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Downsizing is freedom

Txt from my brother: Hey you wanna stop using your last name in your radio interviews I'm getting people texting me about why my brother wants to live in a closet

When my brother sent this text, I realized that I skip over the reasons for downsizing too blithely. People are missing the point. One doesn’t live small just for the sake of living small. This is not merely an expression of claustrophilia… it is a means towards an end. Let us explore one of the reasons by asking a simple question:

Why do you work?

The “average” Canadian’s monthly expenses probably include: 1) payments towards the mortgage; 2) car payments; 3) a smartphone contract; and 4) student loans. Debt, debt, debt, and debt. Add all those together and you get a pretty high barrier to economic freedom. In 2015 household debt in Canada rose to 171%, the highest ever.

Working simply to service debt is far too common; our economic system is biased towards this outcome. The only way to break free is to stack up so many economic resources that you can simply step over the wall to freedom. This usually ends up taking up most of your life, dooming the best years to the proverbial “rat race.” But there is another way: you could refuse to stack up your prison walls in the first place.

Downsizing is a means to economic freedom

Graham Hill, in his TED Talk Less Stuff, More Happiness mentions that by buying an apartment just 180ft² smaller he saved $200,000. Last week I pointed out that just owning a car costs $10K a year. Those types of numbers go pretty far in having a happy life. Having never owned a car I have probably saved something like $300,000 over the past 20 years of my driving life. Sure it was inconvenient a few times, but thanks to the economic freedom I have traveled from Japan to Iran, from southern Thailand to the border of Tajikistan.

By downsizing — cutting out debt and minimizing your expenses — you are lowering the barriers to economic freedom. Thinking about minimalism gives you the opportunity to find out what your actual minimal economic baseline is, rather than accepting the “received wisdom” of what our finance-driven culture says it should be.

Once you have determined what your true baseline is, you can start to more effectively plan your work-life balance. You will have more time to write that novel, more time to volunteer, more time to spend with your family and do all the things that you love. Plus you will feel good for all the positive environmental and social effects of downsizing.

Downsizing is not a contest about who can live in the smallest closet — it is a methodology for taking back control of your life. It is simply a means to an end, and that end is freedom.

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