All posts tagged get rid of stuff

Is that purchase worth it? Consider the cost per use, a simple strategy to help you decide.

 

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Technology can be a pain in the ass. Smartphones, Game Consoles, DVRs, digital thermostats, talking cars, and home appliances. A lot of this technology is designed to improve our lives, give us more free time, maybe even help us save a little money.  Most of it falls short. In fact, when multiple technologies are combined, they can often have a negative impact on our time and quality of life. Multiply this by a family of four or more, and all this stuff can make you its bitch. Constantly beeping, demanding upgrades, presenting you with unrepairable failures, offering multiple support options, mostly paid ones, none of which actually solve your problem, and all of which require your time.

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Planned obsolescence has become a science, hurling consumers into a constant cycle of upgrades and repairs on items that didn’t even exist 10-15 years ago, taking time and attention away from more important matters. It in an affluent society we often just throw money at the problem, replacing the defective item with the new shiny model, while the old one often ends up in a landfill.

It’s possible to step off this treadmill, embrace simplicity or minimalism. I believe these are viable approaches that can change people’s lives. The problem most people have is that they been on this hedonic treadmill so long they are afraid to step off.  It’s the transition from having your life managed by stuff to a simpler path. That is the challenge for most people. I’ve been working to simplify my life for over three years: writing about it, working on it, giving stuff away, but still have a long way to go. Some progress is forward progress, and that’s what I’m focused on.

Something I found that has worked is evaluating any purchase, item you want to replace, or something you’re having trouble parting with, on a cost per use basis. Here’s how it works. Cost Per Use is the price of something divided by the approximate number of times you use it over the life of that item. So something you use many times per day may be a better investment than something inexpensive you use infrequently. Based on this formula, my iPhone is one of the least expensive things I own, and after I finish with it, I’ll give it to a family member, lowering the cost of use even further. As an added benefit, my iPhone replaced about 20 other items helping me lighten the load getting rid of everything from music CDs to handheld GPS units.

Some other cost per use examples

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It’s best to start with the big stuff, so let’s start with automobiles. If you buy or lease a new SUV every three years you’re absorbing all of the depreciation and increasing your cost per use of that vehicle substantially. That vehicle loses most of its value in the first three years. If you buy a larger vehicle your cost per use is also higher based on gas and operating expenses.  To lower the cost per use, it would make sense to buy your next car like it’s your last. Purchase one high quality, fuel-efficient vehicle and keep it for at least 10 years. You can lower your cost per use even further if you know exactly the vehicle you’re looking for and can purchase a low mileage version just coming off lease, and keep that vehicle. Once those car payments end, you’ll find the maintenance costs required to keep the car in excellent running condition are a lot easier to swallow. I’ve also found that keeping a car in excellent condition, including the occasional carwash or detailing, makes me less apt to even think about replacing it. Read more…

Lessons Learned after 30 days playing The Minimalist Game

By Brad Beckstrom

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My wife Kelly and I just wrapped up our 30th day of the Minimalist Game. The Minimalist game basically requires that you get rid of one thing on the first day of the month. On the second day, two things, three items on the third and so on.  If you have two people playing the game, by the end of it you will of given away 992 things. We called it a 30 day giving challenge as we were trying to focus on giving away items that could be used again like toys, clothing, electronics, kitchen stuff, and dreaded decorations category.

We also thought it would be fun to document the challenge, so I set up a table next to the moving boxes we were filling up and photographed each item before it was either given away, recycled, or trashed. I thought it would be cool to have a record of all the stuff we got rid of. It’s almost like some sort of sociological study of all the junk people keep in drawers. I liked how some of the photos came out, but it got a little trickier as more and more items were given away on day 25, 26, 27 etc.

Photos were also helpful for some of the sentimental items we were both holding onto.  When I was much younger, my grandmother bought me a beautiful toy car in Dublin. I was excited and surprised. When she gave it to me, she said” this is something to remember me by when I’m gone” so I had hung onto it for over 40 years. The problem is when we store stuff away in a box we just forget about it and it’s not doing anyone any good. The trick is separating the memory, which I definitely want to keep, from the physical item, the toy. By photographing it and writing about it, I’ve remembered her. It was time to send this toy on its way so some collector or child can enjoy it.

A few other things we learned:

Read more…

Living Lean, a 30 Day Giving Challenge.

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By Brad Beckstrom

Many of us forget how much stuff we have lying around, countless drawers, boxes and storage bins, full of unused things. Three years ago I declared war on stuff.  I pictured myself and my family living a simpler, leaner lifestyle.  We’ve been at it ever since, filling up a large box of stuff nearly every month, then like clockwork scheduling a pick-up with Purple Heart.  I keep one large box in the basement and another upstairs so there is never an excuse not to give something away.  You might be thinking, a large box every month for three years, he must’ve been some sort of hoarder.  Sadly no, most people who know me would tell you I’m organized. I guess I’d become pretty good at organizing all the stuff that a family of four accumulates living in the same house for 18 years. I was spending time researching, buying, organizing, cleaning, repairing, storing, and disposing of stuff. It was straight up batshit crazy.

Enter The Minimalists

We’ve made progress controlling our spending on stuff, but sometimes I feel like we’re running in place. Stuff in, Stuff out. This spring it’s time to jump start this process. To do this, I went back to the source, the Minimalists. I met Joshua and Ryan 3 years ago in Fargo, ND. They gave an inspired talk about Minimalism that’s now become a movement and a movie coming out this spring. The most popular essay on their blog is the 30 Day Minimalism Game.

Here’s how it works. Read more…

Spring cleaning for the mind.

8 lasting ways to devote attention, time and energy to what’s most important to you.

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By Brad Beckstrom

When most of us think of spring cleaning, we think of cleaning our home, maybe the basement or some closets. The weather is pleasant so we can open up some doors and windows, maybe haul some crap to the curb that’s been accumulating around the house for years.

When we’re done and hang up that broom, we’re beat, but it feels good. We’ve given some stuff away, we’ve lightened the load. When we get rid of stuff and don’t run out to replace it, the stuff no longer requires our attention.  The need to clean it, move it, store it, discard it goes away, freeing up time (and the to-do lists in our head) for more important things.

Mental Clutter

When we think of stuff, most of us think of physical things, but what about mental clutter? The reason Steve Jobs wore the same thing every day wasn’t because he was trying to become a minimalist or a monk, he just wanted a few less decisions to make every day.  He wanted to reduce mental clutter.  

Reducing mental clutter is simply following a daily practice to clear our mind allowing us to focus on what’s truly important.  Our minds are actually trickier than a cluttered basement or apartment because, unlike inanimate objects, your brain constantly responds to outside stimulus like email, notifications on our phone,  “service now” lights in our cars, “upgrade today” alerts for every piece of software on our computers.  Think of it like a warehouse full of smoke detectors whose batteries are going dead randomly one at a time constantly beeping at us requiring us to find and fix the complaining piece of technology.

This gets at the core of simplification. If we can slowly and steadily reduce the number of inanimate objects, devices, media outlets, emails and stuff that will (ever) require our attention we will free up time to focus on our families, our health, our experiences and what’s important to us. When we use our smartphones and tablets it will be on our terms, distraction free.

Here are 8 habits that will have lasting benefits and reduce mental clutter. Read more…

The Freedom of Limited Options

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By Brad Beckstrom

I’ve been busy lately, limiting my options. Nope, not talking about stock options. I’m pursuing a simpler lifestyle built around fewer possessions and more experiences. The idea is simple, stop spending time and money accumulating, storing, and caring for stuff. Get rid of it, starting with the small stuff, knickknacks, unused toys, clothing then moving on to larger items, eventually cars and houses. With each box of things we get rid of, each closet we empty out, there’s a sense of lightness. With each thing we wear out, then don’t replace, there is a feeling of freedom.

The closer you move to this limited lifestyle, the more things improve. If you limit your wardrobe, you’ll spend less time picking out what to wear every day, less time in the store replacing cheap sweaters and shoes. If you limit your diet to exclude crap foods and monster menu items, the payoffs include your finances and your health. Those “vintage” clothes will fit better. Even the best restaurants serve crap food. If they don’t get you with the heavy-handed ingredients, they will get you with the portions. I do miss my weekly visits to the local BBQ joint with 100 different sauces. Now, when I stop in, maybe every few months, it’s more of an event, something I look forward to. My gut has not missed the weekly three meat platter at all.

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Limiting options does not just apply to clothing, diet, or the number of cars you own. It’s something you can apply to any part of your life with benefits. I’m learning to master investing by knowing less about stocks, bonds, and mutual funds and more about simplified micro fee index investing. Read more…