Minimalzation, Globalization, and the Achievement of Happiness

by Bradrick J. Pretzer

You need not venture into isolationism in the middle of the woods as Thoreau did to live simply. You will be doing yourself, your friends, family, and the environment a favor by eliminating loads of superfluous items from your home. Fret not. Purging will give you much more time, money, and happiness.

Tchotchkes lying around your house are unnecessarily collecting dust. If it has a layer of dust on it, you don't use it enough to justify its existence. When you walk into your abode and see the pictures on your walls you should be enamored with them every time. If you are not, it is costing time and money to keep this stuff around. This is time you could be spending with friends, eating great meals, writing, listening to music, or learning something new. This stuff will probably be tossed in the trash when you die anyway. If it is not unique and incredible, don't keep it around. Enhance your living with a few great things.

Most likely your book shelves are sagging. I am sure Barnes & Nobel and amazon.com appreciate that. However, are you really going to re-read all those books you are saving because they were so good the first time? Of course not. You don't even have enough time to read all the books you haven't even opened yet. If it is a classic, or just a popular book, let the library store it. Any library in the country is guaranteed to have all the works by Orwell, Shakespeare, and Rowling. You shouldn't pay pay for the space too keep useless books on hand. If you need to cover cracks in your dilapidated apartment trade the books for a camera and put unique prints on your walls. This way you will also have room to keep the few reference and art books you might want.

You most likely have a box of photos in some closet. If you are like most people it is a massive vessel. You are keeping these photos for friends to look at, or to remember good times. With people scattering all over the world for jobs why not put your photos to the web so anybody can see them at anytime and they will last for ever. Learning to publish to the web can be accomplished with a pot of coffee, one of a multitude of books from amazon.com and about 4 hours. Better yet, get your teen-aged neighbor kid to do it for you.

Your filing cabinet should be used to store a couple of pens, pencils, and thank-you cards. All credit card and bank statements are online as well as your canceled checks. If they are not, you need to get a new bank. Institutions are wasting postage and effort sending them to you anyway. In the rare instance you need to get this data it is so much quicker to hop online and investigate there. No need to keep these identity-theft prone papers at home. If a thief visits your house this is all prime material for him to steal. It might be a good idea to have a few documents in your filing cabinet; however, they shouldn't occupy more than a couple of inches. You might want to keep your birth certificate, car maintenance history, and warranty cards in the drawer.

Some people are falsely concerned about online security. As long as you are using a modern web browser such as Internet Explorer or better yet, Mozilla Firefox and connecting to a reputable bank you should have no worries. Your information is online regardless if you choose to use it or not. ATM transactions, check clears and money transfers all happen via the Internet today whether you partake in the capabilities or not. While you are at it, why not setup automatic payments for most bills? This will save you time and postage every month.

Having extras lying around the house is a terrible waste of your money. With the average rental price of a square foot in Boston going for a bit over $24 / year and over $26 / year in New York who can afford to give space to an extra tube of toothpaste? The national average rental rate is over $14 per square foot per year. Add up a few extra bottles of shampoo, laundry detergent, and a stack of unnecessary papers and you are really cutting into your income. Have you ever been to a Walmart or Target that has run out of soap or tee-shirts? Of course not! Let the mega-chains warehouse the stuff for you. They rotate the stock faster than you can at home anyway; consequently, you will have fresher products.

As our world becomes more connected via the Internet, people are doing much more traveling. As a result, you might want to consider storing an electronic image of your passport, driver's license, and credit cards online. This way when you get robbed in some foreign country and show up at the US Embassy to get a replacement passport, you can simply get online from their machine, anywhere in the world, and show or print them a copy of your missing document. Forget making, keeping, hiding copies of these documents. Electronic versions will not get lost or damaged.

Considering the excessive price of real estate question why do you have a TV, radio, stereo, DVD player, and computer? Any machine from Dell can surely be all these space hogs in one smaller box. Get yourself an LCD TV instead of a standard monitor to attach to your computer and use it for computing, watching movies, listening to music, and watching TV. Rip all your music to iTunes and put the CD's in a box, without jewel cases of course, and set it in the newly emptied closet. Now that you have elminated the stereo in one room, get rid of the rest of them with a whole-house music system such as Sonos. Sell your TV via eBay or Craigslist and get a top-of-the line TV card for your computer and LCD TV combo. Add a wireless mouse and keyboard and your computer desk becomes your couch.

Now that you aren't wasting your time filing, cleaning, or paying bills you can pick up a new hobby, or learn a new skill. Photography might be worthwhile to put fantastic photos on your now bare walls. On the other hand, learn to cook and you will find your friends around a lot more. This purging may take a bit of time, but as you become more of a minimalist, it gets progressively easier.