Holding On – Just in Case

Last weekend my husband and I sold our twenty-year old Jeep. I placed an ad on Craigslist and the very first buyer fell in love with that old hunk of metal. A day later I received an envelope full of cash in exchange for the title and a set of keys.

I was sad to watch the new owner back out of the driveway. Who doesn’t love cruising around on a warm, sunny day with the top down? “Why did we sell it?,” I asked my husband even though I already knew the answer.

We stopped driving that car after my oldest son was born. It might have been a lot of fun before the kids arrived, but since then it’s been sitting idle and slowly rusting away.

In the past I would have panicked before selling a vehicle. The looming question, “What if I get rid of this and realize I need another?,” would have run on a loop in my head. When I lacked money I held on more tightly to the possessions I owned. I feared losing something I could never regain. It was tough to part with stuff, because I couldn’t afford to replace the items I gave away.

Why would I part with clothes just because they didn’t fit perfectly? Why would I donate furniture that was uncomfortable to sit in? Why would I get rid of anything if I might need it again some day? Clearing clutter felt like something rich people do. I couldn’t part with something I spent my hard earned money on.

So imagine my shock as I watched that old Jeep drive off into the distance without a sense of fear. I haven’t been strapped for cash in a very long time. In fact, I’ve been cleaning out the clutter for years now, but in that moment I had an epiphany. I am no longer afraid to purge my possessions.

For more than two decades my husband and I have lived below our means. We’ve also saved a significant portion of our salaries. And as crazy as it sounds we can now sell a car without worrying about buying another. If my husband or I need a replacement vehicle we can afford to purchase one.

What is the hidden value of financial freedom: The ability to live lightly. With money in my bank account I could purge just about every possession I own and not worry about purchasing replacements.

There are times when I’ve berated myself for forgetting to pack items I needed on vacation. Spend money to buy a swim suit, when a perfectly good one is sitting at home in a drawer, that’s crazy? Those thoughts were less about the failure to pack and more about the lack of funds necessary to buy something new. If I forget something now, I would still be super angry at myself, but I could go buy another one without feeling like I broke the bank to do so.

Now that we’ve reached financial independence we could actually take a trip without any luggage and buy whatever we needed once we arrived. Don’t get me wrong, this would feel like a complete waste of money and isn’t something I would want to do, but we could do it if I had to.

The realization that I could do this feels unbelievably freeing. Can you imagine leaving your house with nothing other than your wallet? No matter where you want to go the money in your wallet could get you there? There were times when I didn’t have enough money to pay for gas and now I have the money to replace an entire vehicle!

These days I want to live lightly. I want to own less stuff. I’m also very aware that this is a privilege.

Interestingly enough in all the years since I started purging I’ve never regretted giving something away. I am a minimalist at heart. Still a great peace of mind comes from realizing I could purchase everything again if I wanted to. It’s a feeling I never want to take for granted!

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