Spring Cleaning

Spring is nearly here and with it comes a renewed sense of energy and possibilities. If you’re like me your garage could use some spring cleaning and once it warms up a bit more I plan to be out there digging into things to shed my life of items we no longer need or use. Now that I write this it would appear that I’ve happened upon the meaning of the word “shed” when it comes to getting rid of things as in getting things out of sight and mind is shedding them which merely puts them aside, outside in the shed.

Okay, that may be a stretch but it’s not far off so let’s run with it. If you have items in your possession that you no longer need and/or you’ve simply grown tired of seeing them every day then you might be inclined to move them out of sight. Doing so in the short term is easy enough and perhaps a good move but follow through is important. Sure, re-acquiring something can be more time and cost intensive than just hanging on but taking the time to evaluate an item right here and right now can save you time and might even make you some money as you go. The trick is having a plan and an approach. Here’s what works for me.

As you examine an item you just need to ask yourself a series of questions in a particular order to arrive at a plan. In reality it’s a decision tree which can actually be fun to follow.

Question #1 → Do I use it?

You may note the questions is “use” not “need”. Need can be clouded by emotion and to bolster that emotion it’s human nature to justify that you need it (nor really, it’s want) which means that you’ll lose and the thing will stay. Don’t be your own worst enemy here, just evaluate the use it or not question at face value.

If the answer is yes then easy enough, set it aside, decide how you’re going to store it, care for it and protect it then move on.

If it’s “no” then you need to step to the next question which is how to get rid of it. Getting rid of something can be as easy as tossing it a trash can but if the item at hand is useful – just not to you – then you should do the earth a favor by not filling up a landfill and yourself a favor by gaining from it’s exodus. The good part is you can gain without actually making cash in the process but more on that in a bit.

It really comes down to three choices:

  1. Throw it away
  2. Give it away
  3. Sell it

Tossing it
Throwing it out is the easy path but can be hard on both you and the planet. If you’re at all attached to the items and the once upon a time usefulness they had in your life then tossing it carelessly into the trash can well up emotions that trick you into wanting to keep it. In order to avoid that pitfall only toss something if it’s A) broken beyond reasonable repair or B) it’s not anything that anyone would be interested in taking off of your hands, free or not. If it passes those two tests then by all means get rid of it but in responsible manner. If it’s recyclable in any way then please do so.

Giving it away
Giving it away can help someone else and dependent upon the item and it’s value will make both you and the recipient feel good about the transaction. In short, it’s a win-win situation. Since “Free” is a popular price point there are many ways to rid yourself of one or more items.

  • Craigslist (People will even come take it from you saving you time to deliver)
  • Non-profit groups (Goodwill, Churches, volunteer fire companies, etc.)
  • Friends, extended family and neighbors

Selling it
If you’d rather sell it to get you closer to a full buffer or further on the path to paying off debt that’s okay too. It’s just a bit more work than giving it away, but not much. Here are a few ideas and I’m sure you can think of others:

  • Craigslist
  • eBay
  • Classified ads
  • Lawn sale
  • Flea market

The best part about selling items that you acquired long ago is that it’s all free money in a way. Sure, you spent actual hard earned cash on it long ago and now that you get to transform these items back into cash. All without any upfront cost so to speak making it seem like you’ve located an all night ATM that never runs out of bills or drains your account.

To summarize:
Use it? Yes → Store it
Use it? No → Toss it? Give it? Sell it?
Toss it? → Do it right then before you set it down, forget or give it time to grow on you.
Give it? → Who? Start through a mental list then set it in a designated area awaiting it’s trip out the door.
Sell it? → Where? Choose the path then take steps to get it listed or lined up for sale including proper storage until it actually leaves.

At the end of the day after the item has left you’ll find yourself with more freedom, more room, a sense of having done the right thing as well as perhaps a little more cash. All in all a good days work. ツ

If I had a nickle…

We own an Xbox 360 but since the boys moved out a few years ago it fell into disuse (as I’m not a gamer) and sat gathering dust still hooked to the TV. The controllers however made their way to a plastic tote and ultimately to the garage some time ago in an effort to just get them out of the living room I suppose. Yesterday Amelia (our 13yo daughter) had Fable pop into her head for one reason or another – perhaps devouring Harry Potter night and day helped? – and wanted to play it. Easy enough task but we didn’t know where the controllers were. Well, not exactly. We knew they were out in the garage but that’s where the trail went cold. Combine that with the chokehold winter has had on us it was very cold Saturday and I didn’t have a whole lot of interest in going out there to hunt for them. I was able to avoid it then but when the mercury finally inched up above 20 degrees midday today we headed out.

It’s worth mentioning that I’m okay with the cold. I’ve been colder longer and can stand it enough to look around in the closed in garage but when you take the gloves off the fingers tend to numb up quickly so… But I digress.

As it turned out the hunt was a relatively short one and only required us moving a few boxes about until we found what we were looking for. What I couldn’t help but notice though as I peered into a few boxes of stuff was the sheer number of things that we own. This isn’t to say that we’re buried amidst thousands of things but then again it likely surpasses that number were I to count it all up. The downside of which isn’t so much that each and every item cost us money at one time but more that it’s costing us still today.

Sure, we could have kept the Xbox controllers tucked away in the house but even if this journey didn’t involve them the fact of the matter remains that with each item that comes into our lives we sign up for a life long chore of time spent with or for the items. Like children dropped off at our doorstep in the dark of the night these things need our care. First we spend the time researching the item to see if it’s worthy of our love, then hunting the best deal, then the trip to get it, etc. All in all it’s a long list when you think about it.

  1. Research – to know it’s exactly what we want and need (careful, the word “need” can cost you).
  2. More research – to find the best deal.
  3. Checking the budget to make sure you have the money before you spend it.
  4. Taking the drive to get the item – or pulling the trigger online instead.
  5. Unboxing the new thing and discarding the box or container it arrived in.
  6. Finding a place for it on your home.
  7. Getting rid of the original thing should this amount a a replacement.
  8. Caring for it once it’s in place – this lasts for as long as you own it.
  9. Insuring it – if it’s of high value.
  10. Protecting it from theft.

I concede that 9 and 10 could be lumped into number 8 (caring for it) but you get the picture. Multiply it by the thousands of items you own and before you know it they’re robbing you of your most precious commodity and that is time. Today as I peered in some boxes and moved a few about looking for the controller it was like reading court documents sentencing me to prison time, and I was not only the prisoner but the judge and warden as well.

Unfortunately, to free myself from this sentence I need to take action which while it is more time the payoff is huge which is more freedom! I’ve already adopted the lifestyle choice of less stuff when it comes to new purchases, I just need to eliminate more of the existing inventory to get to where I want to be which is a minimalist lifestyle. The full phrase that I used as the subject line in this article reads “If I had a nickel for every time that happened, I would be rich” but in my case I’d apply it to things. If I had a nickle… Perhaps I will as eBay beckons and spring approaches. At least according to the calendar anyway. ツ

It’s the acquisition, not the possession

I have a 13 year old daughter and like many teenagers she is (unfortunately) in love with stuff. As much as I’d rather keep things to a minimum I can’t begrudge her desires for items but when she does get the new shiny I’ve noticed a trend. For that matter I’ve noticed it in myself at times.

What I’m talking about is the fervent want that goes into the lead up to acquiring a new item of any sort followed soon after by the near lack of interest in the item. In other words, it’s the thought of the new item that grabs hold of us like an addiction that we think can only be cured by the acquisition of it. The trouble is though once you have it in hand it takes very little time before it starts to gather dust. Or, as the title above suggests; It’s the acquisition not the possession that really matters. Actually owning the item is nowhere near as emotionally important as acquiring it.

Now this isn’t true for everything you buy of course but if you look around your life you may well be able to see examples of this in your own life and it applies to both tangible items as well as digital. For example I’ve found myself longing for software that would complete a certain task for me to make things easier. Since it’s so easy to justify items in your mind – I’m an expert at it unfortunately – I’d run off scouring the web looking for what I needed until I found it. After some due diligence in vetting it out by way of user reviews and video demos I’d plop down my hard earned cash for the fix. The high of that acquisition wouldn’t always last though and buyers remorse would set in sometimes sooner than later.

You may have noticed that I used the word “need” above when describing the quest for the fix. Sure, I needed it for the task in mind but let’s be honest, it was a want and wants will rob you of your money.

This isn’t to say that that everything you desire should be avoided. Some items that you convince yourself that you need can be both wants and true needs that fill a niche in your life and provide the comfort and ease you expected them to provide. Those items are fine and are worth both your time in researching them as well as budgeting for them. I’m merely suggesting that you give yourself more time before pulling that trigger and getting the item.

The problem with stuff

In short, I have too much of it.

You see, I was brought up from an early age to believe that more things (owning more stuff) meant more happiness. In the short term that always proved to be true, or at least it felt that way. But as I’m learning, that thinking was wrong.

I was fortunate enough to have a birthday halfway through the year in July, so twice a year, once on my birthday, and then once again at Christmas in December, I’d get more stuff! When I got on my own and got a job and started earning money that just meant even more stuff. It wasn’t so much zeal as it was necessity, at least at furst. I was living on my own, I had my own apartment so I needed pots, pans, blankets, clothing, you name it. I needed all that stuff.

As the years passed on by I’d get more and more then when my penchant for  technology kicked in it only accelerated with VHS movies, music CDs, and on and on it went. Then, I got married, her stuff combined with my stuff and we kept right on going!

Flash forward to the future, we have four children, we’ve moved many times through the years and each time we moved we purchase more for every birthday, every Christmas, even ‘just because we can’. More stuff. Now that three of four children have moved out it’s clear to see that we have too much stuff. Do we really need 15 plates? 15 cups? Not that we ever needed 15 sets of dinnerware to begin with but it just seemed to happen over time like they walked in while we were sleeping or something. Creepy, to say the least.

The problem though with maintaining all of this stuff, and worse yet purchasing more, is that it takes time away from your life. Regardless of how small or insignificant the item might have been when you purchased it you first had to decide to purchase it, research it, travel to get it, transport it home, find a place for it, take care of it, keep it clean, keep it safe, and perhaps even insure it.

This goes without even discussing moving around with it, moving around it while at home, or stressing out over it if it breaks and you need to replace it, or gets stolen, or you simply can’t find it when you need it. And don’t forget how much money it cost you over the years.

The good news is there’s a solution! I didn’t invented but I’m absolutely committed to chasing it down. In a word – minimizing. The benefits of adopting a minimalist lifestyle are irrefutable.

Here’s a short list:

  • More time – the less stuff you buy an own and maintain and clean give you more time.
  • Less stress – if you don’t have a house full of valuable items to worry about being ruined or destroyed or stolen that’s less stressful. Not to mention fact that less items mean less things to clean or take care of giving you more time to pursue your hobbies.
  • More money – this one’s a no-brainer but honestly if I had adopted this thinking years ago I would’ve saved tens of thousands of dollars through the years. Money that I don’t have to now try to come up with to save for retirement or other important goals.
  • Freedom! – Think about it. If you didn’t have all of the stuff that you have now but instead simply had high quality items in the freedom to move about in your home regardless of the size think of the freedom it would give you.