Any half-awake materialist well knows – that which you hold holds you. (Tom Robbins)
We have all seen those people on tv. You know, the ones who sell off everything they own just to go on that trip of a lifetime. And sure, it sounds easy enough. NOT. I mean, throw away the life and stuff you have worked hard to obtain? Sell the house that is your biggest security in life? Quit that one means of paying for that house (your job), and then just run away into the sunset like life was some romantic movie?
Pfft. Honestly who can really afford to do that?
Well, how about this. Can you really afford to not live your dreams?
At some point in your future do you want wake up one day with regrets about the things you didn’t do, or even try to do? I know I sure as hell don’t!
We had the house, the cars, the motorcycles, the toys and the social life that comes with it all. But there was always something missing. So we bought a bigger house, more security for when we eventually did that big trip right? We bought a bigger television, traded in our perfectly good cars and bought bigger, better, newer ones. All this to chase the so called “dream”.
Only it wasn’t our dream. It was the “dream” of society. The one where you meet a girl or guy, get a job, buy a house, have three children and then slave away for the next 30 years to pay the bank back all the money you borrowed. Was this really what we wanted?
We decided to say, nay YELL, “Get stuffed! No thanks!”
And we haven’t looked back.
I’ll be honest with you. It took some guts to make the choices we made. But it was worth it to achieve a life of total freedom.
The biggest thing that we all do these days is accumulate stuff. Have a look around you. How much stuff do you have that is purely for decoration or display. Knick knacks on the shelf. Wall hangings and rugs. Cushions on the bed and the lounge. How many DVDs do you have under your massive television? And just how many of those DVD’s do you even watch anymore?
If those knick knacks disappeared one night how would you feel when you woke up and discovered they were no longer there? Would you even notice?
The silly thing is we form an attachment to these objects. We manage to justify hanging onto them. “Maybe I might want to watch that DVD one day”, or “But I bought that elephant figurine on a holiday in Thailand and it reminds me of that.”
The hardest thing to convince ourselves of is that these things are just that. Things. I’ll bet you survived just fine before you had them. In fact your life possibly didn’t change in the slightest for having bought them. And if you chose to, you would survive just fine having got rid of these things.
It’s these things that end up tying us down. To set yourself up for a life of freedom, financial or otherwise, you must decide which things you will allow to tie you down and which things you can leave behind.
Interested in giving it a go yourself?
Try the following and just see how it makes you feel.
Determine your goal. What do you want to achieve? In a perfect world, what your life look like? Are you looking to get rid of absolutely everything? Or would you like to lose some clutter and maybe just downsize a little bit? How long do you want to take to get to this goal? Be realistic and work with what is comfortable for you. Sure you could tear off the bandaid and get rid of it all in one weekend and if that’s right for you then go for it! But that certainly won’t be the way for everyone. Once you have an idea of where you want to be in terms of de-cluttering your life, then you can gain some focus.
An easy way to start is by categorising your belongings into ‘must keep, should keep, nice to keep, no need to keep’. We use the mantra “If you have not used it or worn in 12 months, it is definitely a no need to keep”. Once you have your piles of ‘should keep’ and ‘nice to keep’ then revisit this. What of those things are absolute must keeps? Ask yourself why you want to keep the items in the ‘nice to keep’ pile’?
Now start by getting rid of the ‘no need to keep’. As you move along, it will become easier. Start small and easy and go through your wardrobe and drawers and weed out those things that you no longer wear but you are keeping “Just in case”. Try donating them to your local second hand store for a bit of that feel good experience. This is an easy step. I mean, they are just clothes after all right? Go through your DVDs and sell the ones you don’t want. Or store them in a box and keep slowly adding to it over a few weeks. Once you have a full box, or three, full of ‘no need to keep’ then have a huge yard sale and make some cash back! More money for that big dream trip or a slice of financial freedom pie you want!
Refine and review your goals against the items listed under ‘nice to keep’, then do the same for your stash of ‘should keep’ items. How does it look? Are you still on track? Have you whittled down your ‘nice to keep’ pile to the things you truly can’t be without? Remember, even if you have just taken some small steps you are still on your way to minimising your clutter and maximising your lifestyle.
Ok, so now we have dealt with the small easy things, but what do you do with those items that have no use.
What about the items with sentimental value such as photos?
We struggled with this one. But we came up with a compromise. Anything we had that was on a secure digital storage device we knew we could ditch physical prints of. Our older photos from the weird, yet wonderful, days of film we decided to keep the physical copies. But we ditched the photo albums and instead placed the pictures into cardboard storage boxes. We all have some great moments of family, friends, loved ones and treasured moments captured on film and I know I couldn’t bear to just ditch them all.
So what about the big ticket items?
Especially the biggie. The house. We sold our house. But we only did so because it made us deeply, deeply unhappy. But you don’t necessarily need to do the same. Rent it out and let it pay itself off while you travel. Or maybe you are at that stage where you just want to downsize. Selling it and buy a smaller, cheaper place may be an option that works for you and fits your goal. Maybe you want a nomadic life. Look at mobile home options such as a converted bus. With less stuff you will have less financial obligations and that frees up your options as to how and where you want to live and work.
The whole point of minimisation is to reduce your financial burden and your environmental impact. As you minimise your life, you will minimize your expenses. Your bank account will grow and that trip or lifestyle will suddenly become a reality. You may even find that you no longer need to work as hard as you have done and get to spend more quality time with your loved ones.
However, don’t feel you have to ditch absolutely everything. We all still need our little luxuries. Downsizing your life need not be a huge, drastic, stressful overnight change. Start small and build up.
And I promise you that once you get started you won’t miss any of those “things” that clutter your life. Because the freedom you will find will be worth way more! In fact you may have just started something you can’t stop!
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We discuss more on this over at Money! Switch up your thinking and finance your adventure
Would you like to connect with Todd about this article? Email him at email@example.com