What To Keep

When I decided to move, I had a hunch that we wouldn’t change unless we removed our alternatives. While we made progress with streamlining ahead of the move, our two shipping containers worth of gear show that we didn’t change the way we lived.

Reducing the family’s available space by over 50% has resulted in automatic adjustments – there simply isn’t any space. To help us let go, we opted for a furnished rental. The idea was to break our attachment to our furnishings and not be reminded of the old place.

When I started this process, I was unsure what to keep. What helped was a decision to knock out 50%. I sorted everything and kept the best half of everything (suits, bike clothes, socks, underwear…). While I was doing that, I paid attention to:

  • what I wear
  • what I use 
  • what I eat

Between clothes, assets and ingredients, a list of 20 items covered the bulk of each category. 

For example with food… eggs, quinoa, coconut oil, lettuce, peppers, olives, olive oil, avocados, mixed nuts, salad dressing, wraps, turkey, coffee, soy milk, clif bars, INfinit, cucumbers, fruit salad, non-fat dairy // that covers most of my calories. Some of the items have their own ingredients but you get my drift. I can live off a simple list of items that I can easily remember. I spend ZERO energy thinking about the food I buy, prepare or eat. Find what works, make it a habit, repeat.

When I decided to simplify, I felt pain each time I had to let go of something. A tactic I used to soothe the pain was to give myself treats as I downsized. I bought a new Garmin out of the proceeds from selling two pick-up trucks worth of sports equipment. 

Another tactic was to tell myself that I could always add back something that I removed. That’s a trick that I learned when I made a decision to leave private equity in my early 30s. I’ve often told myself that the worst that will happen is I get my old life back. Perhaps with less money, or status, (!) but you’ll be able to get back there if you change slowly, with compassion.

I’ve been using the 50% tactic throughout my life. Earlier this year, I wrote about my desire to take a sabbatical. However, in looking deeply, I realized that getting away from everything wasn’t my true driver.

I looked at my life, specifically where I spend my time; as writer, father, husband, coach, athlete, competitor, business owner, gardener, home owner, garbage mover, driver, plant watering specialist, light bulb changer, cat poop scooper…

Similar to my clothes and athletic equipment, I was attached to where I was spending my time – I even enjoyed litterbox duty. However, I wanted to create space so I needed to free up time.

While not easy, the following changes are simple to execute:

A – reduce your stuff by 50%, wait two months, repeat

B – create a time log for your workweek and eliminate the bottom 50% of your hours when sorted on financial return – focus on your best opportunities and eliminate work situations that are an emotional drain

C – live in a place that is 50% smaller – gardening, trash, light bulbs, compost — even if you keep doing everything, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how much time you save when everything is compressed

D – move to a location that reduces your weekly drive time by 50% – I moved 1.7 miles and added 100 hours (!) to my year

E – figure out three things you want to prioritize – get in the habit of saying no to everything else

F – wake up one hour earlier, don’t check email, spend 15 minutes of quiet time then do one household chore

So those are my six changes in the first six months of 2012. 

It’s not all about “less.” What I’m seeking to achieve is getting out in the world, more often, with the people I love.

The hardest part is the first step. 

Take one good idea and do it now.