Sorry horror movie fans, this isn’t a write up on having one night a year of complete lawlessness. Lawlessness does come in handy as a moniker when parsing lifestyle inflation and consumerism though. When Mrs. OG 2 and I came to the realization that I would retire in a handful of years, we also stumbled upon the concept of FI. Along with that came the perspective of what things/items would make the move to our new retirement hometown, Charleston, SC. Couple this with the cliché of ‘Do you own things or do your things own you’, we set out to PURGE our house. The rule was simple: If we don’t use it now OR it won’t be making the move the dream home, it has to go.
We Own What?
The realization of gluttony was staggering. As part of the FI journey, I cut out the lawn crew and set out for my youngest and I to do it ourselves. This was easy enough, but I lamented to OG1 that I would need to purchase a string trimmer and an edger in order for us to perform the same job as the lawn crew. Low and behold, as I sold off stuff in the shed, I already had the items from the days before the lawn company. I still find it astonishing that I could completely forget owning things.
It didn’t stop there. We had toys in their original packaging meant for our grade school boys, who are now teenagers. There were items that we didn’t even know why they were purchased. Not surprisingly, there were duplicates and triplicates of items. I found no less than a dozen car charger USB adapters. A DOZEN. That’s more than all of my vehicle outlets combined.
Sell, Gift, Garbage, Repeat
The first step may be identifying what to get rid of, but then you have to figure out what to do with it all. This led us to try and sell this stuff. We have predominantly used Facebook Marketplace. I don’t know if this is the case with other platforms, but what I’ve found is that 8 out of 10 people flake out on purchases. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve received a message ‘Is this still available?’, to which I respond ‘Yes’… and then never hear from that person again. I’ve fiddled with Let Go and Offer Up, but haven’t had much success. Of course ebay is available, as well as Craigslist, but we haven’t gone down those paths just yet.
Then there’s the junk. Stuff that just has no value. Which in and of itself begs the question why we were keeping it. Finally, donations. This has primarily been to our church and Goodwill. Finally, repeat. I mean sometimes things won’t sell, is too good to throw away or may not have an obvious charitable source to donate. Also, creep. I already know that once a set of drawers have been cleared, there is a fair chance ‘stuff’ may magically make their way back. An audit will be performed!
Mrs. OG2’s Clothing Store
You could not fit one more item on a hanger on my wife’s side of the master closet. Nor anything else on a shelf or carpeted space on the floor. In fact, her clothes have been migrating to my side of the closet the past few years. I stopped putting her laundered clothes away because I could no longer discern any organizational strategy as to where items were supposed to go.
The time for the Purge to invade here side of the closet had come. I’ve heard several versions of how to pare down your clothing to just what is actually needed. One idea is to turn all of your hangers backwards. The theory is as you use an item, the hanger would go back to correct way. After a year, toss everything with the hanger still backwards.
I chose the method of taking ALL of Mrs. OG’s clothes out of the master bedroom and into a guest bedroom. As she uses an item, it’s allowed to return to the master bedroom. Anything still in the guest room after a year, leaves the house forever. This paired with our now frugal spending, will result in a manageable closet. I will warn the spouses out there, I used a slow approach on this one. I brought it up in conversations over the course of several months. Even teasing that I would do the move all by myself when she was out of town. Which is precisely what I did.
While the wife’s away, the Purge will Play
While she was on a business trip to London, I spent several hours moving all of her clothes. In conjunction, I had a trip to Florida that overlapped her return. Thus, I wasn’t in town when she discovered my ‘assistance’ to declutter her clothes. Just as with the other areas of the Purge, there wasn’t a shortage of items with the tags still attached.
Here’s a tip: Make sure the shelving in the guest closet is braced or reinforced to the same degree as the master closet. In my haste, I did not remember adding additional support bars 17 years ago when we moved into the house. The result? A loud BOOM from the guest room. I was only a 1/3 of the way through the move, when the weight of the clothes on hangers brought the guest room closet shelf crashing down. $20 and a trip to Lowe’s fixed that issue. I didn’t feel very FI at that moment.
Surprisingly, she took it all in stride when she arrived home and has adhered to the plan. Only the things she has worn have come back into the master closet. Slow and steady wins the race.
Our goal is to allow this process to unfold over a year so as not to feel overwhelmed. In the end, I kid you not, we will have freed up nearly 1000 square feet of space in the house. 3 guest rooms and a finished 3rd floor will practically be empty, minus some beds.
OG1 here…With the financial stuff in motion, my wife and I began to look for optimizations and I observed a certain flow to the mental exercise of determining what has value in your life.
From my perspective, the flow goes something like this:
What do I value and how are those values reflected in the reality that surrounds me?
I value my family, my friends and my life experiences among them.
I value time to be creative in my shop
I value my library
I value my memories (And mementos of those experiences)
And I have a couple of material items that I just plain enjoy owning
Strip me of all other things and I’m not sure that I would care.
With the above and a look around my life, I realized there is a simple place to start and I went straight for the easy money of my hobby accumulation!
If you are any sort of collector, you can likely sense the emotions that can come with the idea of letting go of a lifetime path of accumulating. Hopefully these notes can help with your personal approach.
First, the topic of this post is in relation to collectible firearms. If you are highly emotional on the topic, maybe this isn’t a good post for you to read.
That said, there is something to be said for a hobby interest in guns, in that the stuff simply holds its value. In direct opposition to many other hobbies which suck money like a black hole and depreciate, guns and their accessories can generally recover their costs when the circumstances change and it’s time to move the stuff to a new home.
I happen to be in a bit of a niche realm in that I have a specialty interest in old machine guns…Think Gatling guns, with hand-cranked actions such as the Gardner, Nordenfelt and Hotchkiss guns. I have been an avid researcher on the manually-operated era of guns for almost 30 years now and the journey has led me to an accumulation of very interesting stuff that had little to no direct relation to the main interest. That pile has a lot of value that is now being applied to my FI journey.
First some personal boundaries on the approach to guide the process and minimize the emotional pain that is sure to come with ‘letting go’. I am fully aware that most of the things I get rid of will never come along again so it’s a one-way trip. I learned these boundaries from two types of collectors that I’ll call the ‘Master Accumulator’ and the ‘Master Collector’.
The ‘Master Accumulator’ is owned by their collection. This is the person with the staggering collection and the quality of life of a cockroach. I have met several and it was easy for me to choose not to do this. One’s family loathed his collection and I sympathized as they clearly paid for the collection with their life. I had long decided that I would never have a material item that took my loved one’s quality of life in exchange. If you are this person, I suspect your values will never place you in line for FI. I learned from this group that I don’t want to value things above the people I love.
The ‘Master Collector’ is the collector with great purpose. NOTHING is allowed in without a purpose. I suspect they are also not likely to move to FI because there is real and personal meaning in the assembly of the collection. It is a bit of a life’s mission for them. I learned from this group that my collection should have meaning and that anything outside of that should be let go. My collection is now being reduced to items that are focused and have zero impact on the lifestyle choices on those I love.
If you are on the FI path as a collector, you almost certainly don’t fall into the above categories and so there is hope in transitioning some stuff to support your FI. Here is what I am doing:
I’ve made the decision to ‘let go’…To help, I physically wrote the above list of things I value and I am applying that as I cull the herd. For every item, I am asking why it is there. If I don’t have a great answer, it is moved to the pile of finding another collector. No quarter is being given as I see this as my attempt to buy my life and the TIME I want for doing the things that I value. That sense of urgency (time is running out!) is a help, especially when the emotions get tough…I’ve been accumulating this stuff for a long time!
Some fun mental conversations have gone like this:
“Those Maxim bits are extremely rare and would make a great display in the office!
“You need TIME to make the display…you don’t have time.”
“Those bits would finance Roth IRA contributions…It’s a way to buy time.”
“Get in contact with the museum, let them know you will finally sell. Your life will thank you.”
Bit by bit, the herd is being culled. I am starting to envision the end result of a few things that I simply value and enjoy, in a display place that I am designing. And finally, with the promise of time, I am looking to build my collection in a new way. My plan is to actually MAKE the things that I have long sought to FIND and collect. This way, I get a wonderful collection to enjoy and the further enjoyment of knowing that I was the creator of each of the objects!
Now…I just need my FI to help me buy the time!