First World Regrets
How does anyone do this? I’m just 25 years old, yet in those short 25 years I’ve assembled an extraordinary number of small regrets to overanalyze. At a moment’s notice, my mind is ready to go rogue and ruin my focus and mood, dredging my memories and pulling up body after dead body.
Too many of these regrets have to do with my time and money.
- “Remember when you bought your home and paid $7,000 in points on the mortgage? Then sold it after a little over a year? Look at how well the housing market has done since then! Oh, and you’re renting? You’re never going to have the money to live the life you want now. And where’s that Tiny House you were living in now?”
- “Remember when you moved to Seattle? Then to California? Then back to Seattle? Remember how many days you spent packing, driving, and at the DMV? Remember how much effort was spent and money wasted? You’re throwing that time away.”
- “Remember how your siblings are all going to graduate school, paid for without student loans? They’ll be way smarter or making more money than you in a few years. Or both.”
Time and Money. But mostly money- you know, that thing I say I don’t care about.
I’m 25- I’ve got lots of time. 40 years of time left is conservative; 60+ is more likely.
- “Yeah, there’s plenty of race left. Good luck making up that lead though.”
I’m white, male, come from a well off family, and got great grades and honors in school, and give a mean handshake. It’s not worth bragging about, but I’m uber-employable. I’m in a D.I.N.K. family (look it up if you need to). I started my own company 5 months ago and am making money, although not as much as I’d like.
- “Yeah, but good luck catching up to those Amazon employees. They’re always going to make more money than you are. Good thing you won’t need to bid against them for a home- oh wait, you sold your home, didn’t you?”
I know my mind’s voice is a bit unreasonable, and more than a bit of a dick. But how can we shut him up, and where do we go from here?
One way would be to look on the bright side- taking the same decisions I berate myself for and crafting a more positive narrative.
- “Remember how alive you felt when you walked Downtown? You can live there now! You can live anywhere you want!”
- “Remember what your mom said after you and your wife moved to California? ‘I feel like I didn’t know Jessica until you moved down here- I’m so glad I know her now’”
- “Remember what you said about grad school, and how you’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur and build a business that gives you more freedom and decision making power- kind of like the business you’re running now?”
Taken this way, I’m trying to beat my regretful mind at its own game. I’m screaming good choice as loud as I can, trying to drown out my regretful mind’s screams of bad decision! I’m not sure who will win, but I have a feeling that there is a better way.
This Week’s Challenge:
This post isn’t about regrets themselves- my regrets are minor. This is about the mental game. If we can’t control our minor regrets, how will we function when things really take a turn for the worse?
Do you have problems with regret, over-analysis, and rumination? If you struggle with this, let me know in the comments. If you don’t, why do you think that is, and do you have any wisdom to share?
or: Why I have to carry my dog up a ladder twice daily.
Our bedroom is lofted 7 feet off the ground, and accessible only by ladder or heroic pull-up, because for the past year I have lived in a tiny house. This tends to get people very excited-they’ve seen pictures, and TV shows, and magazine articles about tiny houses they say. I have marveled at those same pictures, and I too have squinted at the background, knowing there must be a second tiny house somewhere where these smiling people are keeping all of their actual stuff (my “second tiny house” is the basement of my parents and in-law’s homes. I suspect I am not alone in this.)
Despite having somewhere to stash a few boxes, my tiny house is not clean. At best, it is obsessively and meticulously organized, which is realistically the only way to organize a 160 square foot space occupied by a dog and two adults. I adore every crammed and cluttered 160 square feet of my small home. I can’t claim I’m “living simply”, but I have learned at least three things I think we can all apply to simplifying and downsizing, whether “tiny” for you is 160 or 1,600 square feet.
Tiny Houses force you to prioritize. I love to buy things, and I can’t be the only one who has a snowboard, wetsuit, tent and backpack, electric piano… you get the picture. No matter what my closet square footage is, I only have 24 hours each day to do what I want to do. Having more options than hours guaranteed that I would stay mediocre at my myriad of passions. Living in a small space doesn’t fix this, but the lack of deep closets does force you to face this problem head-on. What are you truly passionate about, and what will you spend your time doing?
Tiny Houses force you to get your **** together. Literally. Living partly off-grid means using, and emptying, a composting toilet. Emptying a full composting toilet should always be #1 on your to-do list. It’s not just toilets- a small home forces you to finish whatever you start. Washing dishes can’t be postponed if you only have 1 sink, and projects can’t be abandoned if you only have one table. It’s the exact opposite of “out of sight, out of mind”, and like many things that drive me crazy, I know this is good for me.
Tiny Houses force you to go outside. Our homes are comfortable, but being able to watch an entire season of Walking Dead without leaving your sofa is a bad thing if Rick and Carl keep you from seeing the world. (Side note: Laurie has been intentionally excluded. We all know why.) I think a healthy dose of claustrophobia and restless leg syndrome is exactly what we all need to get out and do something meaningful. If it feels too easy to settle into a routine and stop trying to achieve your travel dreams, eliminating your rent or mortgage may just be the push you need to leave home and do something magical.
If this reflection resonated with you, or I you have any questions about living in a Tiny House, hit me up in the comments or @SimpleHedgehog.
This post is less about stuff, and more about focus, but lets start with the stuff. If you’re like me, most of your closets are at capacity, and when it comes time to move, the piles that come out of those closets are overwhelming.
The funny part is, the reason most of this stuff was in the closet in the first place is that my wife and I don’t use it much. Sure, in the front of the closet we’ve got camping gear and brewing gear that we use occasionally, but if you dig a bit farther back you get to the really weird stuff. Weird like a box of all our Halloween costumes since 2009, or broken and obsolete electronics we didn’t even know we still had. Most of the stuff entered our lives silently, through questionable purchases, gifts from friends, or the ‘free’ section of Craigslist (always a great deal, right?). The problem was, once the sparkle of having a new ‘something’ wore off and we decided we wouldn’t be using it very often, we chucked it through the closet door instead of the front door.
The biggest impact this stuff has, besides making us feel forced to buy a bigger house with more storage and more upkeep costs, is that it causes us to lose focus. Pouring out all the boxes in the living room felt like we were sorting through the belongings of some forgetful great-aunt, not two 23 year olds in full possession (or at least I’d like to think full possession) of their wits. There were two unused bottles of water-proofing spray, one purchased just 2 months before. Opening a drawer of electronics exposed 2 cable cords, a cable splitter, 4 ethernet cords, and 4 audio cords (that’s just the stuff in storage, all our electronics in our home were already hooked up with the needed cords).
Having all our stuff spread out between multiple closets and drawers made it seem like we never had what we needed; having everything dumped out on the floor made it clear that we had too much to possible use. So, we started giving away just about everything. It was hard at first, because when we got most of these things we had a very real intention to use them, but at some point in the ‘everything must go’ process you hit a tipping point, and it becomes very easy to toss that bag of high school concert tees into the Goodwill bin.
Here’s the trick you have to remember: the stuff you never use is making it harder for you to find what you need and love. The stuff is forcing you to spend your time digging through drawers and shuffling down the ‘home organization’ aisle at Home Depot, instead of pursing your passion, your ‘One Thing’. The stuff is diverting your focus from what you want to do, what you need to do, to be happy and successful.
This Week’s Challenge:
Pick a room and empty out all the storage and drawers. The bedroom, or wherever you keep your clothing, is a great place to start. Then, with the help of a friend or partner, take a look at each item before you put it back. If it is an item of clothing, PUT IT ON. It’s a lot harder to talk about how important something is when your friend/partner is laughing at how ridiculous you look (maybe it was in the back of the closet for a reason after all). If something doesn’t work for you, immediately toss it into a box marked “Goodwill”, or if it is expensive and hardly worn, “Poshmark” or a similar clothing reseller. Sell everything you don’t want and need. Go with your gut, and don’t talk yourself out of it; once something is in the box, it stays in the box.
Feel free to post comments and pictures of what you’ve gotten rid of! My current tally: 8 boxes to clothing bank or goodwill, and about $1400 from Craigslist. I’m accepting challengers ;).