Monday, December 6, 2010

On Minimalism

As I approach the end of my graduate school career, I am forced with the decision of what to do with all of my stuff. As soon as I finish, I won't have any kind of permanent place to live for a while, so this means I need to get my stuff down to the essentials.

I have lived pretty simply the past few years, so compared to most people, my room is pretty empty. Nonetheless, I still have a lot of stuff to get rid of. Over the past year or so, I have sold and given away a ton of stuff, especially books and video games.  However, I have mostly restricted myself to selling things which still have fairly high market price and could get a reasonable percentage of what I paid for the item or gave away items to friends who I knew would get value of of the item. This type of downsizing is pretty easy to do from a psychological perspective. But what about all of the other stuff?

I still have a good amount of media items, especially video games, DVD's, and books. I have sold off all the high value video games and books and almost all DVD's are not worth much today due to Blu-ray and digital downloads replacing them. However, they still have a perceived value to me. In particular, some of the video games, which have sub-$10 market value, I really, truly enjoyed. It is even possible I would want to play them again someday.

I can't deny that it seems like such a shame to let go of something which I paid upwards of $60 for for about $6 (In practice, it is hard to even get the market value for a game as online resellers like or have somewhat hefty fees to post as well as shipping costs). It is fair to say I have a certain attachment to some of the media I have. Some things just feel like they shouldn't be given away for free or such a small price.

It is no problem to leave behind or donate clothes or shoes which cost much more than certain media items. I think this is probably because, while a used media item is essentially exactly the same as a new one, this is not the case for clothes or shoes. Also, it just seems easier to not get attached to these items.

Nonetheless, as I continue to get more and more ruthless with the things I get rid of, I am faced with some tough decisions. Some things are sentimental and some things just feel like they should have some value. Sometimes, the decisions themselves end up consuming a lot of time or energy. The challenge, then, is to not only get to the point where you can disconnect the original price paid from the current price you can sell it at, but also be to calculate the likelihood that will want or care about that item again at some point in the future. There is also the fear, that perhaps, some things are just irreplaceable.

In reality, this calculation is probably easier than it seems, and almost definitely less expensive. Almost everything I have gotten rid of, I have never missed. Additionally, if I did miss it, I could always buy it back (this has only happened once or twice). This is typically really easy and cheap to do for video games, books, and other media items. The slight discrepancy between price sold for and price repaid for is probably offset by the money made by all the other things you sold. There is also the additional benefit of just having less things and living more minimalist.

I am currently faced with the decision of selling 12 xbox 360 video games for $80. They probably cost me around $600 or so and some of them I truly enjoyed. My Xbox 360 no longer works (just type "RROD" into Google) so, in practice, I cannot even play them anymore unless I buy a new Xbox 360, which I am not going to do.  A perfectly rational person might say that I am getting $80 more than what their current value to me is (i.e. $0). I think this is probably true, but I can't deny there are some painful moments as I approach a truly minimalistic lifestyle.

I still have a long way to go before I get to the point where I really feel like I am down to the essentials. It may be a tough journey, but I think it will be worth it. When I finally get to the point that everything I own can be carried by me and me alone, I think I will have a feeling of true freedom, and I can't wait!

1 comment:

cspice said...

When it comes to video games and other mass-market products, it help to think of your actual risk as the difference between sale price and re-purchase price. Since you can easily repurchase the games anytime in the near future, you aren't really risking too much.