I was pretty lucky growing up. My life was not perfect, but I had a roof over my head in a nice neighborhood. I remember having things, but not too many things. My parents did not have much money, especially after they divorced, so my Grandparents provided the extras for us. I had a computer in my home at a young age, which was rare in the late 80’s. I had new shoes at the start of every school year. Clothes that fit me. Stuff like that. What sticks out to me more is what others had that I did not and here I am in my late 30’s just now realizing how much of a problem it was.
Fyi, the photo I used for this blog is a stock photo but the storage at my office is just about as jam-packed with stuff.
When I was young, my Dad and Grandfather both had their own spaces. My Dad’s was the garage, which was unattached to our house. It was like his own little world out there full of tools and fun stuff like that. We went out there to hang out with him as often as we could because it was where Dad was and we wanted to be near him.
My Grandfather built a large shop when I was very young and filled that with machines that he used to make just about anything he wanted. Growing up we would go out there and make our own little things using whatever scraps we could find from the bigger projects. This is where I learned to weld, turn a piece of metal on a lathe, shape something on a mill, and much more. Adult me has a strong desire to return to that part of my childhood. I just want to make stuff.
Though these aspects of my childhood were pretty cool, what I have brought from it into my adult life is the need to have a tool for everything. The tools of my trade are the different technologies I use for work. This ranges the gamut of computers and accessories to cameras and the like. I have acquired a lot over the years for work but my work life and personal life are very closely tied together. Since I own a business, everything that the business is composed of is personally mine. My workspace has been described as by several people as a man cave or a toy room. I have computers, cameras, screens, phones, tablets, and more. All in the name of work.
Just about everything I have I purchased for work and have used it somehow. I have not been reckless in my spending on technology, though I could have gotten by with much less. I have found a way to make my desire for the latest and greatest work for.
I wanted an excuse to always have the latest smartphones and tablets so I created a blog and YouTube channel around that. The same went with cameras so I have a blog and YouTube channel for that as well. I have used these tools to work on building my passive income revenue streams. Nothing wrong there…
I have been noticing a few different things lately and I am going to talk about two of them in this post. The first is the anxiety that things bring into my life.
There have been several times in my life where I have downsized drastically. By drastically, I mean selling everything including my bed. I have done that twice. At one point I could have fit everything I owned in the back of my small truck. Those were the days when I felt most free. I didn’t have much to maintain so I had all of this mental space for creativity and serving. My expenses were pretty low as well so that made it easy to live.
Over the years I have accumulated more than I have ever had. I have a home that is filled with stuff I don’t use or have any real connection to. I have an office overflowing with stuff that goes unutilized. I have still managed to keep my expenses down compared to most of the people I know but I still desire to operate on less. I follow these blogs and YouTube channels on minimalistic lifestyles and desire that for myself. My wife and I have watched the Tiny House shows on Hulu and something inside of us desires that but fears it at the same time. Something tells me much of the rest of our society feels this too because otherwise, these type of shows would not exist.
I have noticed that my office and workspace does not bring me comfort. If anything, I feel anxiety when I am around it. It’s because there is so much here and I feel the need to do something with all of it. I should be doing more with it, right?
So I recognize that the amount of stuff in my life is causing me to be uneasy. I never wanted to have all of the stuff and now here I am with all of the stuff.
The second and more frustrating thing pulling at me is that my children look at everything I have and covet it. My boys especially, come into my office and it’s like a playground. I see in them what I felt when I was their age walking into my Grandfathers shop. It is a place full of things they can’t touch. Of course, I let them use the computers here, but it’s not their playground, it’s mine. They talk about how much stuff they are going to buy when they have money. I remember doing this with my brothers. We would make our list of tools and Go-Kart parts we would buy when we had our own money. As an adult in my early 30’s, I finally purchased that Go-Kart and all of the parts I used to dream about as a child. That Go-Kart sits in my shop covered in dust. It’s been years since I have driven it.
Living in this world and all of its messages is hard enough. You have society telling you that you need all of these things to be happy. These days the cool thing is how much money you have spent in Fortnite on digital character add-ons. Add-ons that do nothing to make you any better at the game. It was like showing up in Jordans when I was in elementary school. At least you could wear your Jordans.
All I am doing is reinforcing the messages of this world to my children with the way I have been living my life. Of course, I could be much worse. I rent a modest home in a nice neighborhood. My wife and I drive cars that are paid in full. I don’t buy many clothes these days, except I do have a t-shirt problem. I don’t even own a suit. Blasphemy!
We could be spending a lot more than we do, but that is not the point. I know that I only have a few years left with my children before what they believe about me is pretty much written in stone. I also believe that the first 7 or so years of a child’s life comprises the structure of their internal owners manual. Their beliefs about themselves and their limitations are founded during these years. That means that my oldest is already beyond that. I have spent a lot of time lately looking into what I have done with those years.
I do not want my kids to believe that their fulfillment will come from the things they obtain. I want them to have things in this world that they can be proud of and that they use. Currently, they have tons of toys, most of which they only use when we threaten to get rid of them because they never use them. My kids live in excess, just like their father.
I have not led by example. My kids are old enough to notice that I have a new phone, tablet, or laptop almost every month. They see the new things I have at my office. Most of them look like a lot of fun, and they are, but what am I teaching my kids?
What I thought I was teaching them is that if they work hard, they can afford to have the fun things they have always wanted. I realize that all they see is the fun things my work has afforded me and not the work that was done to get them. Thankfully we have had some cool conversations about work and the things we buy. My boys are starting to understand how much money things cost. My wife and I do not try to hide this from our kids. Our kids know how much a house costs to live in each month and how much of the month their Dad has to work just to make that happen. They know how many months of saving it took for us to go on a trip and how important saving is.
All I know is that I need to be a better example to my children by showing some restraint. There are a lot of fun things out there, most of which I want. We live in a world where there is a new version of just about everything at least once a year which continuously puts that carrot out in front of us.
I am currently working on going through everything I own. I want to operate on at least 75% less than what I have and I believe that to be obtainable. I do about 95% of my work with about 10% of the things at my office. Imagine having 75% less on your mind every day? Now, of course, I am not thinking about every little item at my office and being anxious over its lack of use, but there is a large part of me that knows there is much more than I need here. My goal by the end of this year is to be rid of as much of it as possible.
I would rather be known as someone who did a lot with a little. I want my kids to grow up knowing that they can achieve a lot without having to have all of the things and that things will not bring them happiness and always make life easier. There is a point where things actually make life harder and less enjoyable. I plan to have my kids take part in my downsizing. I want them to understand why I would get rid of so much that looks so appealing to them. I want us to operate on less so that we have more room within to enjoy each other.
I also recognize that this is going to have to fundamentally change the way I live, the way I think, and the way I project myself as well. Looking at my social media feeds you can see exactly where my problem lies.
I will probably be posting a lot on Facebook Marketplace and will probably have a sidewalk sale of some sort soon that will look like a photography studio going out of business. I am, however, not going out of business. I am simply choosing to operate with only what I need. Let’s challenge each other to live like that rather than try to keep up with those who have more than us.