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Life Simplification… Funny How People Don’t Get It

Posted by on Sep 28, 2010 | 4 Comments

Shelly and I have been on a quest for simplification.  It started quite some time ago, though we did not recognize it as such.  We had accumulated significant debt after having two of our three children.  We had just returned from vacation in the Dominican Republic (paid with credit cards). we came to the stark realization that we were living paycheck to paycheck.  We had no savings.  We had no retirement plan other than our state-run plan for public employees.

To shorten the long, boring story, we found Dave Ramsey.  We started a plan to repay and forever eliminate our debt.  We’re about half way through that process now.

Part of that plan involved a significant elimination of large purchases.  An unintended benefit was a simplification of our lives.  We were no longer wrapped in a spiraling cycle of wanting “the next big thing” to keep up with our neighbors.

Fast forward to this spring.  Thanks to a series of posts on the Runners World Barefoot Running forum and a timely hit on Stumble Upon, I was introduced to the concept to life simplification.

The idea is simple- it is a voluntary elimination of unnecessary material “stuff”.  The idea was appealing because I generally hate being surrounded by clutter.  Furthermore, I have discovered the drive to buy crap is nothing more than a behavior that grew from a lifetime of capitalistic positive reinforcement.  From an early age, we are continually exposed to the message that purchasing “stuff” will make us feel good, happy, excited, pretty, improve our love life, make us stronger, or in some way improve our lives.

Indeed, I still get a little rush when buying anything.  The feeling is fleeting, however.  Afterward, I am left with some degree of buyer’s remorse.  I will go through the predictable pattern of eliminating cognitive dissonance by convincing myself the purchase was justified.

This “capitalism drive” has been difficult to curtail.  Eventually I came to the realization that doing made me much happier than acquiring.

Shelly and I have long considered making a dramatic life change.  We have considered this change for a number of years, but have been lulled into inaction by the false sense of security that often paralyzes us from chasing our true passion.  A series of events have transpired that have chipped away the facade of security, only to reveal it as a figurative prison.

The clincher came when Shelly ran into a former teacher while we were at a local mall (it was a rainy day; we were letting our kids play in their breakfast-themed play area).  She had recently retired.  She explained how great it was- it allowed her unlimited time to scour the malls for bargains.

It hit me hard.  This is what I am working for?  I’m spending 40-50 hours a week so in 18 years I will have enough free time to buy discounted shit at the mall?  There’s something seriously wrong with this.

Enter “The 4 Hour Work Week“.  This book had been previously recommended by John DeVries, our Crossfit trainer.  I didn’t have time to read it over the summer, but revisited the idea when Christian Peterson, another barefoot runner, recommended it.

The gist of the book is simple- it is an outline for an alternative lifestyle design.  Most people spend their entire lives working at a job they would rather not do in order to save for a pot of gold at the end (retirement).  They sacrifice the most physically-able years of their lives toiling away in an office or other menial job to be able to do what they want at the end.

Ferriss (the author) champions the idea of spending your life doing what excites you.  The majority of the book is dedicated to planning and executing a plan that will allow that to happen.

A major element of Ferriss’ plan is called a low-information diet.  He voluntarily cuts out all irrelevant information.  This includes email, Facebook, the daily news, or anything else that stands in the way of productivity.  I’ve been testing this theory.  Some of you that have tried to email me may have noticed… I set an autoresponder and only check email three times per week.  The results- it has been fantastic!  I no longer spend countless hours doing crap that I used as an excuse to avoid the difficult things I had to do.  When I wake up in the morning, I have one or two specific tasks I have to complete.  Once completed, I don’t bother with anything else.  It is amazing how much more productive I have become, AND I have a lot more free time.

That’s just one example from the book.  There are many others.  Needless to say, I HIGHLY recommend the book to anyone that feels trapped by the frantic pace of their unfulfilling lives.

It is very interesting to gauge people’s reactions to our decisions.  The very mention of voluntarily eliminating almost all of our possessions is the best.  The goal is to become completely mobile (literally).  We want to be able to go where we want when we want without the burden of a 40 foot moving truck.  People look at us as if we were absolutely crazy.  They seemingly cannot fathom life without “stuff”.

Well, I have to cut this post short.  It’s time to get ready for work.  Is that irony?

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4 Comments

  1. Ryan
    September 28, 2010

    I love Dave Ramsey. I have one credit card that I’ve used once, and that was only because my debit card wouldn’t work for some reason… I’m at the stage in my life where I actually have money to spend, so its hard not to, but I try and save as much as I can…

    Glad to hear you’re both on the same team and working for a common goal. :)

  2. Ken
    September 28, 2010

    It sounds like your wife is completely on board with your efforts to simplify your lives. I’ll bet that really simplifies the processes of simplification::)

    I’m looking forward to reading the books you mentioned.

  3. Frances
    September 28, 2010

    Like barefoot running, the first stage of this is thinking about it and admiring the ideal. I definitely feel in my heart a longing for that simplification, but it’s hard to make the decision and commit to a new way of life by taking the first step.

  4. Russ Taylor
    September 28, 2010

    My wife and I have been doing the same thing. Started with eliminating TV, Video Games, and stupid little purchases. The results have been pretty dramatic. We actually have some savings now and don’t have to be constantly worried about money if something important pops up, like a car repair or emergency room trip. I do wish I could spend more time off the computer. Unfortunately, for now my job depends on it. We are working towards fixing that as well though. But yeah, a bunch of my friends were shocked at no TV no Video Games, but the time it’s given me to actually do things I enjoy instead of just killing time has been phenomenal.