There are some websites that I frequent where I can just get lost in their awesome content. One of these websites is Get Rich Slowly which (surprise, surprise) focuses on how everyday people can accumulate wealth through a variety of slow, logical, reasoned processes. GRS is written in a blog format and the authors add new content that directly relates to how readers can make changes in their everyday life to really begin reducing their debt and expenses while finding real world solutions to increasing wealth.
While I managed to get my financial situation under control without the help of GRS, I do like heading over there every once in a while to see what the authors are posting about. Most of the time I find a string of entries that date back a few years as they chronicle how the authors attacked a particular situation and how/if they managed to win the battle. The other day I went over to their site and the first entry on the page had to do with “stuff.” You know what stuff is – it’s all of your crap. The stuff laying around your house, the stuff sitting in storage, the clothes in your closet that you never wear, the DVDs near your entertainment center that you’ve never watched, the books that you purchased and never opened…
You get the point.
I read through the author’s chain of entries on how he and his wife were trying to eliminate their useless stuff and increase their feeling of liberation in the process. I found this entry to be most interesting, because I could relate to portions of it such as:
When I go on vacation, I tend to overpack. I usually take a big suitcase crammed with extra clothing, electronic gadgets, and, most of all, books. I take lots of books. This time, despite being gone for three weeks, I limited myself to a single carry-on sized suitcase and one daypack. This seemed like a triumph, but after just a few days, I wished I had packed even less. Did I really need half a dozen personal finance books? Did I really need my laptop computer? Did I really need two sweaters? Though I didn’t take much, it still felt like too much Stuff.
More importantly, I discovered that I could live without. I lived without my books, without my comics, without my CD collection. I lived without my fancy digital SLR camera, or my Nintendo Wii, or my DVDs. This Stuff never entered my mind. I didn’t miss any of it. If I could live without these things for nearly a month — and feel liberated doing so — what might it be like to give up some of this Stuff permanently?
Have you ever done that? Have you ever packed so much stuff for a vacation or business trip that you have to pay the extra fees because your bag is too heavy? I do it on a regular basis and it’s not cheap. I have a business trip coming up one weekend in April and I’m going to attempt to get everything I need in a carry-on bag. The total trip will last only about 36 hours and of those 36 hours I’ll spend about 8 of them sleeping, 6 of them flying, 4 of them waiting in airports, and the rest of the time in meetings or in social situations with some of my colleagues. Why the heck do I need to pack a full bag of stuff for that type of whirlwind, quickie trip? Further, why should I have to pay the extra fee to Continental to bring luggage on the flight, period?!
I can relate to what the author writes in his entry quoted above. I’ve left my home for extended periods of time and specifically opted not to bring my laptop with me because I didn’t want the burden. And you know what? I felt that same feeling of liberation and it’s a great feeling. To a growing degree, I think that the folks in my generation are tethered to their gadgets, laptops, and internet connections. Lord knows that I need to be “hooked in” for my job and small business as well as my teaching gigs. In the grand scheme of things, that’s not fun.
To get back to the point, though, what this accumulation of “stuff” really boils down to is clutter. I began, slowly, de-cluttering my life a few years ago. I’m not sure if it has been raging success yet because my efforts to de-clutter really amount to not buying more stuff (which is actually a great strategy). Sure, I’ve donated some clothing and books to charities over the last few years, but I have so much more stuff that I should be getting rid of instead of sitting on. A few years ago I traded in about 50 of my DVDs because I never watched them – that was a good start. Over the last year I’ve been selling some textbooks on eBay that I will never use again; I’ve also been donating some of my older, insignificant books to a charity in Seattle. Those have both been double whammies on the positive chart because I’m bringing in new dollars with the eBay sales while getting a tax break with the donated books. Not bad.
Yet, I still have a closet full of clothes in which I only wear maybe 25% – 35% of the items that are actually in there. Granted, I bought a lot of these clothing items when I was 80 and 90 pounds lighter than I am now (when they actually fit), but that was a few years ago and now I’m stuck with a closet packed with clothing that I don’t wear because it doesn’t fit.
What’s a guy to do?
Well, I think that it might be time to start de-cluttering my stuff again. I have a bunch of clothing stuck under my bed in plastic totes. I might go through and donate some of those clothing items and replace them with some of the stuff in my closet that I don’t wear/can’t fit into any more. Hey, it’s a good way to get started de-cluttering again and I do believe that spring cleaning is right around the corner, right? 😉