How To Start Subtracting

subtractLast week, this post on Zen Habits inspired me.

When you begin your life on your own away from your parents, this world propels you to acquire things. You need essentials and consumables, that’s for sure, but then once that’s done, you start hitting the wants as opposed to the needs. And as you progress in your career and make more and more money, you acquire more and more things. Sometimes you trade in your old things for new, other times you keep the old things.

Long story short: the longer you live, typically the more your have. Every time I’ve had to move, I realized that I moved more and more stuff.

Eventually, you get to a point when you have to start subtracting instead of adding.

When I moved into my current house, I didn’t even realize it but I ¬†was already doing that: I had the larger house and realized how much work that was, so we moved to a smaller house. Recently, we’ve been planning out our retirement and realized that at some point, we were going to probably move again, probably to a smaller place.

That’s when I realized – even though our retirement is a long way off, we need to start downsizing – or subtracting – now.

Its a simple rule – on the stuff you have:

  1. will you use this thing between now and when we retire, or will it be something you use when we retire? If so, keep
  2. If not, get rid of. Sell, donate or toss

On stuff you are thinking of buying:

  1. Do you really need that thing?
  2. If so, you can only buy it if you subtract 2 or more others

Result should be net loss of stuff going forward. It might take years, but at least we’ll get there. And its a lot less onerous than doing big, huge cleanouts.

I mean, does anyone really want to end up on Hoarders: Buried Alive…or pay for all that storage? I don’t think so.