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As I am making my way down the minimalism path, I find myself thinking that I wish that I had found this path 30 years ago. My life today would be drastically different. I am, however, at a very different place in my life now but back then, I found myself tangled up in the typical American dream – good job, family, big house, new cars and on and on and on and on.
So today’s post is about how things would be drastically different today if I had found minimalism in my early 20’s. Are you ready to travel back in time just a bit? I hope so because if you are just now embarking on the minimalist way of life, I truly believe you will find this insight to be of tremendous value and it may even help you make choices as you embrace this world we live in.
30’s years ago, I was in my early 20’s. I had already been bailed out once by my mom for running up credit cards that the banks and stores were mailing to me just about daily. Growing up, we didn’t have a lot and dad worked very hard at 2 jobs and mom stayed home and raised 4 kids. I’m not saying this is the reason why I went crazy with the credit cards at the mall, but it was the first time I was able to buy whatever I wanted. Going out Friday night? Headed to the mall Thursday to get a new outfit. I hated to wash clothes and would just as soon go to the mall and get something new than to wash the piles upon piles of clothes on my bedroom floor and in the laundry room.
At 18 I was working for a law firm and found out VERY QUICKLY that I did not want anything to do with that business so I switched over to the oil industry. At that time, women didn’t move up as quickly in the corporate world but the company I worked for was very aggressive in promoting women and I quickly made my way up into better and better positions. They sent me back to college and paid 75% of my tuition. I went to a private college so the remaining 25% had to be paid one way or another and voila – student loans were born that would take me years to pay off.
I decided my old Mercury Comet wasn’t suited to my new position and went out and bought my very first new car – a Mercury Capri. I just loved that car. Thought I was all that don’t you know bopping around in my new car. Well guess what? That new car came with a car loan AND an increase in insurance. All of this debt and I hadn’t even moved out of my mother’s house yet.
Married the love of my life when I was 24 and we lived in an apartment that we both loved for several years. Along came my first daughter and the apartment just wasn’t good enough anymore – I wanted a house. At least I thought a little bit when looking for a house and chose a duplex. We rented out one side and only had a small portion of the mortgage that we had to pay but we had new bills with homeowners insurance and property taxes that we hadn’t had before. 4 years later, daughter number 2 arrives and the 2 bedroom, 1 bath side of the duplex we lived in was no longer good enough – at least in my mind. Next? Bought a single family house while renting out both sides of the duplex. We now “own” 2 houses.
The airport came along and by eminent domain took our little bungalow but by that time, we had also rented it out as my husband’s job had us transferred to Miami – where we – you guessed it – BOUGHT ANOTHER HOUSE! If you’re keeping track, now we own 3 houses because when we first moved, house #2 was still ours and rented out. Sounds good on paper doesn’t it? It wasn’t. The house in Miami was much more expensive than the houses we had in Cleveland and our mortgage was MUCH higher along with higher homeowners insurance (thanks to hurricanes) and property taxes (you pay to live in the tropics). Looking back now, I see the warning signs but back them we were in the hamster wheel working to pay the bills and living what seemed like a life dreams were made of. We were teetering and one little slip up could send us over the edge.
It happened. My husband was injured at work. Even though we received worker’s comp and a portion of his salary, we quickly fell further and further behind with only my income to support the family. Credit cards became the go to way for any expense – food, gas, you name it. Another domino effect and we were seriously in debt and didn’t see a way out.
We cut back all expenses and worked with all the credit card companies and eventually paid off all the debt. Did we stay debt free? NO! We moved again and bought another house and built a business from scratch. All is okay now but we are not in the debt free position I imagined we would be at at this time in our lives. Our business is doing extremely well and we have built a warehouse on the land we live on that saves us thousands of dollars in warehouse rent but the business is young and still growing so we must keep a sharp eye on the bottom line. We have goals to have the property paid in full in the next 5 years so we CAN live the minimalist life we dream of.
The moral of this story? Think! Think before you buy ANYTHING. Think before you buy the bigger house or the new car. You really don’t need it and I’ll tell you why. The house we live in now has 4 bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms and the only people that live in it are my husband and myself. Our daughters are out on their own taking care of themselves. If we would have been happy with a smaller house, it would have been paid for and we would not be tied down to a monthly mortgage. Imagine what our bank accounts would look like with just this one small change? Then add in the other changes like NOT buying that new car. NOT going out to dinner 3 times a week. NOT having all the cable channels that we can’t watch at the same time anyway!
Keep checking back for more insights as to why from a 50 year old’s perspective, minimalism is the way to go especially as you start out in life.
For tips on how to begin your decluttering journey, you can Start Here, or snag a copy of the 30 Day Challenge (our Minimalism and Decluttering eBook).