Success Through Simplification

July 30, 2008 at 7:37 am Leave a comment

Over the past few days I have been thinking about a recent conversation with a close friend. My friend and I share a common thread. We are both married, have children very close to the same age, and are both in the Information Technology (IT) industry. The only real difference is that my (primary) job is in government contracting and he works in the financial industry.

My friend has become somewhat concerned as of late due to the recent events in the savings and loan institution. The events will ultimately impact his organization and he has a fear that a lay off is looming just over the horizon. In reaction to his fears, he has started to consider selling everything he owns, purchasing a boat large enough for he and his family, turning the remaining cash into precious metals, and sailing off into the sunset.

While I would normally consider him to be the more level-headed, I think his reaction is a bit extreme. I too am concerned for my family’s financial future, but I’m not yet ready to sell the farm. However, his talk of eliminating his material goods to ensure his family’s future gave me some food for thought. It got me thinking about what it would take to lessen my own family’s hold on worldly goods. I soon came to the realization that, simply put, we own a lot of useless crap.

We all start out life with nothing but our birthday suits and a twinkle in our eyes. Next thing you know you’ve got a garage so full of stuff you can’t park a bicycle in it, a rented storage building to hold the miscellaneous items you can’t fit in the basement, and you constantly stub your toes on things when you make the nightly trip to the bathroom. One unplanned trip down the stairs is all it takes to realize it’s time to simplify.

So, how did we ever get like this? I can only speak from my own experience, but it seems that most of what I consider to be junk fits into one of the following categories:

  • Bought for one time use
  • Acquired for use sometime in the distant future
  • May have significant value one day
  • Has sentimental value
  • Purchased because it was cheap or on sale

Reducing your hold on your possessions won’t be an easy task, especially for items that fall into the last category. We’re all creatures of habit and simply can’t imagine how we’ll ever get by without some gizmo or

I have several tools that I purchased for a specific task, used once, and relegated them to the depths of my tool box. To prevent me from doing this in the future, there are now a number of FLAPS (Friendly Local Auto Parts Store) that offer free tool rental. Also, there is an emerging trend known as ‘rentalism‘ where you can rent a specialty tool from a private individual through a free online service. Likewise, you can offer your specialty tools for rent as well and let those tools do some work for you for a change.

I am also guilty of purchasing items that I do not plan to use immediately. My wife is worse than I am, especially when it comes to children’s clothes. Clothes found on sale are often purchased well in advance of their anticipated need. It is a good tactic for saving money, but limits need to be set as to how far in advance the clothes need to be purchased. Purchasing kids (and even adult) clothes six to nine months in advance is plenty. This allows you to take advantage of seasonal sales (e.g., winter coats in the spring and shorts in the fall) while still staying ahead of the growth curve.

The next two categories go somewhat hand-in-hand: potentially valuable and sentimental items. This is one that you really need to figure out for yourself. If you are into collectibles, hopefully you have chosen something that takes up as little space as possible, like perhaps stamps or bottle caps. If you have a large number of photographs, take them out of the shoebox under the bed and scan them into your computer. Rather than letting them sit collecting dust you can turn them into your screensaver or use them in greeting cards.

The last category is both the easiest to deal with, but the hardest to control. It generally stems from impulse buying and there is no magic bullet to it. The “Get Rich Slowly” blog site has some excellent tips for fighting the urge to spend needlessly. The short and sweet of it is this: don’t buy it unless you need it and if it doesn’t have a specific purpose for being in your personal inventory, get rid of it.

So, how to decide what should go and what should stick around? One technique that works is to box up everything you own, just as if you were moving, then only un-box things as you need them. Any items that remain in the boxes after six months are sold or donated to charity. Another is to create a scale from one to five, one being most important and five being least. Then begin to assign each of your posessions a number on that scale. Once complete, start by eliminating all the items with a five, then four, and so on until you reach the desired amount of worldly possessions.

Of course, you can devise your own method – all it takes is a little creativity. Deciding what should be saved and what can be chucked is a hard task. The more difficult issue to overcome is preventing yourself from refilling all the space you just made.

By briansrapier

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Entry filed under: Informational, Lifestyle, Tips. Tags: , .

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