Every September of my elementary school years, I and my classmates were taken to an assembly where we were told of an exciting business opportunity. Simply by selling candy bars to our family, friends and neighbors, we could win exciting prizes-- prizes that we apparently did not realize were available at just about any dollar store for a few bucks.
Nevertheless, motivated by the prospect of whatever prize level I thought was achievable, I would walk around the neighborhood, knocking on doors, hawking $1 World’s Finest Chocolate candy bars, with a $2 pizza coupon on the wrapper (it’s like I’m giving YOU money). The highlight of this experience was that occasionally someone would give me an extra dollar and tell me to buy myself a candy bar, which made it all worth it.
Year after year of candy bar sales--smelling that sweet combination of chocolate and cardboard box-- eventually created in me an overwhelming desire to someday have a whole case of candy bars to myself. This fantasy went unfulfilled for years--decades even-- until recently.
While browsing the wares at my alma mater’s annual silent auction, I came across an unopened box of the very candy I used to faithfully sell, though the bars--and box--are much smaller due to inflation.
Seizing the opportunity, I wrote down my bid, significantly upping the previous high bid to discourage the competition, and moved on.
There were actually two reasons I bid on the chocolate, with the first and primary one being nostalgia. But the second reason was something my wife said to me as I was leaving for the auction. Though she did not tell me specifically to buy a bunch of chocolate, she did request that I not buy anything that wasn’t a consumable.
Recently, we have been focused on eliminating stuff from our house and our lives. Since moving from an apartment to a house 8 years ago, boxes, bins and bags of things have somehow crawled into our home and filled empty bedrooms, the basement, attic, garage, and shed. Much of the stuff has been forgotten, and most has gone unused for years. So we’re getting rid of it.
While the documentary, Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things, did serve as a catalyst and inspiration for this process, I would not in any way consider ourselves minimalists. It simply provided a valuable reminder that the things that matter most are not things, they are people and experiences, and having lots of unimportant things can distract from the important things.
It can be difficult at first to get rid of a gift or an item with sentimental value, even if you haven’t looked at it in a decade. Additionally, you may try to justify keeping something you purchased years ago but have never used. But the more you minimize, the easier it becomes.
And while the motivation for this process is not financial, there are certainly financial benefits. If we are not spending money on non-consumable items that may go unused or be thrown out eventually, more resources will be available for experiences, giving and saving.
I ended up winning that box of chocolate for $41 (almost 33% off retail value).. But sadly, being an adult, the prospect of a whole box of chocolate to myself is not as exciting as it was as a child. Surprisingly, I have tasted better chocolate than the World’s Finest Chocolate. And I’ve only eaten 1.5 candy bars in the week since I picked it up, mainly because I’m moderately health-conscious.
Nevertheless, I made elementary school "me" proud, and honored my wife’s instruction. She’ll end up using most of it to make ice cream anyway.
We’re already enjoying the benefits of less clutter in our home--primarily from minimizing our kids’ toys--even though we’ve lost the use of our front porch where we are storing everything to be donated. I think we need a box truck.