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Living With Less May Be the Best Way to Live

BY Mary Hunt TIMEFebruary 10, 2022 PRINT

Recently, I’ve been on yet another of my seemingly never-ending quests to pare down and clean out. I got this surge of energy after reading how Graham Hill is living with less. A lot less.

Hill, a self-made young millionaire who decided he really didn’t need lots of stuff, wrote about it in the New York Times. He lives in a 420-square-foot studio apartment. His bed folds down from the wall. He admits to owning just six dress shirts. His dish cupboard holds his complete set made up of 10 shallow bowls that he uses for salads and main dishes. When people come over for dinner, he pulls out his extendable dining room table. He owns 10 percent of the books he once did.

Things were not always this compact for Hill. In the late ’90s, he bought a giant house, paid for with cash he amassed from a start-up sale. And that house became packed up to his eyeballs with electronics, cars, appliances, and gadgets.

I find Hill’s story incredibly interesting, if not motivating. I don’t know if my husband and I could take things down to 420 square feet of living space (although we do have an adorable camper van with 60 square feet of living space in which we test our limits on a regular basis), but I know that I have too much stuff. And as long as I have places to stash stuff, it seems stuff multiplies all on its own. Crazy how that happens.

Back to my cleaning out. I came across an original Little People doll, by the creator of the now famous Cabbage Patch dolls of the 1980s. I’d tossed him into the “give away bag” because he was not exactly in pristine condition, nor could I locate his Birth Certificate of Authenticity. Several days later, out of curiosity, I decided to search his kind on eBay.

Duane Sebastian, with his goofy face and creator’s signature on his back side, came out of that bag and onto an eBay auction so fast it made his wobbly head spin. The opening bid was $.99 and in no time, he sold for $387.50! You could have knocked me over with a feather.

That was enough to get me to list my vintage accordion, more dolls, collector plates, figurines, and a load of elderly electronics. Not that I’m counting or anything, but I’m well on my way to racking up $1,000 from this paring down thing. And I’m not stopping anytime soon. I figure it’s a win-win because I’m turning stuff I don’t want into cash—and it appears there are plenty of buyers quite happy to help me do it.

Hill’s words ring loudly in my ears these days: Choose to buy less. Seems pretty simple, but I admit to the struggle. It’s so easy to get carried away in the face of a good deal. After all, if one is a bargain, two or three should just improve the deal, right?

Consider this before you answer too quickly: In 2019, there were 47,863 self-storage facilities in the United States, up from 45,547 facilities in the previous year—more than 2.2 billion rentable square feet of space (78 square miles), boasting $22.6 billion in annual revenues. The way I see it, if you have to rent storage space because your stuff will not fit into your home, you probably have too much stuff.

Stop buying so much stuff. Before you make the decision to buy something, ask yourself if you don’t already have something that will do just as well. Or if you won’t use it often, is this something you could rent or borrow?

Sure, the shoes are adorable, but isn’t your closet already bursting at the seams? Pare down, cut back. You’ll simplify your life and have more money.

I could not possibly say it any better than Hill, whose success in this area of living with less I find so refreshing: “Intuitively, we know that the best stuff in life isn’t stuff at all, and that relationships, experiences, and meaningful work are the staples of a happy life.”

Mary Hunt
Mary invites you to visit her at EverydayCheapskate.com, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at https://www.everydaycheapskate.com/contact/, “Ask Mary.” This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book “Debt-Proof Living.” COPYRIGHT 2022 CREATORS.COM
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