In a nutshell: How many cups can you drink from at one time? How many pairs of shoes can you wear at one time? How many cars can you drive at one time?
Outside of a nutshell: This has been my approach to minimalism, only having one (or very few, in the case of dishes – you may have other people over for dinner, but not likely 300 other people) of any given item that’s only used one at a time. By all means, make it quality! You’re using it everyday.
Just a few of the benefits:
- No more comparisons: Chances are, if you own multiples of one thing (bikes, pairs of shoes, chef’s knives, pairs of jeans) you have a single favorite item, that perfect fitting pair of jeans. Why own anything else? When you only own one, you can wear your favorite thing every day.
- Fewer decisions: Use the tall skinny flutes or the bulbous red wine glasses? If you only own one type, it’s a non-decision – pour the wine, sip, and enjoy. As Barry Schwartz points out in the Paradox of Choice, more choice leads to less ultimate satisfaction.
- Less to clean: If you only have one bowl, you have to wash it before you can use it again – no more piles of dirty dishes weighing on your conscience.
- Freedom from the desire to shop: If you already have a bicycle, or a backpack, or a phone, you’re done – that means more money in your wallet and less time agonizing over what to buy. No need to look for anything else in that category for a long time, since you did your research and bought a high quality version that suits you well. Now go outside and enjoy the day!
One-liner: You can either look rich or be rich, but not both.
The Meat: Quick, conjure up the image of a rich person in your head – they’re wearing a Rolex, driving a 2014 Mercedes, and living sandwiched between Tom Cruise and that girl from the Hunger Games. The Millionaire Next Door, albeit it a bit dated, systematically breaks down this stereotype by detailing the average spending by millionaires on a variety of consumer goods.
The results? Millionaires in the U.S. (the non NFL-contract/ movie star kind who actually earn a reasonable salary or small business income) don’t…really…look…like…millionaires. They drive vehicles with a low cost-per-pound (not kidding, picture Buffett’s Lincoln Town Car!), wear inexpensive clothing, live in blue-collar neighborhoods (because many millionaires, the authors point out, are in fact successful “dull-normal” small business owners such as plumbers) and prefer Budweiser to Glenlivet.
So who’s driving those new Mercedes off the lot? CPAs, lawyers, business professionals – people who may earn an upper-middle class income, but are always spending just beyond what they bring home. The authors claim this is partly due to the demands of their chosen careers, in which stereotypical clothing, vehicles, and housing situations are much more expensive than the Budweiser variety mentioned above – people are more comfortable choosing a plumber who drives a beat up Chevy than a doctor or lawyer who owns that same car.
It all goes back to image: we’re used to classifying people based on their possessions and chosen image, without realizing that’s only a sliver of someone’s life. Entire industries even exist to fool this judge-a-book-by-it’s-cover mentality, such as rent-to-own stores and counterfeit luxury goods.
Remember, the ‘rich’ guy in the Porsche was richer before he bought the Porsche.
- Examine your motivations for purchasing aspirational goods – are you spending for the sake of impressing strangers who are likely consumed with their own self-image or not people you’d ever want to spend time with in the first place?
- Realize that possessions stereotypically adorning the rich likely consume a high percentage of their income, furthering the earn-to-consume treadmill and stifling financial freedom.
- Read the Mexican Fisherman Story HERE. The finer things in life likely aren’t things, but the freedom to spend time with friends and family, enjoy nature, and be free from stress and tension. Cultivate passions and hobbies that nurture these goals and you’ll slowly realize the lure of the shopping mall fades as nothing they’re selling can replace quality time in the present moment.
Do you have the recurring feeling that the money you spend, day to day, doesn’t return as much as you’d expected? Fresh (damn right that’s a capital F) pair of shoes, larger-than-your-mattress flatscreen, and smartphone that could coordinate a moon landing losing their luster quicker than you’d expected?
Material goods get absorbed into the background of our daily lives and new ads appear almost instantly for the next great life-improving device (Can’t get laid? There’s no app for that…you know who writes apps, right?).
Just. One. More. Upgrade. How quickly that uneasy feeling of needing improve, renovate, and shop returns. What the hell are we trying to buy? Hint: it’s not a device for calling friends, getting us from A to B, or keeping us warm.
Let’s step back, drop the magazine, click off the TV, and look in the mirror. Goals, motivations, and insecurities are exploited by marketing until we’re convinced our aspirations can somehow all be realized by laying down our plastic one more time.
There are two words I want to talk about. One is “more” and one is “enough.“ With the right mindset, what’s something you can have right now that some of the richest CEOs will doggedly pursue until the day they die? Enough. Enough is not the number on your bank statement or in your 401K. Enough is a mindset, and without that mindset, enough is transformed into ‘more.‘ Lets think about the reasons we spend time and money consuming, and strategies for habits that lead to contentment – not a 9 page credit card statement. Dig in, I think the upside – more savings, less stress, higher self-esteem, and greater ability to focus and be truly present for friends and family, is worth a read.