My parents came to this country as refugees. They had nothing and literally built everything they have from the ground up. Growing up, my parents eventually accumulated a lot of material things and desired the name brand luxury items. They worked so hard and my mom would reward herself with a designer purse several times a year. My immediate and extended family were always about the German cars, designer purses, clothes, and watches. Possession of those things along with a big fancy house were the metrics of success and happiness. I don’t blame them since they essentially immigrated to the States with nothing. They have the means now so why not treat themselves? As a result, I grew up desiring those things with a mindset that I will be seen as more successful and in turn, be happier. This couldn’t be further from the truth!
When I got my first “real” job after grad school, I moved in with a buddy who was working in the same city. We both had a great starting salary and feel we can afford all these cool things. After all, we were living that college student life for a while and delayed our gratifications for several years. We deserved to treat ourselves. We rented a fancy apartment in the area for about $1k each and split some nice furniture. No more of that cheap Ikea stuff! The only thing I needed to do was upgrade my car and I’ll be that successful person I envisioned growing up. My roommate even upgraded to a BMW M3. Temptation was knocking on my door, but good thing I was busy entertaining student loans so I held off on a car upgrade.
It took a couple of years for me to realize that I was not happier and certainly didn’t feel more successful. Why was that? I had a great place to live, cool toys, chic furniture, and nice clothes. On the outside, you could say we fit the bill of a successful couple. I googled this phenomenon and stumbled onto The Minimalists blog and eventually their Netflix documentary. Joshua and Ryan also had a high salary and lots of “stuff” but yet were not any happier. It never occurred to me that most of my material possessions gave me temporary happiness.
After watching the documentary, we started to reassess our life and realized there was a “bit” of hoarding going on in my new home with Mrs. Quest. We started to pay attention to what we bought and made sure it was a need versus a want. This obviously also helped us cut our expenses as well. You can read about our strategies here. Now that we have been on the FI path for a year or so, we have been even more cognizant about collecting things and making sure we spend on items that will have a positive impact/experience for us.
However, we realized lately that we still have quite a bit of items in our house that we haven’t touched in awhile. With a baby coming soon, we know there’s going to be even more things around and want to make sure we minimize clutter. My philosophy is a cluttered home = a cluttered mind. Towards that end, my wife and I decided to do something called “Minimalism Mondays” where we start off the week by getting rid of or donating one item that we haven’t touched/used in over 90 days. What better way to start a week than clearing up some room in our life!