4. Thank Your Items for Their Service (Then Give Them Away)
Marie Kondo, the author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, offers this strange but effective tactic: Say goodbye and thank you to items that you need to let go of. Sometimes sentimentality is the root of a lot of clutter, so think utility first and ditch the guilt. Thank your old coat for keeping you warm, your kids’ stuffed animals they no longer play with for bringing them joy, and your collection of duplicate computer cables for connecting your stuff once upon a time. Then you can move on. It might also help to think “this isn’t my stuff” when you’re decluttering.
So here are the rules I’m going to try to follow:
One browser tab open. I want to focus on reading one thing, responding to one email at a time, doing one task in my browser at a time. I realize that I might have to open multiple tabs to work on something, and that’s fine, but if I have tabs open that don’t have anything to do with my current task, I’ll bookmark them for later, add to Instapaper, or add the task to my to-do list.
Know what I’m focusing on. When I open a tab, I have to consciously pause and think about what I’m trying to accomplish. That might be looking up some info, or writing something, or answering an email … whatever it is, I have to try to pause and make sure I’m being conscious about it.
We know what it is. It’s the stuff that constantly gets in our way because it is not where it belongs. It’s that disorderly mess of items that end up complicating even the simplest tasks. Papers, clothes, shoes, books, backpacks, dishes, gadgets, toys, bicycles, magazines, laundry, jackets, tools…you get the idea. It’s anything and everything that’s in the way because it has not been put away properly.
While we may excuse our clutter as a lack of storage or being too busy, its threat to our life’s priorities is greater than most of us realize. We try to dismiss it as no big deal – a mere inconvenience – when, in fact, it is robbing us of the valuable time and energy we should be leveraging toward more productive purposes.
Since deciding to own less, I’ve experienced countless benefits: more time, more money, more freedom, more energy, less stress, and less distraction.
Owning less provides me the opportunity to pursue my greatest passions. It’s great. And I’ll never go back to my previous lifestyle.
But along the way, I discovered something even better than owning less: Wanting less.
6. Use meaningful measurements of success. Resist the urge to let society define success by achievements, awards, monetary value, or public recognition. Consider attributes like courage, effort, honesty, patience, determination, risk-taking, and compassion when evaluating yourself or your loved ones. Make a point to acknowledge your beginning point and frequently celebrate your progress.
Let’s go analog for a moment: grab a pen and a piece of paper, and then write down a handful of meaningful things you’ve been intending to do. Label this list “Someday”:
Declutter your home?
Read a classic novel?
Take a road trip?
Get into shape?
Join a yoga class?
Learn how to meditate?
Start a new business?
Play an instrument?
Contribute to your community?
Fall in love?
So far, her experience contradicts studies that have recently claimed that “long commutes are killing you.” And financially, she benefits from living on a train: The flat-rate ticket costs her about $380, whereas she had to pay about $450 for her previous apartment. However, living cheaper is not the only goal she has in mind.
“I want to inspire people to question their habits and the things they consider to be normal,” Müller told The Post. “There are always more opportunities than one thinks there are. The next adventure is waiting just around the corner — provided that you want to find it.”
It would be wise for us to stop always asking how to acquire more and instead, start asking what to do with the influence we already have.
The interactions we have in this world offer both a great and challenging opportunity. They can be positive or negative. They can add value to the lives of others or they can take value away. Our opportunity for influence can become an important agent for change or it can further cement the status quo. It can make our world a better place to be or a crummier place to endure. There are no neutral contributors in this world.
We buy a new shirt or dress… and immediately begin looking for new shoes to match.
We bring home a new couch… and suddenly the end tables in our living room appear old and shabby, in need of replacement.
We purchase a new car… and soon begin spending money on car washes, more expensive gasoline, or a parking pass.
We move into a new home… and use the occasion to replace our existing bedroom set with a new one.
In each circumstance, the reality is that we already owned enough shoes and our end tables and bedroom furniture worked just fine before. But because something new had been introduced into our lives, we were immediately drawn into a process of spiraling consumption.
Our culture espouses continual consumption as the answer to all ills. But in reality, it only serves to chain us to the consumer carousel of endless buying. Conversely, if we allow ourselves to step outside of this buying-focused mindset, we can start to address the actual stuff of life. How are we fulfilled? Where are we happiest? When are we appeased?
For Mr. FW and me, achieving financial independence is about achieving the life we were meant to live, not the life we have to live. Through frugality, we all have the option to pursue a passion outside the norm and chart a non-traditional path that brings us internal satisfaction. When we remove ourselves from the “shoulds” of consumer culture, we open our minds to the possibilities of what we want to do with our lives, not what we want to buy.