For this first blog post, it seemed appropriate to talk about a first step on a journey towards freedom. “Towards” is important, because you can always keep moving, and do not need a fixed destination, and you don’t need to get there immediately.
First, you need to figure out where you are now.
A basic freedom factor is your approach to material possessions.
Possessions can be minimal necessities, for survival. They can be tools. They can enhance your enjoyment of life.
But they can also weigh you down. The sheer physical burden of your “stuff” can reduce your freedom, limit your options, narrow your horizons.
Your “stuff” may feel like wealth. But you must pay to buy it. Pay to repair or replace it. Pay to store it. Pay to move it.
Not only do you pay in money, but you also pay in time, energy, mental worry.
To know where you stand, you need an inventory.
This is a middle ground. You don’t need an exact list of every item you own, but you also don’t want one big “miscellaneous” category.
Get in touch with your stuff, and how it affects your freedom, and your future.
There are choices with your inventory, but you don’t need to think so hard that you procrastinate. You also don’t need to write it all in one session. The main thing is to start.
Your inventory can be anything from a paper-and-pencil list, to a complex database.
I currently just use a simple spreadsheet document. This works with Excel, or with Open Office.
Let’s go along from left to right.
The Item field can be a single item, if you have just that one copy. For example, one printer, or one jacket.
An item with multiple copies can be a on single line. For example, I have five identical t-shirts, so that is just one line. Seven identical turtlenecks go together on another line.
The Item field can cover a few related items, that can all go together in one small physical box. For example, a box of desk supplies, or a box of computer cables, or a box of financial records. Just make sure that it is a reasonable unit, that can pack into one physical container.
The items for this inventory are semi-permanent things in your life. You don’t need to count any consumables, like food, toilet paper, etc.
Next, use categories. Some possibilities are:
Records / Archives
Come up with your own categories, but try to avoid “Miscellaneous”.
This is just a few words of description, like colour, quantity (for multiples), make/model, and so forth. In some cases, you might include price and date purchased, so you understand your investment.
Next, we have some fields more relevant to your freedom. Specifically, your Personal Geography.
Let’s define “local” as being the longest distance that you would be willing or able to do a daily commute from your residence, to a job or to university. If you could keep the same job or school situation after moving, then that is local.
This can be influenced by whether you have access to a car, or are relying on public transport, or are paying for help.
Even a short distance move could be fairly expensive, if you took a house-full of large, heavy items. It can also be fairly time-consuming and stressful.
My own “local” moves have ranged from a couple of blocks down the street, up to about 50 kilometres (or 30 miles).
This category is where we get into how much you value this “stuff”.
Is this item worth the hassle and expense of moving it across town?
When you are looking for a new apartment, does your “stuff” require a bigger place, with higher rent?
Has this item been stashed in the back of the closet in your old apartment for a few years, without being used? Are you going to endure hassle and expense to move it, and then stash it, still never used, in your new place?
You don’t need any final decisions until you actually move. But it is important to at least get an idea of this now.
For my own Freedom, I have decided that, “Move Local” shall be limited to an amount that I can shift in a single day, with a maximum of two taxicab rides. But I am working on even less hassle and expense than that. With a car, I would still limit it to two trips.
Your mileage (and Freedom) may vary. Your Freedom, Your Choices.
The expense and hassle are much, much greater when you move to a new city.
My own City moves have ranged from about 150 kilometres (or 90 miles), by bus, to much longer distances with a car, all the way to an intercontinental move with airplane luggage plus boxes of “stuff” shipped by Postal Service.
For my own Freedom, I have decided that, “Move City” shall be limited to an amount that I can take in luggage for a single trip, via bus, train, or airplane. Even with a car, I would stay with a similar amount, to avoid being overloaded.
Your mileage (and Freedom) may vary. Your Freedom, Your Choices.
This category relates to information.
A beautiful thing about the modern computer age is that, a large, heavy box of papers, can be converted into small, light data on a computer disk or hard drive.
I still have some old paper documents, so those boxes go onto my inventory.
The Archive plan is to organise and scan these into electronic format. They will go onto disk, and I will shred the originals.
I will talk more about scanning in a future article.
This category is more immediate.
It is about that “stuff” that you haven’t used in awhile. “Stuff” in the back of the closet, on the shelf, in the kitchen cupboard, in the garage, etc.
On your inventory, this field just gets a “Yes”, “No”, or “?”
The boxes of old clothing, or kitchen utensils, or school lecture notes, and so forth. Each box of this “stuff” gets a line on the inventory.
Culling means sorting through unused “stuff” with the aim simply throw out anything that is of zero use to you, personally.
“Yes” in this field means that your plan is to sort through, physically touch, and really consider if you would be more free just tossing this item now.
ONE YEAR USE
This relates to “CULL”.
Some items are seasonal, like clothing, or sports gear. You can go months without using it, but then, it becomes a daily item.
If you are not sure about something (whether clothing or any other item), see if you can remember the last time you used it.
Or, for long term, stick a label on it, and note in this field of your inventory, with the date that you last used the item.
Is this item seasonal, like clothing that you would only wear in the winter?
Or is this item something that you bring out every couple of months?
Or is this item something that you haven’t used for years and years, just stashed in the closet? Taking up space, and hassle/expense when you move it?
This category does NOT mean, “Stuff I WANT to put into storage, and pay lots of money and hassle to keep there”.
This is about any storage situation that you already have.
This can be about a self-storage unit that you are already renting.
This can be about those boxes you stashed in a friend’s garage, the last time you Moved City.
Storage (especially paid storage) can last on and on. It can cost a lot in money, hassle, and worry. It can become a trap.
You need to inventory everything in your storage space, and think about whether it is worth the money and hassle. Include every box and item on your inventory.
I will talk about storage more in a future post.
You don’t need to do this project completely or perfectly right now. As with this blog, the important thing is to just get started. Hopefully, you will feel the same sense of progress that I feel now.