Living Outside The Box Born-Again Techo-Geek Renaissance Man

9Oct/130

The Story of Stuff

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

Sad reality check of the day: we have too much stuff. Specifically, *I* have too much stuff. I'm preparing myself for a massive personal minimizing, and hopefully, it will help motivate my family to do the same. You can believe what you want about ecology and conservation, but I definitely agree we're consuming too much, and I'm going to start with myself.

If you remember my post on the difference between Minimizing, Frugality, and Simplicity, you'll remember "Simplicity" is our goal, not just getting rid of everything... minimizing is just a means to an end. Once I've de-cluttered my surroundings, I can focus on what's important... family, music, and writing.

I'm going to try to document stuff as I get rid of it, and possibly will use the Ebay Mobile app to get rid of the more, um... "interesting" bits of hardware I have laying around.

Lastly, here's an interesting video to get you thinking about all our "stuff."

13Sep/130

One-A-Day (More like monthly)

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

I haven't posted a one-a-day minimizing picture in a while. It's not because I haven't been minimizing, it's just that I've been too busy trying to think up other things to post about, and I don't minimize as much as I would like. I do still get rid of things, though. Quite a bit, actually.

Last week, we cleared out four bags of old clothes, and our broken flat screen TV (which we're not replacing). Also got rid of a spare computer we had, and a bunk bed we weren't using. So yes, we're making progress. I think there's more there. We've got boxes upon boxes of books, toys, magazines (still!) and more clothes we can get rid of. I can't walk into my closet yet, but it's better.

What to do with the extra space? Well, I've got plans for that, actually. I want to set up some musical instruments- guitars, keyboards, drum pads, violin, etc.- so me and my kids can jam whenever we want. This is a totally worthy cause, and I'm going to do everything I can to make this happen.

14Aug/130

Less Is More: Graham Hill

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

What happens when you sell an internet startup for millions, and you're in your early 30's?

You get a small house and live comfortably.

12Aug/130

Stick To What You Know, A.K.A. “Less Is More”

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

Life is funny. Since Google shut down their RSS Reader feed, I discovered RSS is a pretty slick way to compile and review bunches of excellent blogs. I didn't even know what the fuss was about until I heard all these people complaining about how convenient it was, so naturally, my curiosity got the better of me.

I started following all kinds of blogs, from friends and people I respected. As I looked through my list last night, I discovered most of them have a common thread. This caught me off-guard at first, but the more I thought about it, the more I knew why. They almost all have something to do with non-traditional living.

So what does this have to do with me?

Well, I have a blog, too (shocking, I know). What good is it if I just post occasional rantings here? A few people like reading what I write, but it's not doing much other than that. What if I could combine all the things I have experience with in ways people could actually use, and then post them up here to help other people get to where I'm at?

Well, yeah, that's a no-brainer. I've already got a few articles on how to do things, but I haven't tied them in to anything specific. I've just been posting whatever comes off the top of my head, which sometimes is interesting, and sometimes isn't.

So starting today, I'm going to start tying all these things together with a common thread: living a non-traditional, debt-free Godly life, and using that freedom to turn around and bless other people, because that's what God wants His followers to do.

Let's face it. Who wouldn't want to donate thousands of dollars to charities? I mean good charities, not the ones that are business cover-ups. Who wouldn't feel great about being able to genuinely help people who need it? But most people don't, because they allowed themselves to get to a place where they spend everything they have, and nothing is left over.

I'm here to tell you that there's no reason you can't retire early with what you're making now, and spend the rest of your life doing whatever the heck you want to. All it takes is lowering your cost of living to the point where you can put a decent amount into a retirement fund, and then work a little while and let it build up.

Spend less, save more. Sounds easy, right?

It works exactly like losing weight (which I've also done). Your calorie intake has to be less than your output, or you will never- I repeat, never- lose weight.

"But that's uncomfortable!" you say. "Why can't I eat and spend what I want?" Well, you can. But you won't lose weight, and you won't become free from debt. You choose.

Still with me? Okay, this is where it gets interesting. I'm here to help you find ways to do more with less, using stuff I have experience with. We're going to lay out a few things you'll need on your journey to "Less Is More." Almost everything I'm going to recommend is either free, or ridiculously cheap.

Resources You Should Be Reading

You can't change your life without at least a little direction. If you're serious about wanting to change your life for the better, you should start by reading Dave Ramsey's The Total Money Makeover. (Here's a hint: borrow it for free from the library!) Dave breaks it down into seven "Baby Steps" but you shouldn't be discouraged. This is how I got started!

The basics, for Those Who Can't Wait:

  1. Save $1000 for emergencies. Do what it takes to get there*, and don't touch it!!
  2. Snowball your debt, i.e. pay off the smallest debt you have**, then move on to the next biggest one until they are all gone.
  3. Once your debt is gone, use the money you saved from credit payments to save 6 month's of income in the bank.
  4. One that's done, invest at least 15% into your 401K and/or a Roth IRA***
  5. College Funds for Children. This is optional.
  6. Pay off your mortgage. Without dropping your retirement investments****
  7. Build wealth and give. This isn't really a step, per se, it is the goal!

*If you can't save $1000, then lower your cost of living until you can.
**If you can't pay off the smallest debt, lower your cost of living until you can.
***If you can't invest 15% into retirement, lower your cost of living until you can.
****If you can't put money down on the principal of your mortgage, well... you know.

Seriously, it's a very simple equation. Money in > money out. If you can't increase your money income, then lower your money output. It's just that simple.

"Ah!" you say with a frown. "I can't lower my standard of living!"

Well, yes you can, unless you're already homeless. You just don't want to. But you do want to be debt-free, right? Wouldn't it be nice to not have to work until you're 75, and then pass on debt to your kids?

"Sure, doesn't everybody?" you say.

Right. But what are you willing to give up now in order to be able to do that later? Cable TV? Hobbies? Eating out? Designer clothes? New cars? Chances are you have at least one of those things. If you do, and you're still in debt, you should stop right now and think. There are tons of websites and blogs to give you ideas as to how to save money.

I can see you're upset, so I'm going to just leave you with these words...

Less is More.

7Mar/130

Simplicity Undefined

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

I thought I'd do something different today, and post up a link to an excellent article written by a friend, Stephanie Stevens. In my quest to simplify my life, I've come across a lot of challenges, and she addresses some of them in her blog post, What Simplicity Isn't: 4 Things. I highly recommend reading it, as I hope it will make you stop and think about what we've come to think of as "simplifying" in today's world.

I personally have had difficulty separating "simplicity" from "frugality" and "minimalism."  They aren't the same. I've caught myself using these words interchangeably, but the truth is simplicity doesn't always mean the least amount of stuff.

In the past, I was forced to be frugal out of necessity. I fixed my own car, built my own computers, put together my own bikes out of spare parts, used every trick I could to save money. This isn't simplicity! I was always stressed about these jobs, because I couldn't afford to just get it fixed.

Years later I still do most of these things, but I've come to realize it's out of habit, not because I need to any more. God has blessed me to where I can call up a mechanic and have them fix my car without worrying about how we're going to get groceries. I can just pop on Amazon and get a tool I need to make a job easier and faster. I don't have to buy the cheapest washing machine, and deal with the fact that it'll break down constantly. I'm slowly coming to grips with the fact that cheaper isn't always simpler or easier.

Now before you can spit your gourmet coffee, yell "DUH!" and slap yourself in the forehead, let me explain. My wife and I both came from relatively poor families. I was taught (and rightly so) that you shouldn't waste money. But as I've grown, I've come to realize the benefits of using money as a tool to get things done to simplify life and save time. I'm past the point where I feel the need to build and fix everything. It just takes too long, causes too much stress, and isn't worth the time if I can spend a bit more to get it done quickly.

I still enjoy building bikes and computers, though I haven't built a computer in a few years. I'm only going to do those things if I enjoy them, though. Why would I stress over it? Either I can do it myself, or I can't... and if I can't, and I can have somebody else do it much more efficiently, then why not?

Simplicity. What does it cost you? Is it worth it? Do you enjoy it?

Is Minimalism really the answer to simplifying your life? They are not always one and the same.

Is it your surroundings or your mental effort that needs to be simplified?

Where do you draw the line between a "life of ease" and "simplicity?" Where do you need to be?

18Jan/130

Redefining Yourself

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

I've decided to do something radical. No, not a tattoo (though that would be wild for me).

I'm going to cut back massively on my online presence.

No, seriously. I've spent the last 20 years building up my online presence, developing connections, and working on spreading myself all over the internet. And I'm pretty much over it.

I've begun deactivating online accounts I rarely use, including Pinterest, Brainbench, and several others. I'm unsubscribing from all the dumb mailing lists. I'm leaving the huge lists of forums I used to visit. I'm reconsidering my involvement with social media, including Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. More and more, I find myself disgusted with what I have to put up with using these services, and less and less am I finding joy in using them.

I'm hoping that it will free up my brain to make room for more important things like spending time writing, updating my blog, recording music, and spending time with my family. All worthy causes.

I do realize, of course, that I will have to maintain at least one online presence. Most likely I will keep one social media outlet as well (and there's plenty of reasons it probably won't be Facebook). But the truth is, these things don't define me, and I don't need them to live a happy, fulfilled life. Twenty years ago, I was better off without them, and I believe you were too, if you happen to be old enough to remember life before the internet.

Morpheus

It is a gradual process. Places like Facebook make it extremely difficult to leave, but it is indeed possible.

Wish me luck.

20May/120

Frugality Defined

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

Okay, I admit it. I stink at being frugal. Now, granted, I've done a lot of minimizing in the last year or so, so I'm not totally inexperienced at it. The sad truth remains, however: I stink at it. Why? Because I like stuff.

"Hi, my name is Jeff, and I'm a stuff-aholic."

I'd like to blame my upbringing, but the truth is it's my own fault. I just like stuff! This will probably be my downfall in the grand scheme of things, but I'm still stuck with the problem of "How do I live frugally if I like stuff?"

I don't have all the answers, obviously, but I'm willing to work through it. Bear with me, it will be a bumpy ride.

So, today's One-A-Day simplifying project was redo my entertainment center (this alone is enough to send frugal people packing!) I had it thrown together with all kinda of wires, remotes, stuff that was disconnected, and so forth. It needed to be organized.

I ended up removing the computer I had attached to it (we use the Wii to watch Netflix shows now, that's eliminating something!) and removed the cables for it. I added wheels and cooling fans to the cabinet (for easy cleaning and keeping the devices cool). I painted the bare wood spots, redid all the wiring with zip-ties, and mounted all the boxes (power bricks, network hub, etc.) so nothing has to be moved. You unplug a couple of wires, and the entire center rolls away for cleaning, temporary rearranging, etc. This project took me a few hours, but I think it will help keep things more orderly. As far as simplifying, well... heh. I'm working on it.