People are shocked when I tell them that prefer living in a one-bedroom, furniture-free apartment with my wife and two kids, even though I can pay cash for a McMansion or two in the ‘burbs. Why do most people need more space?
Consider my closet:
When I decide what to wear to work in the morning, every shirt in my closet is a good option. I’ve gotten rid of anything that for whatever reason is not a viable choice. Most people have filled the majority of their closets with clothes that don’t fit, aren’t stylish, too old, etc. My shirts are dividend into dress, casual, and workout shirts, and I can choose any shirt from each section without a second thought.
By only keeping possessions that continue to add value to my life, I eliminate the physical, financial, and mental drag that comes along with keeping useless possessions. I apply this principle to every aspect of my life:
- Toys: The toys that many parents choose for their kids reflect a fear of real life. Their toys represent, a safe, “nerfed” plastic version of adult responsibilities. Kids don’t need fake plastic houses, power tools, cooking appliances, cars, or phones because they don’t need to fake adult responsibilities: they can assume them one at a time. Our daughter got her first sharp knife and her kid-sized broom at three and helps out cleaning, preparing her lunch every day, makes her bed, etc. She acquires adult tools and responsibilities as she becomes physically and mentally able. When she becomes an adult, she will have been doing adult responsibilities and using adult tools for decades.
Note: I’m not against toys, just toys which are “nerfed” versions of work that kids are capable of, or providing a plethora toys in an effort to isolate kids in a “play universe” which distracts them from assuming real responsibilities. For
example:A doll or construction blocks are productive toys, fake plastic eating utensils are generally not.
- Professional projects: Is this project a success story I want to tell about my career? Does this contribute to the goals I set for this quarter?
My digital data: I fit my life on a single SSD by using visualization and de-duplication tools to see the entire of my digital life and delete what I no longer need.
- Relationships: Do you add value to my life now? If not, why am I spending my time on you?
- Furniture: We only keep furniture that improves our lives. Some of our furniture, like our floor-seating dining time, is custom-made to fit our needs. We have no chairs or couch in our home because we decided that our health would be better if we let our bodies do the job of holding us up.
- Finances: I can tell you how much assets or debt I have in each account, and how all of my investments are distributed. I avoid unnecessary financial commitments, combine/rollover my investments, and use a single app to visualize my entire financial life over my lifetime.
- Daily time: I jealously guard the commitment and habits I make each day. I use five tools to visualize my the locations I visit, the software I use, and the websites I visit.
- Television: I don’t watch TV (though I spend too much time on YouTube), but if you do, track and re-evaluate whether you can be doing something more valuable or rewarding with the time you spent on specific shows.
- Social media use: I use HabitLab and Apple’s ScreenTime to set limits on how much time I spend on social media sites/apps.
Old hobbies: most people have a bunch of junk from abandoned hobbies in their closets. Sell it and focus on what you do now.
Books: I sold or gave away all my books and put everything on my Kindle when we moved to China. I have never thought “I wished I kept that book.” Unfortunately, I keep getting new free books – what can I do with used books in Atlanta?
- Emotions: We carry emotional baggage in the associations between places, people and situations, and the ingrained emotional reactions they have developed habits around. Separate your rational-evaluative self from your reactive-habitual self and consider whether your emotional responses are productive for the situation you are in.
- Insecurities: Over a lifetime, we accumulate fears and insecurities about problems we used to face and inadequacies we used to hold about ourselves. Focus on the person you are becoming, not who you were in the past.
And that’s why a small apartment works for us. An extra room (at this time) would only add unwanted and unnecessary costs and obligations: the cost of higher rent, the cost to clean it, and especially the daily mental overhead of keeping the room neat and organized, etc. To keep up with an entire house is an enormous responsibility. To whatever extent is possible to me, I want to limit every aspect of my life to the things that continue to give me value and lead me to become the person I want to be – not things that reflect who I was in the past.