By Brad Beckstrom
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:
Jumbo Dog and Refillable 20oz Pepsi. $1.50
My wife Kelly and I have started a new tradition. The Costco Date. Kelly actually coined the term and I jumped on it. I was recently complaining about our grocery bill that two growing teenage boys have something to do with. We had bailed on Costco a few years back primarily because the times we usually went, weekends, it was usually a zoo. I have better things to do with my time than visit a big-box store on a weekend. We also started ending up with oversize stuff we didn’t need like giant jars of olives and other questionable clothing and gadget purchases.
We’d started using Amazon Prime for paper products, pet food, and lots of other items so we decided not to renew our Costco membership. That was before I decided to declare war on our grocery bill. Read more…
Stop budgeting and start using a hit list.
I hate budgets.They are a pain in the ass to put together and, once you do, they just sort of sit there. They’re like a line in the dirt you just can’t cross, but often do. It feels like you’re trapped between the lines. It may remind you of work since it involves spreadsheets! That’s probably the reason most people don’t put together a personal budget and hold themselves to it.
I’ve experimented with different budgeting tools like Quicken, Mint, and various sad spreadsheets, created with good intentions and never updated or opened again. I tend to do much better with actuals. As in, what did I actually spend and what can I do about it. I’m calling this “action-based budgeting.”
I want it to be simple, something that can be done in an hour on a piece of paper and pay benefits all year. Less = More.
What is a hit list?
Your guide to skipping the insanity this year.
I was driving the other day and I saw a pumpkin patch sign up. It’s freaking Labor Day weekend! I know what that means. Halloween will quickly turn into Thanksgiving and the insanity of the spendy holiday season will begin instantly.
Have you ever thought about escaping the holidays? No last-minute trips to malls, hiding gifts in the trunk, wrapping oversized packages. Completely ignoring the news stories about people getting trampled on Black Friday. There’s really a reason it’s called Black Friday.
Choose Adventure over Stuff
What would happen if you could get the whole family to buy in on your secret holiday escape plan? Choosing adventure over stuff this holiday season. I know this is next to impossible if you have kids under 12 years old, but it’s never too early to start planting the seed. Our kids got a taste of it last year. We had a get together with family and friends in Mexico. We saw whales, visited small villages, took boat rides, sat on the beach.
The holiday escape plan is pretty simple. Instead of the traditional gift giving bonanza of material goods that are soon forgotten, we will put all of that money towards a family adventure. Last year we did a little of both which, looking back on it, is cheating. We also spent a bit too much once we got to Mexico.
I needed complete buy in on the plan this year. Our gifts to each other would be adventure and time with family and friends. To my surprise, I got very little pushback. Our youngest commented “Why wouldn’t we choose that?” Another comment was “I always have a hard time coming up with stuff to ask for anyway.” I’ll let you know how all this turns out after Christmas morning, at least they’ll be waking up at the beach.
Paying for your adventure
Now the hard part starts, but just think how much time you’re saving by skipping all those trips to the store and wrapping presents. The first thing I did was look back over the last couple years at what we spent on Christmas gifts, local travel, and all the other holiday related “stuff”. Read more…
The average U.S. household has 300,000 things.
Let that sink in for a second. Okay, how about this one: Children in the United States make up only 3.7% of children on the planet but have 47% of all the world’s toys and children’s books.
Who comes up with these stats? As it turns out, quite a few people. Anthropologists and archaeologists, sociologists and economists are all studying our addiction to stuff. When you think about it, it’s fascinating. Writers and academics want to document this phenomenon so that thousands of years from now when an archaeologist comes across 750 plastic toys at a single family dwelling dig site she will be able to explain why.
Life at Home in the 21st Century
The UCLA Institute of Archaeology Press recently published a book called “Life at Home in the 21st Century.” The book is filled with U.S. stuff statistics, but what I found more interesting was the thousands of photographs from families who bravely opened their doors to researchers. Read more…