Life has become complex. Cell phones, the internet, traffic, money problems, health issues, crazy schedules, 40 hour work weeks, kids, dogs, bills… I could go on and on. How are you not all dying from the stress?
But I have a confession. I am one of those people who NEEDS to be busy ALL THE TIME. I am always picking up new hobbies and keeping myself busy with business projects. And… I work 40 hours a week at a regular 9 to 5 job (my daily cubicle). I won’t lie – my life can be stressful. And I tend to get overwhelmed easily. That is why I needed to take a good look at my life and figure out where I could simplify. At the beginning of this year, I came up with the four D’s to simplify my life:
#1: Debt Elimination
It’s been said before but it needs to be said again. Debt will take over your life and create unhappiness. It’s something that is always on the back of your mind. Do EVERYTHING you can to pay off your debt (meaning credit cards, student loans, car loans, etc). Some may not agree with me, but I don’t consider a mortgage to be debt. There are way too many advantages to having a mortgage to consider it that (i.e., tax breaks, rental income, appreciation). I have been fortunate enough to stay relatively out of debt most of my life. When I was younger I had a couple car loans and some student loans but I saved and paid those off as soon as I could. The key to keeping out of debt is not accruing more debt. I bought my current car in January 2006 with the intention of keeping it until it could no longer be driven. My car is paid off and I imagine that I will be driving it forever. However, one of my goals is to move out of the country and if/when that happens I will happily sell it (without the intention of buying another one).
#2: Diet Improvement
I know it’s not just me who has noticed this, but the world, notably America, have gotten sick and fat. I bet that only one hundred years ago our rates of obesity and disease were a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of what they are today. And there’s no reason for any of us to get better. Because we have medicine. We have medicine for everything. We here in the US like to treat the symptom, not the problem. And when you have no symptoms, why even worry about the underlying problem? From what I’ve seen and read, our diet is the number one aspect of our lives promoting disease and obesity. In my mind, it is America’s number one problem.
My solution to our diet crisis? Simplify. I’ve noticed that the more complex a food or drink, the worse it is for us. For instance, a carrot is much more simple than a package of Ramen (oh, those college days…). A carrot has one ingredient, Ramen has over 30. It goes back to Occam’s Razor, the principle that states “entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity” and the conclusion thereof, that the simplest solution is usually the correct one. Ramen seems so simple… just noodles and spices. But next time you think about indulging in that 10 cent meal, take a look at the ingredients list. I wonder how much processing and how many ingredients are in your average meal? Fast food is by far one of the worst (most complex) foods you can eat. For my own diet, my solution was as follows:
Nixon and I have joined a gardening group. We have to donate 20 hours of gardening throughout the year and $50 to receive as much local, organic fruits and vegetables as we want. We very rarely drink alcohol and stay away from sugar. We tend to eat a lot of whole foods. AND the biggest thing – we don’t eat out. Now, of course, we aren’t perfect, but 95% of the time we follow this “diet”. We are also vegan… so we don’t have to worry about all the steroids and antibiotics found in meats and dairy products. We also eat as much organic and local as we can to decrease our risk of taking in any pesticides and other chemicals used to transport food long distances (to keep them fresh). And a huge thing for us… we drink water. Yep, the simplest drink there is. We stay away from soda, juice, sports drinks, etc. Because really, all you need is water. It has done wonders for us to simply drink water when we are thirsty.
Nixon and I are proponents of downsizing. In the past, Nixon and I bought into the system. We went to college, got degrees, got careers, and made money. Then we spent our money. On our cars, houses, and useless shit. But what this does is puts you into a state of needing to make enough money to support this lifestyle. It takes away your freedom. Four years ago, I would have been in a WORLD of hurt if I lost my job. I had a mortgage that was nearly half my take home salary each month, a car loan, and a life of eating out and spending that went along perfectly with my 9 to 5 paycheck. Unfortunately, most people live this life. We spend what we make. It’s great for the economy… but bad for our individual freedom. Nixon and I came up with our own downsizing solution:
We are renting/selling real estate properties that are bigger than we need and more expensive than we want to afford.
In about two months, we are moving to an area of our city where we can walk or take public transportation to just about anywhere we need to go. Thus, we will be selling Nixon’s car. And, once we move into this house, we will be splitting a mortgage payment of $600. For comparison, the first house I bought on my own had a mortgage of $1850… and I was living alone! I’m actually shaking my head at myself while I type this.
We are selling off anything we don’t need… see #4 of this list for tips on that.
We have simple phones with simple plans. No data packages, no iphones.
We don’t have cable. If we get the itch to watch TV, we just get on hulu.com. It’s fabulous and free.
We spend time with people we really care about. Life is too short to make time for everyone.
#4: De-Stuff Yourself
Nixon and I recently started to de-stuff ourselves. We went through everything we own (all our stuff) and decided to sell or donate everything we didn’t need. You could argue that we really only need shelter, food, and water. But let’s be a bit more realistic and start with the basics.
We don’t need any clothing that we haven’t worn in the last year. Goodbye sweater from 1992!
We don’t need more than one couch. But I guess that’s what happens when two households become one.
We don’t need more than one TV.
We don’t need that mountain bike that is collecting dust.
We don’t need that pile of worthless crap that includes music tapes (it was so00 difficult to part from my Pretty Woman soundtrack) and a belgian waffle maker. And by the way, this is a HUGE pile of worthless stuff.
So far, we have donated enough to deduct about $1000 from our taxes and we’ve sold enough to make around $1000 in cash. We are going to use this cash to purchase new computers (read our blog post on Mac Monies for more on that). We figure we will need around $3000 to have enough to buy two new Mac Books. We are well on our way and still have some big ticket items that we need to sell. Anyone need a Love Sac or a Trek mountain bike?
Overall, we are much happier having followed the four D’s of simplifying. We are on our way to escaping the daily cubicle and we are realizing that we want different things from what we wanted even a year ago. My baby sister is pregnant with her first and to me, that is a reminder of what is important. More than becoming a millionaire, more than living on a beach, more than being a “success”. It reminds me that the simple things are what matters and that a simple life isn’t so bad.
What are your tips for simplifying? What have you done in your own life to live more simply?