Minimalism is about identifying where the value in your life really comes from. It’s about optimizing the amount of value you get from the items you own or experiences you buy. It’s not about owning as few things as possible, but about shifting the ratios of value/amountofshitIown to favor value.
So the 10/10 challenge. Write two lists of 10 items each. The ten most expensive items you’ve bought in say the last 5-10 years, and a list of the ten items/activities/experiences/people that have added the most value to your life.
Here are my lists:
The 10 most expensive things I’ve bought in the last decade:
- My Car: R15 000
- Annecy/Paris Trip: +/- R50 000
- France residency trip: +/- R30 000
- Doc Martens and Tuks loafers: R2100
- 13HD Cintiq pen screen: R15 000
- PC and replacement PC: about R10 000 each
- Laptop: R14 000
- Cellphones: max R7000
- Samsung tablet: R5000
- Bed and mattress: +/- R6000
So by far most of my money has gone to work-related tech and overseas trips. The trips I don’t exactly regret (or I regret only because of how I financed them) but the tech hasn’t always been as necessary to my success as I might have thought it was at the time I bought it. If I put “Art materials” as a solid category, we’d be getting into some truly terrifying accounting territory.
Often I’ve bought too much of a thing or too indiscriminately. The tablet for instance: I could have saved up for an iPad or a Microsoft Surface, but went instead with whatever was handy while I had the money. I told myself there couldn’t be THAT much difference in the brands, that I needed a tablet to be flexible with my freelancing work. In both cases, I was wrong.
I loved having a car but it was a pain in the butt to own and lasted all of six months. At that price, I was lucky to get six months of use out of it.
The things that should have made me happy for their own sake – the tablet, the shoes, even the Euro-trip – are mostly gone. I really regret the Tuks – they lasted only slightly longer than any other pair of shoes I’ve ever owned. The Euro-trip might have been an important investment in my career, or just a really good holiday. Time will tell.
It’s funny how I regret the little things more than the bigger things. The travel was kak-expensive but awesome and I’m just amazed I got to travel like that at all. The 5k Samsung tablet, on the other hand, just sits in my memory as a big pile of Why, shaming me whenever I feel like I want to buy another pretty shiny toy.
The 10 things that add the most value to my life:
- My job, workplace and colleagues
- My housemates and friends
- My creative projects: short films, comics, journaling and handwork.
- Dungeons and Dragons
- Personal finance and blogging
- Hikes and walking around Cape Town
This list is wildly different. It’s all relationships and personal investment and creative outlet. Wherever possible, I prioritize making time (and sometimes purchases) for these things.
It wasn’t always like that. My purchases in the last couple of years have come to better reflect my values, but they didn’t at first. The money I regret spending was stuff I bought ‘just because’. It had no bigger part to play in my life, other than to be a nice new thing that should have made me happy.
The Cost of Happiness
Even though the second list may look very “The Best Things In Life Are Free!” there are still financial implications to it. I have to fly to see family. Therapy ain’t cheap. I got funding to develop my short film. And Dungeons and Dragons can be a real wallet-drain on amount of pizza consumed alone.
Not all worthwhile and lovely things are free. But they’re often cheaper than we might think they have to be. I can spend a ton of money on doing yoga in a super fancy studio class with all the accouterments and clothes, or I can find some floor space and watch some Youtube videos. The point is to move and exercise, not project a certain image while I’m doing it. The point of hanging out with my friends is to connect and share support, not to take enviable Instagrams.
There’s a big difference in looking at purchases as a means to support the really meaningful stuff in our life, and mistaking our stuff for meaning.
Listing what we purchase and what we value side by side, we can really appreciate that difference.
Article reposted with permission from Drawing Money.