By my 45th birthday, I’m planning to have made a series of changes to benefit my family and create new opportunities for my 50s.
The first wave of change is to downsize, declutter and create space for my family. I do best with simple targets so I have been halving all the externals in my life: cars, clothing, investments, non-family commitments, house size, as well as anything that takes time or sends me a monthly bill.
A helpful resource was this Zenhabits article on decluttering. A good friend of mine has managed a 5:1 downsize ratio over the last two years. I’ve been chipping away since last December – the project seems daunting, generates periodic pain and requires frequent communication so my wife doesn’t think I’ve gone nuts!
I’m most rational about my material life when I’m separated from my possessions. The biggest example of this is my house – when I’m away, the decision to place it on the market is obvious. Sitting in my home office… less so. To have clarity on the life I want to create, my strategic planning is done away from my current life.
The 50% goal gets me focused on sticking with the items that are useful and let’s me keep some useless stuff that I’m not ready to part with. I figure I can go for another 50% reduction when I’m ready.
When I clear out a room, I feel great. Clutter creates background fatigue that’s hidden from view when you’re living in it. I should have followed the ZenHabits tip to take before and after photos for motivation.
My buddy kicked off his decluttering project by renting out his house. I’m going a step further and placing mine on the market. That puts a fixed date for me to get my act together. Five dumpster loads have been taken away so far and I’m only a fifth of the way through the rooms in my house.
On the technology side, I figured I’d shoot for a 50% reduction. I am powerless with the internet so I took the radical step of deactivating Facebook and cutting my Twitter follows by 80%.
I miss my cyber-pals but I don’t miss all the crap in my head. If you follow me on twitter then you’ll notice that my signal to noise ratio has improved considerably in the last six months.
When I have doubts about the change, I remind myself that the things that give my life meaning – helping others, riding my bike and sharing love with my family – none require constant connectivity.
I’ve been spending time with friends that are far more experienced, smart and productive than me. Seeing how highly productive people run their lives helps me lift my game.
The most difficult part is choosing to say “not now” to my friends. This process reminds me of the parable of the shepherd that’s shared in The Alchemist. With a bit of luck, I’ll find the gold that’s buried right here with my family.