“Big house, long hallways, got ten bathrooms, I can shit all day” ~ Lil Wayne
I don’t listen to much hip-hop music. But my roommate in college loved it. Lil Wayne, Rick Ross, and Young Jeezy were just a few artists being played on the regular in our apartment. And for some reason I still remember the above quote from Lil Wayne. Why? Probably because it is outrageous. First off, Lil Wayne could do the deed as many times as he wanted too each day (going ten times just seems unhealthy) with only one bathroom. And second, having ten bathrooms is just excessive! So why does Lil Wayne want a big house, with long hallways and ten bathrooms?
Because more is better. At least that society tells us. Expensive vacations, upscale restaurants, weddings, country club memberships, expensive homes (with ten bathrooms), home renovations, second homes, motorcycles, watches, boats, luxury cars, second cars, designer clothes, the new iPhone, the new Macbook, the new Apple TV… The list could go on and on with endless wants.
Challenging conventional thinking
I recently read a book called “Vegabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel” by Rolf Potts. Despite being labelled a travel book, I saw it as a book about challenging conventional wisdom. There was one chapter in particular on simplifying life that inspired me to read more on minimalism and also to write this post. I like the way Potts lays out his thinking of simplicity in the book. He provides a three step process to simplify your life…
- Stopping expansion
Stop buying things you don’t want to impress other people you don’t like. The book “Your Money or Your Life” by Robin and Dominguez is a great resource for stopping expansion. It really did change my mindset on buying things. We buy when we want to celebrate. We buy when we are bored. We buy when we think there must be more to life. We are always buying!
But how much joy do we really get out of these things? Sure that new iPhone 6s might bring you joy when you make the purchase. But it feels ancient when the new iPhone comes out a year later. Is the new phone really that much better than the previous model? No. But Apple does a damn good job at convincing us it is. We are always excited to see (and buy) the next big thing.
A big takeaway from “Your Money or Your Life” was looking at purchases in terms of hours of life energy, not as a dollar value. Don’t look at buying a $50 t-shirt as costing $50. Think about it as costing you a certain number of working hours. For example, a $50 t-shirt would cost you over 3 hours of work if you make $15 per hour.
My new outlook on buying possessions has changed my life. My focus is on happiness. And I realized that I don’t need that much to be happy. Another new pair of shoes, or a new sweater or a new gadget really are not fulfilling a few days after the purchase. But sharing experiences with the people I love creates memories that will last a lifetime.
I’m not saying stop buying things. But you want to be spending money on things that truly give you joy in life. You might get joy out of going to fancy restaurants. You might love buying shoes. Others might get joy out of travel. But trade-offs need to be made. You can’t have it all.
- Reining in your daily routine
Potts talks about limiting little habits and purchases from your daily routine. This is the Latte Factor – little expenses, like a morning latte at Starbucks or going out to lunch everyday at work, can add up to large amounts over time For example, $5 per day is almost $1825 per year. This idea has been covered extensively online, so I won’t go into too much detail here. Again, if that morning coffee truly brings joy to your life, don’t stop buying it. But just be aware that these little things add up to substantial amounts over time.
- Reducing clutter
I am guilty of owning too many things. My bedroom is filled with useless stuff. Each year my pile of stuff increases as I continued to buy and rarely sell. I’d like to think that at some point these things brought me happiness. Now I find having an abundance of things stressful. When my life is filled with clutter, it seems like my mind is cluttered as well. So I have started to downsize. I would by no means consider myself a minimalist at this point. But I am intrigued by the idea.
It feels liberating to get rid of existing possessions. Here is what I did / am doing:
- I sold a couple old phones and sporting goods on eBay and Kijiji. It’s amazing how much people will pay for some of these things.
- I plan on clearing out a lot of my old clothes.
- I plan on having a garage sale next spring (when the weather warms up in Canada).
One thing that I struggled with when selling is remembering that the first priority is to get rid of my stuff, and earn a bit of money second. It is hard to accept getting pennies on the dollar or nothing at all for things that I once paid a lot of money for. But if I keep all of my things that I want to get rid of because someone is offering $5, and I refuse to sell for less than $10, it defeats the purpose.
Pott’s stated that “over time, as you reap the sublime rewards of simplicity, you’ll begin to wonder how you put up with such a cluttered lifestyle in the first place.” It’s true. Just think about the stress you would encounter on a daily basis trying to decide which bathroom to use if you had ten.