:
- Stuff begets stuff. When you buy that widget, there is a charger to go with it, and a case, and an extra charger for your car, and then you stuff that box in your closet, so that you get an extra $5 when you sell it 4 years from now…sound familiar?
- But you never sell it after 4 years (because you need a back up, right?) and you upgrade that widget 3 times in those four years. And you now have three backups to the backups (all with new cases, chargers, etc.)
- As we get more stuff, we need more places to keep the stuff we aren’t using right now (wand which we will likely never use again). Which makes it harder to find the stuff we actually need. So we buy more of the stuff we already have, because who wants to go digging for that other stuff, when it is so easy to buy more stuff?
- It’s draining (at least for me) to see so much stuff that I don’t (and likely never will use) around me.
- It’s harder to focussing on doing a handful of things that I really want to do when so many other things at vying for my attention.
So for me, the advantages on the way to FI are:
- I have less, so I buy less
- I appreciate what I do have more, and there is less need to find outside stimulation
- Clearer mind, so I can focus on the few things that matter
So what am I doing to simplify?
Every Monday, I read the newest story of a “Real Life Minimalist” from Miss Minimalist for inspiration. It’s great to read about others who have gone through the same process I am going through (although possibly for different reasons). Miss Minimalist (Francine Jay) has also written a great book called the joy of less – find it at your local library (preferred), or buy it here at Amazon if you really love it and have to have it. There are some great organizational tips here.
But I really like Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. This book finally moved me to start doing something about my excess using her KonMari Method. And I’m not the only one:
David at raptitude.com had everything sorted out in 2011 – but that didn’t last long. He tried the KonMari method and it appears to be a rousing success.
Same thing with FI pioneer JD Roth.
What makes this method different than any other method I have come across is that you have to take all of your items out of their natural habitat (e.g. – clothes out of drawers, books off of shelves, etc.) and ask yourself, one object at a time – does this bring me joy? If it doesn’t, then off it goes. Easier said than done, you say – what about all those gifts and things that you kind of like? Gotta let it go. Thank the object, acknowledge the person (in your thoughts) who gave you the gift – and move on. The KonMari Method suggests a very strict order for getting rid of items, based on Kondo’s experience.
For someone who has been loathe to rid of anything (what if I need that in five years?) – this has been a great way to think about what I own (and what I buy in the future). I had already started purging (80% of my books sold or donated, along with lots of bags of clothes and various bric-a-brac) and already realized that I didn’t really miss (or even remember) what I used to have. So taking the joy approach has been very helpful.
So far I have purged my clothes (another two bags) and am down to what I truly like to wear. My part of the closet is halfway empty now. I started purging papers (out of order, I know) – So far two big boxes worth (did I really need those veterinarian records from 2005?) – with much more to come. I’ve organized my clothes as Kondo suggests, and while putting them away does take a little longer, I am much better organized, and appreciate my clothes more.
Now, here is one thing that helps me get unstuck (because sometimes my brain gets in the way of the feeling joy part). If I find myself getting stuck (when I know deep down that the item doesn’t bring me joy) – I ask myself “would I replace this item if I lost it in a fire/would I be highly upset because this irreplaceable item were lost to fire?” – I’m sure you know what the answer is most of the time.
This will be a time consuming process – this simplifying and minimizing – but I do believe, at least for me, that the path to financial independence and early retirement leads us through minimalism and simplification.
Of course, this also means that I’ll also need to simplify the other aspects of my life, but one step at a time…
I’ll keep you all updated.
Give us your two cents!