Eve of Reduction was built on the principles of reducing debt, stress and waste by being creative and resourceful. This blog is the roadmap and my book, Living Simple, Free & Happy is the handbook.
As a thank you for your interest in Eve of Reduction, Below you’ll find a free preview of one of the chapters in my book.
Ropes on a Blimp | Living Simple, Free & Happy
Have you ever thought that maybe what is holding you back is what you have and not what you don’t have? When we think of roadblocks, the excuses that surface sound something like, “I just don’t have the time; I’m swamped…I’d need more education…or plastic surgery.” How often do we find ourselves saying, “You need money to do that”? It’s so easy to look at what we don’t have instead of examining our spending and consumption habits to see if they are keeping us in a vicious cycle of spending, accumulating and maintaining.
Peers, advertisers and society will suggest you live it up at all stages of life. Graduates, don’t you owe it to yourself to indulge after eating cafeteria food and driving a rust bucket for four years? Or in your thirties and forties, when your income is at its peak, isn’t this the time to pamper yourself? How about in your fifties and sixties when your kids have moved out? You can finally have nice things that won’t get wrecked by vomit and hockey pucks. If not then…when? The more prudent (though far less sexy) approach is to exercise more financial discipline (more saving, smarter investing and wiser spending habits) during times of increased pay and less dependencies. Just because you lived through times of sacrifice, doesn’t mean you over-compensate when your situation changes. If you forgo your morning coffee, you don’t drink ten Red Bulls with lunch. And because you’re making 20 percent more, doesn’t mean you should increase your luxuries by the full 20 percent to make up for lost time. You don’t need to repay your ego. If you max-out with your upswings, you’re going to bottom-out with your downturns. Trying to continually adapt to a yo-yo lifestyle will be much more traumatizing then staying even-keel on a track to what you really want.
So many people think buckets of money will solve or eliminate the stresses in life. Such is not the case. More is more and less is less. In other words, the more you bring into your life, the more you have to maintain. If you are accumulating things, the initial purchase is just the beginning. In addition to any debt you took on to make the purchase, this new item you now own may need to be stored, dusted, watered, cleaned, oiled, tightened, filed, emptied, refilled, tuned, insured, renewed—any number of time-consuming (and possibly expensive) maintenance chores. If you avoid the purchase altogether, you cut out the chain reaction of obligations to this thing. So does this mean you pack it all up, live a super-minimalist lifestyle and never purchase anything again? No, absolutely not. It simply means you recognize all your options and make fully educated decisions about how and what you consume. This book will open your eyes to possibilities you’ve might never have considered.
Common, everyday decisions and behaviors often result in wasted time, space, and money. This book will show you consumption alternatives that will streamline your lifestyle and increase your talents. If you follow these principles, you’ll rid your home and your schedule from clutter that is holding you back. You’ll have more free time and your life will be maximized for efficiency, self-fulfillment and opportunities for enrichment. This is what I term a reduction lifestyle—reduce excessive consumption, unnecessary obligations, and overbearing clutter. When the waste is reduced, you are free to dedicate yourself to exactly what you want and how you want to live. You will love what you have and who you are.
Principles of Reduction
Reduction can be a scary word. What does it mean to embrace a lifestyle of reduction? Does it require constant sacrifice and self-denial. No way! When you finish this book, I promise you will still be able to live with yourself and continue to enjoy all the conveniences, hobbies, and interests you do now. The secret is to focus on what you are gaining rather than what you are giving up. Yes, you may be giving up the opportunity to own a shiny, new gadget, but you are gaining (or retaining) open space in your home (that new gadget will need to live somewhere), open time in your schedule (you would need to maintain or play with the gadget), and money in your bank account (you keep all the money you don’t spend).
Among the reduction lifestyle principles we’ll explore are:
• How to make your home and lifestyle a reflection of your talents
• How to increase your personal freedom by detaching yourself from things
• What being original means to your bottom line and self esteem
• Where to look for cash, savings, and piece of mind
• How to say “no” without a guilt trip
• How to eliminate debt and still have the things you want
• How to find the potential for function and beauty in the things you already own
• How to love the process of streamlining your schedule and possessions (my personal favorite)
The lifestyle of reduction is a commitment to your values. And, the fun you have, the skills you acquire, the space you create and the stress you relieve along the way will surprise you. Cutting out the crap is truly a risk-free program.
A Pile of Clutter or a Pile of Cash?
What if I told you the average homeowner has five thousand dollars worth of unused or unwanted stuff in his or her home? Would you be interested in finding it? You bet you would! Now, I’m not suggesting you should sell your kitchen table. I’m suggesting you sell the stuff piled on your kitchen table, or in your coat closet, basement, and drawers (I call these places the graveyards of once-useful-and-desired belongings), a.k.a., the clutter that is always in your way, making your house feel messy and disorganized.
Internet sites such as Craigslist, Ebay, Amazon and MyClozet.net are driving much higher prices for items that were once sold for next to nothing at garage sales. And networking sites aren’t just for socializing; people use them to seek deals, post and find jobs, swap information, promote goods and announce services. A boy in the boonies no longer has to leave his car to rust with a for sale sign in the window. He can make himself a global retailer with the help of a computer and a digital camera. There are no prerequisites for entry into the global economy. All are invited and encouraged. Instead of writing broken items off as worthless junk, find your pride, fix them up and sell them for extra cash.
If your stuff is broken, damaged, or missing a part, fix it. Paint it using a new technique from a magazine or with some leftover paint you already have sitting in your garage. Go online and order the missing part. Sometimes, a small piece of plastic can transform a useless item into something you can sell for a hundred dollars. How do I know? A friend of ours gave us a telescope that his kids had left in the rain. It was high-resolution with a digital star finder. The only problems were the missing lens caps and rusty battery cage. We acquired the telescope for free, and for a year it sat in my house, unused and not repaired. I finally decided to do something with it and discovered that if the telescope were in working order, it would be quite valuable. So I did some investigating. I spent seventeen dollars on parts, and used some tin foil to clean out the rust on the battery connector. After these minor repairs, we were able to sell the telescope for 150 dollars. Chapters four will introduce you to some basic repair skills while chapter five will give you more ideas of how you can find items to re-purpose and repair.
Contrary to what you may be thinking, nothing is holding you back from reclaiming your closet space or getting out of debt. You don’t need to be a skilled craftsman, just willing to learn. I was allergic to power tools until I went to a free workshop at Home Depot. Now, I’m very comfortable with a drill. After I bought a ten-dollar sewing machine at an estate sale, I asked my mom to show me how to work it. I stuck notes next to every knob and lever on the machine until I felt comfortable with what I was doing. I’ve since calculated that I save about five hundred dollars each year by using my sewing machine to make curtains, clothes, and costumes, and to repair shoes and garments. It doesn’t matter what level you start at, your craftsmanship will improve with practice; just don’t get frustrated.
Reclaiming Your Time
You maybe thinking, that’s great for you, but I just don’t have time to repair things or do it myself. I’m a sensible person. I can understand that you may be short on time. Because it’s limited, time is our most precious commodity, but it’s also equally available. Do you really need a hairstyle that takes you forty minutes each morning to perfect? Do you need to live in the next county over from your office? Time is money, but it’s also about decisions. And when you sit back and truly evaluate your situation, you’ll find that you do have control over these decisions. Believe me, taking the time to save money is a lot more fun than the many options available for making money! However, when you take time to save money, you may find yourself with new options to make money. For example, learning to sew your own curtains means you can also sew curtains that someone can buy from you. Mastering the ability to save money while looking for the opportunities to make money makes you an unstoppable force.
A good chunk of this book is about time because it relates directly to our freedom. Time, finite and uncertain, is really our most precious gift. Our goal here is to modify time in our daily lives—doing less of what we don’t like and more of what we do like. Time is a constant regardless of what we do. That’s why I’m going to show you how you can also be thrifty with your time. A reduction in lifestyle that upholds your values will give you back the time you need and want to spend with loved ones, or perfecting talents and having more fun. Your schedule is exactly that: your schedule. How often do you say, “Let me check my schedule,” but what you’re really checking is to see if you can serve someone else’s schedule. Everyone tries to get you on their schedules, and if you let them, your time will be pulled in their direction. It may be more comfortable to simply go along on someone else’s schedule but it won’t be easier, and it often won’t be in your best interest. By the end of this book you’ll learn how to live by these two reduction rebel truths:
- We all choose how we spend out time.
- We have a right to say no to activities (even fun activities) that don’t fit our schedules.
Throughout this book, I’ll debunk all of your time and scheduling issues so you can focus on your agenda. As you start cutting back, especially in your schedule, you may find yourself making excuses for your decisions, but don’t cower to the pressures or expectations of other. You don’t have to evangelize or apologize, you just need to set boundaries and expectations. By abiding by this guide on your crusade as a reduction rebel, you will experience personal satisfaction, financial achievement, and you’ll be a heck of a lot more interesting.
Do you ever get asked, “what have you done lately”? What’s your typical response? It’s probably something like “not much.” Now, you know that’s not true. The reality is you’ve been so busy you haven’t had a minute to yourself. You’re probably constantly on the go. But everything you’ve been doing has been for someone or something else. Your days are full of menial tasks that don’t interest you, and because they don’t interest you, you know they won’t interest anyone else. Why do we let ourselves live this way?
Have you ever hear someone say, “oh, you’ve gotta check out this awesome birdhouse I made.” That person has carved out time for her interest. She’s enjoying her time and because she finds it enjoyable and interesting, she knows other people will be interested, too. You’re going to be that person. When someone asks you what you’ve been up to, you’ll be able to share how you’ve indulged in your interests. Your days will have meaning and you’ll feel real accomplishment at the end of each one. You will know the stimulation that comes from creativity. You’re going to notice your house coming together, your skills developing and that you have stories to tell about the things you have and the places you’ve been. You will buzz about your quilt making, furniture refinishing, recycled jewelry enterprise, or closet organization. It feels good. Believe me. Using your skills and having tangible accomplishments at the end of the day will expose sincere satisfaction and an unbelievable sense of pride.
My Origins as a Reduction Rebel
So how did I come to write this book? What have I done differently? Well, in our late twenties, my husband and I had something catastrophic come into our lives. It was no accident and, for a moment, we accepted it. And, heck, we were pretty excited about it—more excited about it than anything that had come before it. We even have Christmas ornaments celebrating it. One might call it the American dream—an investment and stability all in one. The catastrophe was the purchase of our home.
We had added our house to the list of other large debts like our student loans and a leased SUV. Our debt commitment was planned on a manageable schedule. We just needed to make payments plus interest until we retired. Oh joy. We were in our twenties, for goodness sake, and we had just tied ourselves to debt that was going to take us through the better part of our adult life to pay off. We went from educated, carefree twenty-somethings with limitless possibilities, to knowing exactly how we were going to spend the next thirty years—working continually to pay off debts. Instantly, that time was planned for us. Talk about your life passing before you! We knew everyone on every street like ours was in the same situation but we couldn’t accept it. By the time we actually owned our house, we were going to be grey and our kids, gone. Sure, a routine can provide a sense of stability, but it’s terribly boring. We pigeonholed ourselves as worker bees in a gigantic hive that’s fueling the economy. We were now part of the middle class.
Did I mention that we had practically no furniture? We returned wedding presents to get cash to buy a couch. And we knew if we were going to furnish the rest of our 1900–square-foot house, we were going to go even further into debt. This was a serious situation. We had jumped right onto life’s treadmill—a slippery slope of socially dictated needs that compiled debt, consumption and, the silent killer, maintenance. Why hadn’t we seen this coming?
Unfortunately, the common American is a mass consumer. Somewhere it became natural to mega consume and accumulate debt, clutter, and weekends filled with running errands. Buy now. Pay later. It is our culture; it’s how we were raised. But once we had debt hanging over our heads, my husband and I changed our tune on buying more and more. Consumption was not our friend. Quickly, we became acutely aware of our financial commitments, and sitting back and accepting indefinite payments, like everyone had, made us ill. Our debt was at the forefront of our consciousness. We made spreadsheets on what we had, stacked against what we owed. Paycheck to paycheck the balance of debt barely budged. We knew what we were up against. We just needed a game plan.
Exploring Our Options
We put our heads together to come up with an approach for tackling our financial burden. There were a lot of options available. One quick fix was to just sell our house and reverse out of the predicament we’d gotten ourselves in. But what were we going to do then? Live in a mobile home in our friend’s backyard? That wouldn’t solve anything.
We entertained the idea of being minimalists because we had one car and no cell phone, but when it came to living space, we had to be practical. We could get comfortable with this home and grow into it or we could move into a smaller one and upgrade with every change in life. Three months into our marriage, I was pregnant with our first son, so the time was right for the house we were in, we just had to get smart about our money and our decisions—all of our decisions. Money was only one factor. If we were going to be working every angle to pay off our debt, we needed to also look at what else was cramming our schedule. We couldn’t devote 24/7 to financial freedom; there had to be some personal fulfillment in there, too.
One obvious solution to combating our debt woes was to find higher paying jobs. Climbing the corporate ladder invariably meant more stress, longer hours, and more travel for the salary increase. That was something that we just couldn’t get excited about, though as college grads, career advancement was in our psyche. It could take years to get a break or find a higher position, but we had plenty of time…thirty years to be exact. In the end, the idea of a bigger salary seemed to go hand-in-hand with accumulating a bigger everything. But that was someone else’s plan, not ours.
Early in our battle with debt we were attracted to self-employment options. We could start our own business, play the stock market or invest in real estate. The champions of risk had such strong arguments: buy assets, accumulate good debt, reinvest your dividends, and eventually go public. They were slick and savvy. They were master salesmen and aggressive business types. They pushed to get more stuff to fund the other stuff in your life. We got all hyped about the prospect of four-hour workweeks and rental home acquisitions, but our action plans were feeble and hesitant. So many self-help resources boast about how easy it is to attract cashflow. We had all the CDs on being rich, but for us, it wasn’t something we could jump into immediately. Coming out of the meager responsibilities posed by single life, our new house and baby on the way were about all we could handle. It wasn’t like we were really going to start a franchise the next day. Biting off more than we could manage would not have been a pleasant solution. We couldn’t act like we had nothing to lose when we had spent our whole lives in school and were on the brink of parenthood. Plus, more is more. We didn’t really want to start escalating our lifestyle of more work, more stuff, more obligations. The honest truth boiled down to: we needed to stay close to our comfort zone.
The flip side of an all-out investment onslaught was to squirrel away a small percentage of income and invest it in safe mutual funds, to be ignored for decades. And then, after all that time, discover that we had lots of money to slowly withdraw in our old age. While this method has you adapt to a little bit less than what you actually make, it takes forever. This option has been referred to as “automatic,” because your savings are automated, not because you’re automatically rich. While this is a sound plan, it couldn’t be our only plan. It’s a very comfortable, low maintenance solution but it’s not going to do you any favors in terms of time.
The most proactive, take-charge-without-loosing-your-shirt solution for us was to live below our means, but within our values. It was easier for us to take a hard look at what we were doing, what we already had, and simply reduce.
What does that look like? Well, it’s an evaluation of needs versus wants, taking into consideration respect for yourself and others. To live below your means involves funding your future, not your past. In other words, pay for what you can afford when you can afford it. Do you remember when there were no credit cards? Me either. So we have to have some inner gage of what we have and what we want, what we need and what unexpected circumstance is waiting to surprise us. (Whoops, the dishwasher just crapped out. Didn’t see that coming.) Some people call this a budget; I’m not really into to budgeting. I’m more of a strict evaluator. Needs really need to be needs. I know when to make an exception, and I have the sense to know what is ridiculous.
Can you prolong gratification? Of course you can, you just might be out of practice. Can you believe that there is more around the corner? Sure, I’m going to prove it to you! This book is about showing you a path that doesn’t involve risk, radical sacrifice, or blissful ignorance. There are two ways to measure success: what you do and what you don’t do. Our success is what we did with our creativity, and what we didn’t do with our money and time. We used our talents to be self-sufficient. We used creativity to upcycle things we already had or could get for next to nothing. We didn’t accept a thirty-year mortgage or see the need for two cars and home full of showroom furniture and overflowing closets, cabinets, and storage areas.
Freedom from clutter, debt, waste, and stress will be yours if you hold to the lifestyle of reduction and values. To show you how powerful this shift was for us consider this fact: We fully furnished our home and paid off our mortgage in six years and eight months. So by our mid thirties we had eliminated our school loans, car payments, and mortgage. We were 100 percent debt free. I didn’t mention credit cards because we never carried a balance on them. We used them and paid them off each month. And I never cut them up either. They’re convenient, especially for e-commerce. (Yes, you can use debit cards online, but we take advantage of the extra security and cash back rewards). I think walking around with wads of cash in my pocket is pretty silly. I can safely say I’m responsible enough as an adult to have a credit card.
Please don’t think we stopped living in the process. We took family vacations every year, Clark W. Griswold style, and had plenty of fun along the way. Our memories are not of strife and sacrifice. We had a blast and became closer as a family.
I went to art school, so please make no misjudgment
of me being a financial guru. Also, make no misjudgments of your own financial potential, no matter your background.
I applied my innate creativity to save money, create useful items for my home, and even to make money off of things that were taking up space and, more importantly, my precious time. I’m not going to be giving investment advise except when it comes to investing in your abilities. Relying on yourself to fix a dresser drawer, cook a healthy meal, or make up a room for a special guest are qualities of character that never lose value.
Don’t Forget To Water
This book will take you through a series of decisions. Your task is to apply them consistently. You’ll be looking at things and situations objectively and be your own authority on what is right for you. You’ll be able to get your momentum going and stay focused on your goal of cutting out the junk, paying off the debt that’s keeping you from true freedom and gaining life skills that are going to keep you jazzed about living.
It works as much as you want it to—kind of like flossing. My dentist imparted this sage wisdom on me once, “Just floss the teeth you want to keep.” Cheeky guy, huh? The same is true for applying common sense and moderation to your lifestyle. The areas that you put energy into are the areas where you will see results. I will share practical advice and information that you can put into use immediately, with lasting effects on your life. I ask only that you put a little thought into how you want to personally apply the principles so they custom fit your life. Tailoring to your specific needs will help you streamline in a way that’s manageable for you so you can start living as a Reduction Rebel, a.k.a. a Freedomist. (Yes, I made up the word Freedomist, but the reduction lifestyle is by far the least expensive ticket to freedom.)
We’ll look at how you “spend” the space in your home, the time in your day and the money in your bank account. You will learn to challenge the growing myths and alienation of the human spirit that have become ever so present in today’s society. Through careful self-examination, you become aware of the many layers of life that serve only as a burden (I call this baggage). What we’ve accumulated is restricting our freedoms. I’m not advocating you move into a lean-to and eat only canned goods. I’ll show you how to position yourself so you can create things and savor what is truly important. Ultimately a reduction in lifestyle allows you to live as you choose. That’s true freedom.
So are you hooked? If you’re interested in reading more (hooray!). Here is the link to purchase it on Amazon.
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