The things you own are a distraction to getting started on the right path. The key to getting — and staying — organized is to look beyond the stuff and imagine the life you could be living.

Notes and highlights from It’s All Too Much by Peter Walsh

It’s All Too Much by Peter Walsh

Imagine the life you want to live

“The things you own are a distraction to getting started on the right path. The key to getting — and staying — organized is to look beyond the stuff and imagine the life you could be living.”

That’s the place to start—imagine the life you could be living. Don’t let past decisions lock you in. Every moment presents an opportunity for a new choice or to change your mind.

“The first task I give my clients, and the first challenge I want to present to you is: Imagine the life you want to live.”

On setting up your home

Presumably, you can control what’s in your home. Is there anything there that causes you stress? If so, can you do anything about it? Look at every space in your home and consider if matches with the vision for the life you want to live or if it gets in the way.

“No one should feel stressed out when they open the door to their own home. No one has to. Your home is within your control. It should be the place where you escape all negative forces in the world. Your home should be the antidote to stress, not the cause.”

“Does this house look the way I want it to look? Does this house feel like a home to me? How do I feel when I come home to this place? How do I want to feel when I come home to this place?”

“The single most important factor in deciding what you should have in your home is now clear: Does this item enhance and advance the vision I have for the life I want or does it impede that vision? This is the only question you should ask yourself when looking at the clutter that fills your home.”

“So think about your house. Does each room serve its intended purpose? Is each piece of furniture, countertop, or appliance used to do what it was designed to do? If the answer is no, it’s time to rethink your use of each space.”

How to deal with clutter

Look at every item in your home—from kitchen gadgets to clothes. Evaluate if it’s worth keeping. Does it support your vision? Does it get in the way? Do you feel good when you wear the clothes in your closet? If not, eliminate it now. Don’t settle.

“Ask yourself these questions as you encounter each piece of clutter: Do I use this? How long has it been since I’ve used it? Will I use it again? Is it worth the space it takes up in my house?”

“You should only have clothes in your closet that: you love fit you well now make you feel good when you wear them people compliment you on when you wear them.”

Keep all horizontal surfaces clear
The way you feel about a space is set the moment you step into it. Set the mood for an efficient workspace and keep your office uncluttered by ensuring that any desk surface, countertop, or table is kept clear of paperwork and clutter. If you don’t start piles, they can’t grow.”

Junk mail is your enemy!
Imagine there is a knock at your door. You open the door to see a man with a can of spray paint in his hand. Do you: a) invite him in, or b) slam the door in his face? This is how you should think of junk mail! It’s an intruder waiting to get inside and wreak havoc.”

After decluttering

Control the in/out. When you bring something new into your home, what can you remove? Buy a new toy, get rid of one. Consider cost versus space. Something that takes up a lot of room costs you more. Spend More time deciding to buy bigger items. When you decide not to buy, put that money into an experience fund. Something fun you/your family can look forward to and pay for with the money saved.

“Now that your home is the way you want it, for everything that comes into your home, something must go. The thing that goes must either be the same type as the new item or take up the same amount of room.”

Experience fund:
Every time you stop yourself from making a spontaneous purchase, put the money that you would have spent in a special account called your “experience fund.”

“Pick an experience that your whole household can look forward to — a trip to Paris, the beach, Disneyland, etc. If your child asks for a toy at the store, you can do the same thing. Say, “This toy costs nine dollars and ninety-nine cents. Let’s put that in the Disneyland fund instead.””

It’s All Too Much by Peter Walsh

 

Overhead photo of a golf course

5 Tips for Playing Frugal Golf

Golf is an expensive hobby, but it’s possible to play frugal golf. I mostly gave up on playing anymore when I started my how to get out of debt plan. However, I miss the game and decided that cutting out something I enjoy to save money isn’t always a wise thing to do (assuming it wasn’t financially impossible for me to keep playing, which it wasn’t). So I started playing again, but I’m doing so with a budget and I’m making an effort to stretch my golf dollars farther than before.

If you’re interested in the details, I’m starting with a budget of $50 per month. This is enough for about 2-3 (inexpensive) rounds and some practice time.

Spend more practice time on your short game than the long game:
According to Dr. Bob Rotella, “If you’re not spending 70 percent of your practice time on shots from 120 yards in, you’re not trying to become the best golfer you can be.” [Golf is Not a Game of Perfect, pg 88]. Not only will more short game practice save you money, but it’s the best way to improve your scoring.

Use old balls found on the course for practice:
During any normal round you’re going to come across lost balls. If I’m certain no one around has played the ball and it’s not badly damaged I’ll pick up as many as I can. I don’t generally use these balls to play, but I save them for the shag bag and use them on the practice greens. This is a great way to keep your supply of practice balls without spending extra money.

Buy a ball retriever.
I used to think ball retrievers were a bit silly, but with many balls costing $3 – $4 each, it can quickly pay for itself. The best part is, a ball lost in the water may have only been hit once so you’ll often find balls that are essentially brand new. I also find that the golfers playing the most expensive balls are the least likely to bother to retrieve them from a lake. The better the course you play, the higher quality you’ll tend to find.

Check for tee times on GolfNow.com, but give the course a call too.
Golf Now is sort of like an Expedia or Travelocity for golf. It acts as the middleman helping golf courses sell open tee times and you benefit by getting a reduced rate. I find rates are almost always cheaper on Golf Now, but not 100% of the time. To be really sure you’re getting the best deal, you might want to give the course a call before you book on Golf Now.

Play during off-peak hours.
For me, playing in Tucson, AZ, off-season is about May – September and the cheapest tee times are to be had in the afternoon. Of course, that means playing in 100 – 110 degree heat, but as they like to say, ‘it’s a dry heat’. As long as I stay hydrated and wear sunscreen, I really don’t have much problem playing in the heat here at all. I’ve suffered much more playing golf in the summer in San Antonio, TX (think 90 degrees with 90% humidity). I recently played a course that costs as much as $170 per round during peak season for only $35. The course is still as beautiful and challenging as ever, I just had to suffer through the heat to enjoy it. 🙂

In summary, don’t make the mistake that I made and give up on golf (or whatever your favorite hobby may be) because of the cost, if it’s something you truly enjoy. It’s possible to find a middle ground and approach your hobby in a wise and frugal manner. Value can be found, you just have to work a little harder to find it. In the end, I’m much happier to be out playing frugal golf within my budget.

Photo of large fast food hamburger

Two Reasons Why We Get Fat

I’m re-reading the excellent Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It, by Gary Taubes and will be sharing lots of my notes and highlights.

So let’s get right to the good stuff. While there will be outliers and complications, the truth is that most of us get fat for two simple reasons:

  • when insulin levels are elevated, we accumulate fat in our fat tissue
  • our insulin levels are determined by the carbohydrates we eat

The more detailed explanation from Why We Get Fat (emphasis mine):

First, when insulin levels are elevated, we accumulate fat in our fat tissue; when these levels fall, we liberate fat from the fat tissue and burn it for fuel.

Second, our insulin levels are effectively determined by the carbohydrates we eat–not entirely, but for all intents and purposes. The more carbohydrates we eat, and the easier they are to digest and the sweeter they are, the more insulin we will ultimately secrete, meaning that the level of it in our bloodstream is greater and so is the fat we retain in our fat cells.

Carbohydrate is driving insulin is driving fat,” is how George Cahill, a former professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, recently described this to me.

So there you have it. Control your insulin levels and you can control your fat. Hopefully the book will cover how to control insulin levels in more detail (I bet it does).

If you haven’t read Why We Get Fat, do so now, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Simple Bank Review

I’m happy to report I finally get to try BankSimple, now just called Simple. I signed up for an invite back in March of 2010 and received one about two weeks ago (I believe they started the invite process near the end of 2011). Technically, Simple is not a bank — Simple partners with banks and becomes the friendly layer of customer service in between (we hope). While there is a distinction, for me as an end user it doesn’t really matter much.

Simple has yet to roll out all planned features, but I’m happy with what I’ve seen so far. I transferred a small amount of money to my account to give Simple a try. The transfer time was in line with what I’m used to with other banks. A few days later I received my Visa debit card in the mail. The packaging was nice — definitely had a human touch — and it reminded me a bit of FieldNotes brand packaging.

Simple debit card mailing

So far I’ve only used my card for a few small transactions around town and everything has gone smoothly. I’m primarily using the iPhone App to manage my account, and of course you can do it all on Simple’s website too.

Speaking of websites, I use Mint to manage my money. Unfortunately, Simple is not yet integrated with Mint. I added the account, but Mint says it’s in BETA and currently being worked on. That’s unfortunate, but I’m hopeful it won’t be long until it’s available.

As for the features still to come, there will be an Android app but that’s not out yet. Same for joint accounts and mobile check deposit.

If all continues to go well — and mobile check deposit works as expected — I just might make this my primary bank. At the very least, I expect Simple to replace the other ‘online’ banks I use.