I just did morning yoga, now I’m sipping coffee and observing the caffeine begin to flow through my veins. Coffee is great.

I flew from New York back to Chicago on Monday night. I’m staying with my family for the holidays. We’ll be celebrating Christmas, and for New Years my grand parents are taking us all up to an isolated quaint old ski lodge that we’ve frequented for a number of years. There are few people up there, so it is quiet.

It’s a good time to reflect before the next year. In fact, I already find myself reflecting.

A reflection on Buddhists and stuff

There were three Buddhist monks on the plane from LaGuardia to O’Hare. Two men in their mid-twenties and a ten year old boy.

Buddhist monks don’t carry anything with them except a small satchel. In comparison, it was funny to watch all of the Americans lugging their giant rolling suitcases out of the overhead bins, and then half of them stroll down to luggage where they pick up the other rolling suitcase they couldn’t bring on the plane with them.

I’m carrying only half a backpackers’ bag full of clothes these days, with a yoga mat strapped to the side, plus a laptop bag with a couple of books in it. I still felt like I had too much stuff.

What if you traveled with nothing?

Can you imagine what it would be like to simply fly from New York to Chicago with just a satchel bag?

I think it’s important to regularly reflect about which of the things you carry with you are essential. Which possessions do you absolutely need?

Think about how easy it would be to move if you had only the essentials. How easy it would be to go on vacation. How easy it would be to change your job, because you wouldn’t need to pay for a huge house or rent a large apartment anymore.

I’m living this life, and I think you can too.

Here are two ways I would like you to consider thinking about the stuff that you own.

1, What would you bring with you, if you had to leave now?

Say in a hypothetical situation you wanted or needed to leave your house at this exact moment. What would you bring with you? You have to go right now! There’s no time to sit around and mull over the decision.

Here’s my list:
5 shirts, 5 underwear, 5 pairs of socks, 1 pair of jeans. Suitable jacket for overnight weather at my destination. iPhone, iphone charger. Moleskin. Cash, credit cards, and ID.

If it was an emergency: sleeping bag, tent, any food available in my area, water bottle.

Less urgent situations: I’d bring my laptop.

Obviously this is a rather small list, but I actually don’t own many more things than this.

Think about what you would bring with you, if you had to leave now. Make a list. Maybe even pack a bag and see how heavy it would be. Consider if you had to walk 50-100 miles with that bag. Does it still seem doable?

This is a good mental list to have ready to go, you never know when the zombie apocalypse might happen –though this is probably very unlikely. You also never know when you might want to set off on an adventure, and these are always more fun when you’re not dragging to rolling suitcases and a backpack with you.

2, Consider adopting a 1-month rule.

I have a solid 1-month rule for everything I own. In addition to the 100-things rule. This means that I have to use everything I own at least once a month.

If it doesn’t get used at least once in a month, it goes in an ‘outbox’. Depending on how much stuff I have at any given time, the outbox is either a real box, or a mental list that I have.

When I have time, I take a look at the box and I ask myself some serious questions:

  1. Will I use this next month?
  2. What purpose does it serve in my life?
  3. Do I need this professionally?
  4. Does anyone I know need this more than me?
  5. Can I get another one of these in three years if I discover I need one again?
  6. Do I use this seasonally?

After 30 seconds of deliberation, I bring the items to vote. They either stay or they go. They’re either useful or they are not.

Then I give the items to someone who would find them useful, I donate them to an organization who can use the items, or if all else fails I recycle or discard the item.

This is a little extreme for some people, but I think it’s worth contemplating. What would pass this test if you were to ask this of every object you own?

I know some people who have a piano in their living room that they haven’t used in 10 years. In fact, they never learned how to play the piano. How much freer would their lives have been if they had decided they didn’t need it?

I know some people who have three cars that don’t work in their backyards.

I know people who keep all of their college textbooks, even though they are never going to pick them up again.

Reflect on the true cost of stuff.

People feel that just because they spent money on an object that they have to keep carrying it with them, the problem is, over time the cost of an item becomes greater. The longer you live with an item, the longer you have to provide for it.

If you have 1,000 items, you need more house. If you have 10,000 items, you need even more house, and probably some storage too. What if you only needed a house with one room, how much less would you spend on your living situation?

Considering the true cost of every item in your life can make you realize just how much you’re responsible for, and just how much you are holding back your life by not taking this opportunity to slim down your belongings.

Imagine if you had a life where you could put everything you own on your back and just leave.

You would have many more options than you do now.

You could live anywhere. You could work from anywhere.

The possibilities are infinite, why not try it? Or at least think about it.

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