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.
Image: Markus Almond