All posts tagged less equals more

Living like a Lightweight.

By Brad Beckstrom

You still hear it occasionally. “That guy’s a lightweight.” When I was a kid, it may have meant you couldn’t hold your own on the playground. In college, this term was often used to describe someone who was a sloppy drunk or couldn’t hold their liquor. In business or politics, lightweight may be used to describe someone who can’t take a little heat, or bails out when the going gets tough. Today the word lightweight implies something very different. If you’re a lightweight who can compete or dominate above your weight class, then you have something. If you’re talking about a boxer like Roberto Duran, a legend like Bruce Lee, or the UFC fighter Conor McGregor then lightweight can take on a whole new meeting.

Look at any sport in the racing world, “lightweight” is the hottest thing going. Carbon fiber tubing is used to make incredibly fast racing boats to compete in the America’s Cup, and superlight racing bikes that weigh as little as 13 pounds. In a competitive world, lightweight can have great advantages.

If you’re not a professional athlete, or in the market for a $9,000 bicycle, you can still live like a lightweight. Let’s apply this term in three areas: Health, Life, and Work.

Health, Physical and Mental.

There’s a memorable scene from the documentary Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. The movie is about Joe Cross who lost 100 pounds juicing. You hear stories all the time about people losing tremendous amounts of weight. What Joe did differently is he that he visually demonstrated how much weight he’d lost by carrying around six professional bowling balls to represent the weight. This really clicked with people and helped him kick start the green juice trend. Most of us could not imagine carrying around even one or two bowling balls all the time.

The bowling balls Joe carried around are a great metaphor. Think of all the excess stuff we carry around, garages and closets full of stuff we don’t use, those extra pounds, guilt and regret about things that happened in the past, huge SUVs to haul all this around, while sitting in traffic. It’s time to start looking at the benefits of becoming a lightweight. Read more…

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…

Living behind the cutting-edge.

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By Brad Beckstrom

There were 38 different types of cables and chargers in the box. Some of them were probably over 20 years old. Things like monster cables for stereo equipment, firewires from old hard drives, various USB cables and splitters, ethernet cables and about 10 different AC adapters from games, various peripherals, and crap from former cable providers. For the last several years, I’ve been at war with stuff, investing some time to simplify my life. I’ve recently kicked this into high gear. Kelly and I are playing the minimalist game. We will be giving away nearly 1000 things this month alone. I’m constantly amazed at how much crap a family of four can accumulate over the years. Sadly, some of that stuff ends up in a landfill, benefiting no one.

I’ll avoid these mistakes again. The best way to do this is by not replacing the things that we get rid of. I’ll take a hard look cheap products that are built to be discounted then discarded. I’ll skip the next upgrade cycle on my mobile phone and my computer.

Why can’t more things work like our blender or the microwave? We’ve had both since 1996. Over the years we’ve been tempted to replace them with newer versions but we stuck with them, even repairing the blender once. It’s funny, we probably use these two appliances more than any of the things that have become obsolete. So, my theory now is, if it’s not being used regularly we can probably get rid of it and not replace it.

First world problems 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…