After living a life of excess, always wanting (and buying) all of the latest and greatest, having all the toys and all the gadgets, I’ve come to the realization that sometimes – less is more. New-agey? I think not. Look at what we Americans consider to be spartan European living. Fewer things and smaller spaces do not mean that you’re living a poorer life.
The old adage “you don’t own stuff – stuff owns you” becomes more apparent every day. I turned down a fantastic job offer in Australia last year due to not knowing how to manage the house, the ‘stuff’, the cats, pretty much everything. Game changer? Possibly. Life changer? Definitely.
I think that the tipping point came when I sat down and thought about my “stuff”, and what was necessary. At that time it boiled down to the decision of what was critical and would need to be packed in a shipping container to take to Australia, and what was simply fluff. After making the rough estimations in my head of what would fit in a standard overseas container, I began to analyze all of the things that I had just deemed fluff. If this stuff was fluff, and I wouldn’t take it with me for an 18 month trip to the other side of the planet, then why did I have it at all?
There are certainly a lot of things that come with owning a large piece of lakefront – the tractors, boat, waverunners, log splitter, chainsaws, maintenance equipment, etc – those were all justifiable based on point-in-time. Then I started to analyze all of the other fluff – furniture, motorcycles, electronics, bins and bins of “stuff”.
More things that come with owning a home – it certainly is nice having a table to eat at and a bed to sleep in, but even with the base level of necessity, there is the overkill. As a single guy, do I really need 3600sqft of living space? Do I really need a $2800 refrigerator? Do I really need multiple motorcycles that haven’t been ridden in a year?
Of course not – it’s the American dream of “stuff”.
With that awareness, I decided that I wanted to be flexible. If I had another life opportunity like a job overseas, I want to be able to have my bags packed in an hour and a plane ticket in hand. No worries, no headaches, no regrets.
I also realized that owning property – anywhere – defeats that dream. I did the math, and I spend roughly $40k/yr in mortgage, property taxes, and utilities just to own the American dream. For a house that I’m in less than half the year. And that $40k would be putting me that much closer to having the first million in the bank. Then add on top of that the aforementioned supporting “stuff”, and it adds up to be a very expensive proposition, and in a repressed state with a housing market that will never return to normal. In the stock market, it would be time to have a stop limit order in. Cut your losses and stop throwing good money after bad.
So now is that time. Cut the losses. Downsize. The biggest piece of “stuff” is ready to hit the market. I wish that I had this epiphany three years ago when I bought it, or even two years ago when I started dumping a ton of cash into it to get it exactly the way I thought I would want it for life. I never would have put $30k into the master bath. Never would have put in home automation. Wouldn’t have built a dock last summer. The list goes on and on. It is, however, all of these things that combine to make me the person that I am today. So now it’s time to put the final touches on the house to get it ready for sale. Tile the downstairs bar. Do something with the wine cellar. Paint the last few pieces of trim. Resurface the countertop in the basement kitchen. All things that were on the “I’ll get to it someday list”. I guess today is someday.