4 “First” Steps to Making Life Simpler

As part of my decision to take my career — and life — in an entirely new direction, I also made a commitment to simplifying and decluttering my life, both physically and otherwise. Over the years, I have acquired an unfathomable amount of absolute shit. For example, I have 5 of the same Reebok duffel bag in assorted colors. Why? Because they were on sale. I only use two with any kind of regularity; the rest are still in the packages. This is the kind of thing I’m talking about. To make matters worse, I have been called out as being a hoarder by no fewer than two people who are very close to me. Admittedly, I have some hoarding tendencies, but I also consider myself a minimalist in many ways, so I have a constant struggle going on between these two pervasive traits.

So, as I carry on down this path toward happiness, I have been gradually making efforts to purge my life of inconsequential stuff — and obligations — which only really serve to make my life more complicated. Some of the steps I have taken toward this effort have included:

  • Selling off items with value to others, but no demonstrable utility to me. Among these have been the TV I kept in my bedroom (which I used literally once in the four months prior) and my vintage turntable (I bought a new one last spring, so that left me with two turntables, but no microphone). This put a little extra cash in my pocket, but more importantly it relieved me of the burden of having these useless items in my life. Also, with the TV gone, I had wall space for my sweet, handmade-from-sacavenged-curb-finds skateboard shelf:
  • Trimming and consolidating my bills. In my last job, I had to field calls from my staff, supervisor, and outside agencies 24/7, so I needed a lot of cell phone minutes. With that responsibility gone, and since I hardly ever talk on the phone (I abhor it, in fact), I scaled back my plan. I kept Netflix, but switched to the new streaming only plan, since I have a Roku box but no DVD player. I transferred all my credit card balances — I’ve been paying down  debt which oce topped $12,000 for the last 5 years — to one card that offered me a 0% promo APR, then set up that card to auto pay each of my bills. This way, I make one payment each month and I get to use the accumulated rewards points to further pay down my debt. Make no mistake, debt = clutter.
  • Systematically wearing out and then disposing of my shoes. I used to have a lot of shoes. I’m a closet shoe fanatic, as is my brother. I make it a point to avoid shoe stores altogether. My roommate has physically removed me from the shoe section at department stores in order to save me from myself. I’ve been good about not buying any new pairs lately, but I still had too many cluttering up my room. So, I devised my system whereby I would wear one pair of shoes every day until they wore out, then toss them. This has killed off three pairs of shoes so far, with another one knocking on death’s door. The goal is to get down to the bare footwear essentials, namely my Vans, my Tims, a pair of running shoes, my cleats, and a pair of flip-flops.
  • Cutting down on major purchases. I used to spend money just because I had it, and I used stuff to make me happy. I once bought a new laptop, despite already owning 2 others, just because it was a good deal and it seemed like it would be fun to have. Since then, I’ve implemented a practice of thinking potential purchases through before laying down my hard-earned cash for them. Most of the time, I determine quickly that the item I so lusted after just 10 minutes before was both surplus to requirement and would just clutter up my house. I still make some purchases that aren’t strictly necessary based on the “good deal” justification, but these are generally things that have not only value, but utility and flexibility. For example, I bought heavily discounted gift certificates for eBay and American Apparel, because I knew I could use them eventually on something I needed.

You will notice that these efforts save not only space, but also money. I have grown to realize over the last few months that stuff creates not just physical clutter, but it also comes at a cost that is both financial and psychological. To me, the non-monetary benefits were but a helpful side effect. To others, the savings alone is well worth the effort of uncluttering. For more reading on this and other clutter-related concepts, I recommend checking out blogs like Unclutterer and Zen Habits as a start.

I will also note here that as a general rule, the rules of clutter do not apply to books. I continue to acquire books with impunity, albeit almost always at a discount. For example, of the six books pictured above, 3 I found on the street and took home for free, 1 I bought at a used bookstore, 1 I bought on clearance at a Borders that was closing (this Borders, in fact), and 1 is borrowed. Books are objects that I value too highly to part with or stop acquiring. If I had a life that consisted of five pairs of shoes surrounded by walls of books, I would be off to a good start.

By no means am I done with this effort, however. In the next post I will reveal the one department in which I have accumulated a frightening amount of physical clutter. It is not for the faint of heart. Stay tuned, cats and kittens.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “4 “First” Steps to Making Life Simpler

  1. And the reebok duffels are awesome… Do you have a yellow? Mine is torn.

  2. Throw more stuff away, you are Chuck Full O’ Tins

  3. Pingback: If T-shirts were zombies, our brains would already have been eaten | tiles in a mosaic

  4. Pingback: Dan Atkinson » Blog Archive » 5 Ways a Broken TV is Better Than a Working One

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