Buying These “Useful” Things Is Not Worth Your Time Or Money
Bed, books and beyond
I’m not Dave Ramsey, Tony Robbins, or your usual minimalist.
But I am someone who’s careful about not accepting the opinions of the masses.
The older I grow, the more I realize what’s important in life. And funny things happen when you come to such realizations — all the unimportant things start to fade away, one at a time.
As Mark Manson says, you can only give a f*ck about so many things.
The past year has changed my outlook on the world. I started looking differently at success, spirituality, and materialism. The more skeptical I became, the more myths I uncovered.
As a better person than I was a year earlier, here are some things I’d never own/buy/use again in my life.
Watching TV is a fundamental activity society pushed me into for as long as I can remember.
Bruno S.Freya, Christine Benescha, and AloisStutzerb at the University of Zurich came out with a popular paper — Does Watching TV Make Us Happy?
Most people believe TV provides them with considerable utility — so much so that they’re willing to watch it for the same amount of time as they work every day. But this conclusion is highly flawed.
Your evaluations distort your consumption decisions — no matter how rational they seem. For example, a person addicted to drugs thinks he finds utility in its consumption but it’s actually harmful in reality. Similarly, many people watch TV more than is good for them without knowing the damage.
The theory of Flow also plays a huge role here. It argues that people are much happier when the tasks they perform are challenging. This is in direct contrast to watching TV — there’s no challenge, and it becomes a passive activity making it less enjoyable than we think it is.
Here’s what the team says to conclude their research
We find that heavy TV viewers report lower satisfaction with their financial situation, place more importance on affluence, feel less safe, trust others less, and think that they are involved less in social activities than their peers. The effects themselves can explain about half of the negative correlation between TV consumption and life satisfaction.
And this does not even take into account the increased stress levels, lower sleep quality, and poor concentration that comes with watching TV.
It’s clear we should not only reduce it but cut it out from our lives immediately.
I was born in 1999 and so there was hardly any time I spent without the Internet, let alone a TV. It was our default entertainment option.
And so one of the best things I’ve done this year is not watching TV or Netflix for the past three months. From experience, it was hard. I came up with hundreds of excuses like:
Sometimes I just want to “Netflix and Chill”
What if I want to watch documentaries?
How will I know about new shows that my friends talk about
It was tough work, but I replaced my bad habits with walking, reading, or meditation. I never really cared about what my friends watched and it also gave me a zen-like reputation in my friend circle.
And ah! Documentaries. Classic “just-in-case” example. I decided if I want to watch a documentary, I’ll borrow Netflix from a friend and then log out as soon as I’m done watching. Limiting your usage is about being intentional. By deciding what to watch before-hand, you don’t fall into the hands of algorithms designed to grab your attention for hours.
I tried a hundred different ways to change my habits — putting uncomfortable chairs in front of the TV, remove it from the wall, block Netflix on my computer, and so on. But the only solution for me was going cold-turkey. And I think it might work for you as well.
I have nothing against beds. I’ve slept on beds since I was born. But there’s evidence to prove that this in fact may be harmful in the long-run.
Katy Bowman, with her specialization in biomechanics and movement, says we’ve become too soft. Sitting on chairs, cushions, and similar surfaces all day long.
It locks your body into specific postures you can’t move out of. “This prohibits the natural turning your body undergoes overnight. The aches and pains most people suffer after waking up are due to not moving for hours,” Katy says.
“By sleeping without a mattress, you’ll strengthen tiny muscles that build over time. You’re putting pressure on your body parts. It’s like a massage all night.” She calls this “dynamic rest.”
Dr. Jeffrey Goldstein, a spinal surgeon at NYU Langone Medical Center, explains, that there’s no concrete scientific evidence that favors sleeping on the bed. But he also says, “Sleep’s very personal, and even a soft mattress has support. As long as it’s not like a marshmallow, with lumps and bumps, any flat surface is good.”
To ease the transition, I switched to a hard mattress (which, by the way, made it difficult to sleep on soft hotel beds). Over time I plan to ditch the bed completely to live a more minimalist life. If I still miss the softness, I can buy a nice Shikibuton to put on the floor.
On a personal level, leaving the bed appeals to me as it makes more room for other things in life. My room originally was designed for me and my sister to live in when we were younger. Now it’s just me.
With two beds, a sofa, and two desks (one for both of us) the room which is otherwise spacious, becomes cluttered. There’s hardly any space for me to move around.
Photo by the author — The two beds in my room
In addition to that, my parents bought beds that have storage spaces inside. As you see in the picture above, the height of the beds from the floor until below the mattress is all meant for storage.
I don’t know what kind of crap is inside them. It’s a junk treasure I don’t want to open. It also makes it difficult for me to clean the floor — who knows what’s beneath the bed? I certainly don’t.
This one doesn’t need an explanation. Clothes are an unnecessary drag on your life. The one thing I hate about going out is deciding what to wear and the decision fatigue that comes along with it.
Over time I’ve donated most of my clothes and given all sorts of excuses to my parents as to why they wouldn’t work for me. To reduce the inflow of new items, I’ve strictly told all my relatives to never gift me clothes. If they really feel compelled, they can give me an Amazon gift card (which I’ll probably spend on books).
Out of the clothes left after donating, I paired down even further. I aimed to fit all my clothes into a drawer and a small column in my cupboard. Rest I folded and put away for eternity. Just because I own those clothes doesn’t mean I have to wear them.
Photo by the author — the only clothes that qualified for the drawer and space above
The reason is simple — I no longer have to think about what I have to wear. I don’t have to look in multiple cupboards to put together an outfit. I can close my eyes, pick something to wear and it works perfectly.
Another reason it works is I can prove it to my parents that the extra clothes don’t provide any value and I can live happily without them.
Side note: While I’d love the cliche minimalist wardrobe of 12 pairs of the same outfit, there’s still time for me to reach that level.
Yesterday I bought a Samsung Galaxy phone for almost $230. I’d used my previous phone for three years and was sick of getting it repaired multiple times. This time when its display stopped working, I exchanged it for a new one.
When I told my friends I’d ordered a Samsung, one of them started preaching me on the benefits of an iPhone. I politely explained to him my reason for never purchasing a phone as expensive as that. All the features that come with the iPhone are more or less present in Samsung — face unlock, dark modes, whatever.
All I cared about was a good battery life (6000 mAh), a good camera, and a good RAM (8 GB). I got all of it for a quarter of the price of an iPhone.
I love Apple products. After all, I’m writing this on a MacBook Pro. But my love is within the bounds of logic. My love for Apple isn’t unconditional. At the end of the day, it’s about being intentional. I don’t need a thousand-dollar phone to look good for a week and then become obsolete in a few months.
The rapid changes in features make any phone redundant in a year at most. There’s no use of paying 4x the price for a mere 5% improvement.
I love books and I love reading. After all, writers can’t live without reading.
But what I love even more is space. Over the years, I’ve come to not like the feeling of owning stuff and let it clutter around.
I was a book hoarder and I’ve not recovered fully. It didn’t take my buying habits to go to the extreme. And Amazon’s one-click button wasn’t helping either.
As a result, I ended up with tons of books on the shelf. The more books I ordered, the more anxiety I had. The rush of finishing the books never let me focus completely on one at a time. I would try to “speed-read” everything and forget it a few days later.
Large bookshelves also meant long guilt trips. The guilt of not finishing and not working hard enough to find the time to finish the books
All this convinced me to try Kindle. But I didn’t want to spend any money on buying the device. As fate has it, I soon won an iPad in a business plan competition on which I read most books. Apart from Kindle ebooks, I can download free PDFs from the internet and read on the Kindle app.
The ability to highlight and take notes is great. And the fact they’re already digitized makes it easier for me to pick a topic and write about it.
I gave away some of the books I already had on LinkedIn to anyone who wanted and could pay for shipping.
I never thought I’d say this, but the empty bookshelf does look great. There’s great relief in pairing down the bookshelf rather than filling it up.
Things I’m skeptical about
There are some things which are not as black and white as they seem, at least for me. While these things don’t necessarily trouble me right now, they would turn into crucial decisions as I grow older.
I know nothing about buying a home. I don’t have the cash to buy a home. But as far as I’ve seen, the numbers don’t make sense. This isn’t to say that owning a home cannot be a great investment, but most people often don’t logically make the right choice.
They buy into the American dream — and by the way, it’s not only the American dream, it happens here in India as well. As if buying a home or a car is a magical achievement for which God himself should come down to you and give you a blessing.
The inflation, taxes, fixes, maintenance, and most of all stress make me question the worth of buying than renting. While I think the explanation by Grant Cardone sounds like a conspiracy theory, it makes some sense— that is, banks have created this notion around the necessity of a house to give out loans to people and earn interest.
It sounds untrue, but most people don’t even realize that not owning a home is a possibility.
“The Times They Are A-Changin’ ” — Bob Dylan
We’re not moving towards an ownership economy — it’s more of a sharing or even an access economy as James Altucher calls it. You pay to get access to things — a place to live, food to eat, clothes to wear, transportation, and many other things. And in such environments, the best option is to be aware of your biases and challenge them to change for the better.
As a 21-yr old in an urban city like New Delhi where public transportation is abundant, there’s little reason to own a car.
The second best option is taking a cab with Uber or Ola (another ride-sharing company in India). While it can be a hit to your pocket, it’ll not be as bad as buying a car.
But there’s a reason I’m skeptical about it. My parents have not always had a car but they bought one when I was pretty young.
I spent most of my childhood riding in a car. And for that reason, I’ve not directly seen people in their 30s or 40s live without a car. While I’m certain it’s possible, I still have to experiment a lot with this.
It depends on a lot of factors and anyone who tells you decisions like buying a car or a home are black and white, is lying. The best thing is to run the numbers and be honest with yourself about your needs and financial situation.
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