I moved to Thailand back in 2017. I did so with just two bags.
Two bags held all of my physical possessions.
A move halfway across the world isn’t easy. But it is much more difficult and expensive if you’re trying to lug a bunch of unnecessary stuff with you.
Meanwhile, I didn’t even have to check my luggage.
I stepped on a plane with everything that I owned. And I stepped off that plane with the same two bags. That made the move abroad incredibly smooth. It was seamless.
And in the two years since moving abroad, I’ve scaled down even more.
I’ve been a minimalist for years. But it wasn’t something that I forced myself into adapting. There was no sacrifice involved. Minimalism came about naturally as I started down the path to FIRE.
Once you start to recalibrate how you look at time and money, and once you start to think carefully about what truly adds value to your life, you realize that an overabundance of stuff is this physical barrier keeping you from being more free in your life.
A lot of stuff weighs you down. Physically and figuratively.
The journey to financial independence was a simultaneous journey to a minimalist balance in my life. I lightened my load. And by doing so, I reduced burdens and obligations. I became freer.
Minimalism isn’t about the money. It’s actually not even about minimizing, per se. It’s instead about maximizing everything that truly matters to you.
Purging stuff is physically, mentally, and financially freeing.
I’m now down to what can fit inside of one duffel bag and a small briefcase.
Owning so little, yet being so free, feels amazing. And owning so little helped me direct more of my resources toward bettering my financial self, which resulted in financial freedom. That’s something I lay out in my best selling books: The Dividend Mantra Way and 5 Steps To Retire In 5 Years.
Of course, this did not happen overnight. There were countless smaller steps to get to this point. It took years to get here.
But what I own now, in the physical realm, is only what I deem to be essential. Think clothing, my laptop, toiletries, and a few important documents.
All of that which isn’t essential is inessential. It’s superfluous. And if it’s superfluous, I see no point in keeping it.
By minimizing that which weighs me down, I’ve maximized that which lifts me up.
I’ve never been freer than I am now. I’ve also never been happier.
In getting to this position in life, I’ve developed a neat little rule.
I call it my “30-day rule”.
What is it?
Well, it’s simple.
If I haven’t touched, looked at, or used something within the last 30 days, I get rid of it.
There’s a basic truth at work here.
If I’m not touching, looking at, or using something, it’s not serving my life any essential and recurring value.
Thus, it’s inessential, or redundant. Thus, I see no reason to hold on to it and weigh me down.
I think you’d be surprised at how little you actually use on a regular basis, as well as how much you have sitting around collecting dust.
There’s very little that serves my life a ton of recurring, everyday value.
I wear clothes. I use toiletries. My laptop is obviously of immense importance to me.
Beyond that, there’s simply not much that I use on a regular enough basis to warrant keeping in any capacity.
Now, I do make some exceptions.
Anything that offers unique and significant value on an irregular basis, I’ll keep.
But context is important.
For example, the very duffel bag that I can fit most of my stuff in is the best example of an exception in my own life.
I might not use that bag often. But when I do need it (such as when traveling), it’s very important that I have it on hand.
Since executing this neat rule, I was surprised to find out how much unnecessary and unwarranted stuff I still had – even after becoming a pretty hardcore minimalist over the course of more than five years.
I only brought two bags of stuff to Thailand. That might seem extreme. Yet there was still waste in there.
In those bags contained things like my high school diploma, pictures that I hadn’t looked at in years, and even a magazine that featured me in an interview.
When was the last time I touched, looked at, or used my high school diploma?
I mean, we have to go back to high school graduation (besides when I touched it to pack it) for that.
It’s silly to keep something so inessential. Take a picture of it if you need to hold on to the memory.
Sure, something like a diploma is small. It doesn’t weigh much. But it’s the principle of the matter. Little things add up over time. And the aggregate can quickly become unruly.
It’s a diploma here. A document there. An extra pair of shoes over in the yonder.
Starts off innocent enough.
But pretty soon, you have a gigantic pile of unnecessary crap in your life.
Avalanches start with a single snowflake. You have to be mindful of how quickly the unnecessary can get out of hand.
I’m not here to convince you of anything. I’m sure that most of you have plenty of stuff that would most certainly fail the 30-day rule.
And that’s okay.
But it might be worthwhile for you to at least apply the rule to your situation and see what shakes out.
You may find the results useful enough to get rid of a few things that are totally wasteful and not adding any value to your everyday life.
Even being 1% freer is better than nothing!
Better yet, though, you might find the experience gratifying and uplifting enough to continue until you’re left with only the essential.
What do you think? Ever apply a rule like this to your stuff? Interested in trying it out?
Thanks for reading.
P.S. If you’re interested in achieving financial independence, which usually involves minimalism, check out some awesome resources that I personally used on my way to becoming financially free at 33!