Friday, November 16, 2012

Three Simple Steps for Living Freer - Immediately!

TOO MUCH STUFF - Time to Downsize!

Living Free or at least living freer seems to be catching on as a lifestyle trend. I hear more people talking about the idea. I see people taking a variety of steps toward gaining or regaining the personal freedom they want for themselves and their families. If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know that living free is my mantra. As the photo illustrates we all live in a very complicated society with too much "stuff" that costs us too much money to buy, maintain, store and insure. There are so many facets of daily life to attend to, cope with and keep up with and they all breed stress, anxiety and, often, depression. To live freer we have to take some positive action.

I've outlined a 12 Step program for Living Free in this blog and you can click on the link to review the 12 Steps if you choose to. You can also find each of the steps described in greater details in subsequent posts. But, let's face it. Like with many things in our life, we are very often in denial. It's one of those "can't see the forest for the trees" kind of things. In other words, we are so wrapped up in the details and minutia of daily life that we may be missing the important and most meaningful things life has to offer.

I also know that how I define living free and my lifestyle choices may not relate to your definition and choices. Each individual is going to have very different ideas about their own life. That is as it should be. Biting off a 12 step program or plan may also sound very ponderous. Heck! Life is already too complicated. Who needs to attempt taking on a 12 step plan that can involve a multitude of choices and changes to implement?

K.I.S.S. and the 3 Steps

So, let's apply the K.I.S.S. principle to making your life freer. The objective is to feel and live freer then you are currently. The result of living freer should be more harmony and happiness. So, to Keep It Simple Sam or Sally. Let's create a simple, effective, 3 step plan to get started down the road to living free.

The three steps are:

1. Simplifying
2. Downsizing
3. Economizing

Here is the hypothesis. If you can simplify your life by reducing the number of details and minutia, downsize by eliminating some thing or some things that require time, energy or resources for minimal useful or psychic return and become more frugal by cutting out expenditures that have a negative return or, at best, a minimal return for the money spent, then you should begin realizing a freer life and lifestyle. Does that make sense?

1. Simplify

Once again, even these three steps can look daunting if you attempt to eat the entire elephant in one sitting that your life may resemble. The most effective way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time and that's the way you should approach making the choices and changes to achieve a living freer lifestyle. Look at it this way. If you can eliminate one daily or weekly function in your overly busy life and that frees up one hour per week, that's 52 hours a year that you can now rededicate to something more meaningful or productive or relaxing and probably all three.

2. Downsize

Can you think of a single thing in you life or in your home that takes up space and/or time to store or maintain? Perhaps it's a closet full of old board games or even obsolete electronic games that have been replaced by something newer. I have absolutely no doubt that this is at least (and most likely many, but just start with one) one thing that you can do without. If that space was vacated it could be reassigned to something more relevant or, better yet, it might multiply into greater downsizing in the future.

3. Economize

One of the biggest challenges most everyone faces in our contemporary society is financial issues. You don't have to listen to the news or the cable news analysts or read the papers or most serious periodicals where finances are not a significant issue for so many people. And, this isn't just a U.S. domestic issue. It's global. The exciting thing is there are so many ways to become more frugal without denying yourself of a very nice lifestyle. In fact, by becoming more frugal, you're going to find the resources to live better and freer. It's like getting a tax free pay raise.

Suppose you can economize by saving $50 per week on various things that may not really be as important as you thought they were or they are recurring expenses that have outlived your interest or their usefulness. That results in $2,600.00 in tax free found money per year. Will that make your life better and freer? Will you and your family or significant other (if you have them) happier? That found money can do a lot of things for you.

No Rocket Science Required

So, are you with me on this? I know that this sounds simplistic, perhaps, overly simplistic. But, I said we were going to apply the K.I.S.S. principle, so the operative word is simple. Unfortunately, it's often the simple things that are overrun by the complex details of life. I also can't tell you precisely what you should simplify, downsize and economize. I don't know your life. And, let's make this perfectly clear. This is not rocket science or brain surgery.

21 Days and $24,000.00 Tax Free

In 1982, I was attending a friend and client's seminar on closing sales. Now, I make it a point, anytime I attend any function, especially an educational function, to gain something from it. One nugget of information or an idea can positively change a person's life. At the seminar, my friend, Dave, discussed a book I had read years before this particular function. The book was Psycho-Cybernetics by Dr. Maxwell Maltz. In the book Dr. Maltz said that it takes 21 days to make or break any habit, good or bad. As I said, I was already familiar with this concept, but I decided that was going to be my takeaway from this particular function. I thought about it and finally decided I was going to stop drinking coffee. I didn't have a problem with coffee and I liked coffee. But, I realized that it was a habitual aspect of my life, as it is for the vast majority of adults.

That day in 1982 was the last day I drank a cup of coffee. It's 30 years later. I still like coffee and I can drink it any time I choose to. But, it is now a habit to NOT drink coffee. I like it, but I didn't and still don't need it. I can't tell you how much money not drinking coffee has saved me over the years, but I dare say it's well into the range of several thousand dollars. Just one cup of some kind of premium coffee each day, seven days a week at an average of $3.00/cup is a savings of $1,095.00 per year.

One Target, But A Triple Score

So, let's examine this. First, this one choice has simplified my life. I don't have to plan stops at any of the variety of places that sell such premium coffees. At one stop per day at about 10 minutes per stop, that's nearly 61 hours per year that I've gained and made my life simpler. Second, I don't have a car full of empty coffee cups and I don't have a coffee maker to take up space, clean and maintain. That is one less thing to complicate my life - by downsizing an appliance and accessories I don't require. Third, I've already economized by nearly $1,100.00, but add to that the savings from not buying coffee grounds and other fixings for making my own coffee. That's probably an additional savings of probably more than $300.00/year. So, one lifestyle choice has simplified my life, downsized my "stuff" and given me about a $1,400.00 to $1,500.00 tax free raise each year. Average it out over the years to $800.00 to allow for inflation since 1982 and I've realized about $24,000.00 of simplified life. Not bad, huh?

And, of course, I can (and have) done this with other facets of my life. They are all personal choices for MY lifestyle and may not relate to your choices or lifestyle. The other significant thing to illustrate the K.I.S.S. principle is that I only chose one facet of my lifestyle and it positively impacted the three steps I'm suggesting you consider for starting to live freer.

K.I.S.S. - A Reprise

Here's another thing to include in this equation. Whatever facets of your life you choose as your first stabs at simplifying, downsizing and economizing don't have to be major things. Going back to the elephant illustration, choose small things initially. Believe me, when you take a look at your week, you're going to be saying "boy, if I didn't have to do this my life would be simpler. If I could just get rid of this thing I never use or wear any longer I'd have more space and feel less cramped. If I cut back on this expenditure a little each week or walked to the park or gym instead of driving and using $3.50 to $4.00 per gallon gas or ate out one less meal this week, you'll never notice the loss of whatever it may be. However, you'll sure begin to realize the positive benefits and improvement to your life. You'll realize that you're just a little freer then you were. And that, my friend, is the whole point. How can you life freer and happier.

Remember what I said about habits taking 21 days to make or break? Once you get in the habit of finding ways to simplify, downsize and economize, you'll have developed a positive habit that will serve you for the rest of your life. You may adopt a question I always ask myself when I see things that catch my eye. "Can I live without this?" By learning how to say yes to that question most of the time, you'll have more time, need less space (reduce your carbon footprint, too) and have more money to save, go on vacation, educate yourself and family with and anything else that will fit into your living free lifestyle. The big result is that you're going to be freer and happier and, heck, isn't that the real bottom line, anyway?


martha hart said...

A friend once described me as having 6 different personalities, twice as many lives, and the stuff that goes along with each. So it's a Very Big Deal for me to be on the path of letting go. But I am...

-- converting cds, lps, videos, all related media to digital
-- scanning programs from a lifetime of theatre-going and recylcing the paper
-- purging through everything - do I need this? would I use/read/enjoy/whatever it again?

Long-term project, as retirement is about 3 years away. Should take just about that long... But also making sure I don't let go of everything that gives my life meaning, or has made me, ME. The process has generated some fascinating conversations. And yes, it's liberating.

Thanks for your view on it all.

Ed Helvey - Professional Nomad said...

It's a big job, Martha.

But, it sounds like you have a pretty good plan and a handle on it. But, you're right. Don't lose YOU! I have what I call my "Chest of Life." In that one chest I have placed all kinds of things that have specific meaning to me and that make me ME. Periodically I go through the chest and reevaluate some things. I might delete a few and add some new things that are more meaningful. With the magic of digital technology that we didn't have when we were growing up (if you're three years from retirement), we can do as you're doing, scanning and converting everything to digital. I'm also taking photos of items that take up space, I'll never use again, but have special meaning and I don't want to forget. I still have some antique ham radio equipment that dates back to when I was a teenager and college student - it's more than 40 years old. I'll never use it again, so I have taken photos of it and it's going on the block to go to someone who wants this old stuff.

Good luck with your downsizing and keep at it. It will be SO worth it when you're done.