Happily Welcomed Side Effects

Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Markus Almond of Brooklyn to Mars.

I paid off my last credit card today. I didn’t feel relieved or excited when I serendipitously eliminated my credit card debt. Nor did I flirt with the idea of buying useless things with my freshly available credit. ‘It is what it is,’ I thought as I clicked ‘confirm payment’ and watched the stressful balance disappear to a big black zero.

When I started jettisoning my belongings last year, I didn’t do it for financial reasons. I was in the process of moving into a new apartment. I was tired of lugging around so much stuff. I was tired of unpacking, cleaning, organizing and shopping. I started getting rid of things. I found Joshua’s book Simplify and came across excellent websites like Becoming Minimalist and The Minimalists.

From these inspiring people, I not only learned how to declutter, digitalize and simplify, I also learned how to focus on art, savor healthy relationships and embrace meaningful experiences. There are enormous benefits to living a simple life – financial independence is one of them. But I was unaware of these benefits when I began dragging expensive furniture, clothing and stereo equipment down two flights of stairs to the curb last winter. I just knew that I wanted it gone.

I discovered that once I got rid of stuff, I had very little desire to buy more. Financial independence was a happily welcomed side effect. It was the result of my newly formed skepticism towards material consumption. I now cringe at advertisements and avoid shopping malls. Since my outlook has changed, I’ve watched my debts slowly vanish.

Today I’m sitting in Gantry Plaza State Park in Long Island City, NY. I’m surrounded by willow trees, wild flowers, and the occasional little kid bumping along the boardwalk on a scooter. There are water taxis and fishing boats coasting in the East River and above them is every building on the east side of Manhattan. When the sun starts to set, the greens and browns of the cityscape will gradually fade into a billion dollar light show – a universe of tiny windows flickering on and off as workers leave, lovers come home and janitors shuffle from floor to floor turning lights on and off as they enter and leave.

It’s all beautiful and I haven’t spent a dime today.

If you look closely, you can see little flashes popping on the observation deck of the Empire State Building – tourists too caught up in forgetful excitement to disable their flashes. I hope we can all experience that overwhelming wonder and excitement. I hope we all forget to disable our flashes. Life provides many gifts. Most of them are free.


For more words by Markus Almond, visit brooklyntomars.com. You can also find him on Twitter.

Image: Markus Almond

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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  1. says

    After having downsized and gotten rid of a lot of stuff, the next phase was to find a place for stuff we needed to retain. We moved to a new smaller house. As I was sorting through the papers I needed to store in our new safe, I came across our credit rating from our mortgage app — which I’d never seen before because my husband covered the paperwork end of the deal. Do you know, we have a *lower* score because we have no revolving debt or carried balances? We still had a very good score so that didn’t hurt too much. But the only way to bring it up was to get a credit card and carry a balance. No thank you!

    And I am with you on the mall thing. My office view is of a huge mall. I never go there. Malls make me feel weird!

  2. says

    Wow! It was like reading a story of my own life.

    I could have changed location to Sydney, Australia and replaced your name with mine, and this could have almost been my story.

    Thank you for sharing. I too have become debt free through simplicity, and am almost at the point of reflection – I am almost as far ahead as I was behind.

    Thanks for a great guest post. I look forward to reading more of your work, and enjoying your great pics on your site.

  3. says

    That is an awesome story and thank you for sharing. I found Becoming Minimalist blog from reading more about the guys over at The Minimalists. It’s been a process of mine every week to get rid of things by donating, selling, or trashing. It has been interesting the things that I chose to hold on for so long that have just been collecting dust.

    I used to come up with ‘I might need that for later’ and put it back where it was. Now I ask myself, ‘What value does this bring to my life?’. I’m enjoying and embracing the space that I am creating.


    • Renee says

      I struggle with the “I might need that for later” when I try to declutter. I like how you rephrase that to “What value does this bring to my life?” Thanks for the insight!

  4. Monica says

    I am on the same path. I saw my parents and grandparents struggling with so much stuff taking up time. I didn’t want that to be me. Also, I injured my leg making it harder to clean so I wanted to simplify. And my husband changed jobs so we will be moving. I continue to purge and we are looking for a small easy care house in our new location. Our son is 10 and I want him to enjoy the simple things in life like this author shares.
    I read Joshua’s books as I began this process and I continue to read the blog for encouragement. Thank you!

  5. says

    Beautifully said. Downsizing enabled me to change careers from one which paid the bills to one I am passionate about and feels like my ‘calling’. I am glad my aspirational 30s are over and I am in my simplifying 40s, and I hope that I made the switch in time to teach my daughter a better way to live.

  6. Lauren says

    I am in the process of accomplishing as much of downsizing as I can – having a large furniture reuse sale; paying off last two credit cards; trading expensive gas guzzling car to smarter hybrid; changing from a high paying stressful job even. I can’t wait. Going to live at the beach and enjoy a taste of life for a change !!!!! I have so little time I can’t wear those designer duds anyway!!!

    • says

      Sounds like a good plan to be Lauren – especially living by the beach. I found getting rid of superfluous things is very liberating for me. Sometimes the hardest thing is to let go, but when you do, you feel a weight come off of you.

      Aloha and best of luck!

  7. says

    Congratulations on paying off your credit card and simplifying your life! It is always great to read about people changing their lives in such positive ways. I am in the process of starting a new business and am finding the credit card all too tempting and the all the new things a business needs a little bit overwhelming. However I am lucky to have discovered minimalism a couple of years ago and will try to apply the same principles to my work as I do to my home and family.

  8. Annie says

    Great post! I’m a new reader of Becoming Minimalist and have been working my way through previous posts. I finally reached my breaking point earlier this year and began the journey to simplicity in all aspects of my life. I was inspired and motivated by both financial and emotional reasons. By the end of this year I will have erased my credit card debt and be firmly on a path towards building my savings, a lack of which was stressing me to the point of tears sometimes. Emotionally, I was being consumed by the desire to spend, spend, spend and then getting frustrated when I had no place to put all my stuff, not to mention having to keep it all clean and tidy instead of being free to do what I truly want to do. Thank you for posting this and helping one more person find the support they need to buck the consumerist system!

    • says

      Hello Annie.

      My journey into simplicity has also been motivated by emotions and finances.

      I got myself out of credit card debt this year, and have almost reversed my financial position. That is, I’m almost as far ahead as I was behind. Very exciting.

      Good luck with your journey.

      • Annie says

        Thanks Mark, and congratulations on reaching those goals. It was a tough fight for me, and the holidays make it even harder, but I managed to stay within my budget so that it wouldn’t add to my credit woes. It’s really helpful to know I’m not the only person doing this and to get some good ideas from others who understand the struggle.

        Best wishes for a Happy Holiday Season and a Simply Joyful New Year!

  9. says

    Great content, and beautifully written.

    If you cringe at advertising and consumerism, given your location maybe you can check out Reverend Billy and The Church of Stop Shopping. The fun side of anti-consumerism!

    Thanks for posting this.

  10. says

    About 3 years ago, we sold our possessions and moved our little family to Costa Rica, to live simpler. We moved with 12 bags. The curious thing that you picked up on is that we also DON’T have that affinity to buy more stuff. When we left, we moved to Bali with only 4 bags. Simplifying our life made more room for the indulgences we now call “Life”, like savoring an afternoon gelato in the shade of palm trees or being able to move more easily. We more free than we ever were!

  11. Cheryl says

    I just loved this one! I read your column daily but this is one spoke to me. I can’t wait to be debt free and enjoy this lifestyle.

  12. says

    When I finally became totally debt free it was also anti climatic for me too.

    But today, I get up, take the dogs for a walk, then play tennis, then swimming. The steps you do before pay dividends the rest of your life.

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