Monday, February 13, 2017

Mustachianism and Minimalism

Long time readers of this blog know that we have been trying to focus on living a life based on Mustachian principles, inspired by Mr. Money Mustache. MMM and his wife saved around 66% of their income and retired after ten years of working.

MMM has said that “your current middle-class life is an exploding volcano of wastefulness, and by learning to see the truth in this statement, you will easily be able to cut your expenses in half – leaving you saving half of your income.”  MMM focuses on saving more of your income; “spending much less money than you bring in is the way to get rich.  The ONLY way.”

Now that he is retired, the MMM blog and lifestyle has quite a large audience with the blog bringing in about $400,000 a year.  Yet he barely spends any of it on material things because he hates the consumerism lifestyle.  His self-proclaimed purpose is to change the world by shifting our culture.  He is a good mentor to look up to because he does practice what he preaches.

Our lives have changed since discovering Mustachianism.  In order to save 50% of our income, we’ve made some big and small changes.  We’ve cut out a ton of expenses.  We canceled DirecTV, I stopped paying for haircuts, we stopped taking clothes to the dry cleaner weekly, we do our own dog grooming (baths, haircuts, nail clipping, tooth brushing) and we stopped routinely eating out for lunch.  We’ve also worked hard to get promotions at work, max out one 401K (working on the other one), manage our rental property, and continue to hustle on the side to steadily save and invest.

Another lifestyle I’ve been recently introduced to is Minimalism.  A few Mustachians recommended I check out this movie on Netflix called Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things.    According to The Minimalists, “minimalism is a lifestyle that helps people question what things add value to their lives.  By clearing the clutter from life’s path, we can all make room for the most important aspects of life: health, relationships, passion, growth, and contribution.”  Although minimalism can mean different things to different individuals, “each path leads to the same place: a life with more time, more money, and more freedom to live a more meaningful life.”  I love this quote from them: “Today’s problem seems to be the meaning we assign to our stuff: we tend to give too much meaning to our things, often forsaking our health, our relationships, our passions, our personal growth, and our desire to contribute beyond ourselves… Minimalism simply allows you to make these decisions more consciously, more deliberately.”

Becoming a minimalist involves thinking carefully about the material goods that you own or will purchase.  If you have a shirt that you haven’t worn in the last 90 days, and you likely won’t wear in the next 90 days – is it worth keeping?  Maybe that shirt is better served donated to a shelter?  Being a minimalist does not mean not owning or buying anything.  It means being conscious about your purchases.  It means buying products materialistically (in the absolute sense); focusing on quality, long lasting and durable goods instead of cheap and disposable ones. 
Not a garage in our neighborhood but many really look like this, if not worse.
It’s amazing that my neighborhood is filled with cars on driveways because the homeowner’s garages are filled completely with boxes of stuff.  People tend to attach an emotional connection to material things, and many find it difficult to donate or discard them.  Next thing you know, even though homes in the United States are getting bigger, there’s still not enough space to store peoples’ things.  Maybe that is why almost 10% of Americans own a self-storage unit and there are more self-storage facilities in the United States than there are McDonald’s, Subway, and Jack in the Box restaurants combined.  As a society, we have become way to sentimental towards are things.  

Over the last few weeks, we have been working to discard clutter and donate unused goods.  Getting rid of all this unnecessary stuff has lifted a burden off our shoulders.  We’ve cleared shelves filled with random souvenirs we haven’t touched in years.  Luckily, neither of us are collectors of things.  Our closet is finally starting to look organized and peaceful.  We still have a ton of toys (mostly gifts) for our son.  Interestingly, fewer toys benefit children in the long term.

Some things have been difficult to discard.  One example: my yearbooks from high school.  A year ago, my mom was cleaning out her house and asked me if I wanted to take my old yearbooks with me.  I took them with me because I could not bear to see the yearbooks thrown in the trash.  I graduated from high school in 1999, over 17 years ago.  I haven’t looked through any yearbook then.  Yet, I kept thinking that these books had sentimental value.  I kept thinking that I might want to flip through the yearbooks one day in the future, as if 17 years of not looking through them didn’t give any preview on how I would treat these books in the future.  I left them on the dining table for a few days. After realizing that I had no desire to look through or keep them around occupying space, I was able to discard my yearbooks.
Not our living room, but it is something to strive for.
Having less stuff surprisingly lowers your stress level and increases happiness. Our house hasn’t looked this clean and organized in years!  We still have a lot of work to do, but it’s been fun finding things to discard or donate.  Going through all these worthless things really makes us conscious of future purchases.  I don’t think it will be difficult to live life with fewer material possessions.  Less really is more.  More money, more time, and more happiness.  

Both Mustachianism and Minimalism focus on attitude adjustments to help you transform your life into one that maximizes happiness and minimizes worry.  You can go as mild or as extreme as you like to fit your life.  If you’re looking for purpose in your life, explore what Mustachianism and Minimalism can offer you.     
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