I read a great quick-hit blog post today on minimalism. It was written by a financial planner who has been intrigued by the idea of minimalism so of course he examines what is the cost of having stuff. In very simple terms the more stuff you have the more it cost you to keep it. Physically, mentally, emotionally, monetarily, etc. He created an amazingly complex and high-tech graphic on a very advanced form of paper:
Here is what Carl Richards had to say about this:
Carl Richards is a certified financial planner in Park City, Utah, and is the director of investor education at BAM Advisor Services. His book, “The Behavior Gap,” was published this year. His sketches are archived on the Bucks blog.
When a man named Andrew Hyde began an adventure in minimalism, he only owned 15 things. It eventually moved to 39 and now it sits around 60. It all started when he decided to take a trip around the world and sell everything he didn’t need. As Mr. Hyde noted on his blog, it changed his life after a brief period of befuddlement:
I’m so confused by this. When we were growing up, didn’t we all have the goal of a huge house full of things? I found a far more quality life by rejecting things as a gauge of success.
When I came across his original story of only owning 15 items, I was so inspired I immediately went home and found 15 things to give away. Most of these things were clothes that I had long since stopped wearing, but I held on them because . . . well, just because. In fact I have no idea why I still had a tie I hadn’t worn in four years or a shirt that no longer fit.
I still own way more than 39 things, but getting rid of some of them felt amazingly good. In the process, I realized how much holding on to those things was actually costing me. That is the paradox.
When we hold on to stuff we no longer want or use, it does indeed cost us something more, if only in the time spent organizing and contemplating them. I can’t tell you how many times I have thought about getting rid of that tie (for instance), and every time I went to choose a shirt for the day, I would think about the few that no longer fit.
Even though Hyde’s example is an extreme one, I love thinking about extreme examples because they have the power to compel us to act. In this case I found myself thinking:
Why exactly do you own what you own?
What could you get rid of and not miss?
Do I really still need that?
What is it costing me to own that?
Maybe the attachment to stuff comes in part from a notion that we should be prepared for anything. When David Friedlander interviewed Mr. Hyde about his project, he highlighted this issue:
Americans in particular like to be prepared for the worst-case-scenario, having separate cookie cutters for Christmas and Halloween. We seldom consider how negligible the consequences are when we running out of something or are unprepared. Nor do we consider how high the consequences are for being over-prepared…
Think about that for a second: there’s a consequence for being over-prepared. Often that consequence goes beyond the financial cost. It can easily have a physical cost that we didn’t expect, say in the need for more space to put all of our stuff.
If the idea of cutting down on your possessions is equally appealing, but still daunting, start simple:
At the end of every season, go through your clothes. If you didn’t wear it one time, get rid of it.
This process will generate a stack of stuff. For what it’s worth, don’t try to sell it on eBay. It’s another cost (in time). So save yourself a headache, donate it to a charity and take the tax credit.
You don’t need to get down to 39 possessions to feel the impact. Instead, this exercise is about getting clear on why you own what you own and what it might be costing you to own it.
I started my own journey into minimalism a few years back and it has and continues to be very liberating. You can read one of my original blog posts from early 2011 on this HERE.
By the time I was done minimizing everything I owned it fit in a 10×5 storage unit. I actually moved to the Teton Mountains shortly thereafter and only took two duffle bags, a backpack, and my bike. All these months later and I am still paying $75/mo to store all that crap back in Texas. Aside from a few personal/family items the rest of that stuff in storage can burn as far as I’m concerned.
Now I live in a cozy little cabin that is sparsely furnished mostly with built in furniture that was already there. To this day everything I own here fits in my car. I could pack it all and be on the move any where I want in less than an hour. I love how light and free that feels!
Every now and then I have to take another swim through minimalism and make sure I have not let “stuff” creep back into my life. Re-reading my blog from 18 months ago was a great reminder of how far I have come as well as encouraging to me as to how much adventure and greatness in life I have been able to experience since I have lightened my load both literally and figuratively.