“Manifest plainness, embrace simplicity, reduce selfishness, have few desires.” – Lao Tzu

When we left off on Friday, I said, “Just a few weeks ago, my wife and I decided that something need to change, because we didn’t want to live that way. [And what I meant by “that way,” was the way our friends Chuck and Laura were living.] We came up with a plan and have already started fixing the problem.”

Here’s what happened . . .

It was Saturday morning at breakfast. Patty and I had come to the realization that our life was getting way too complicated . . . starting with the “stuff” that was piling up. The closets were full . . . all kinds of bric-a-brac everywhere. We figured our house looked the way Chuck and Laura’s house probably looked a few years ago. That was an unsettling thought.

We knew that we had to simplify, but hadn’t yet come up with much of a plan to do so. That’s what we hoped to accomplish over the weekend.

But before tackling this major issue, we engaged in some minor small talk. And that’s when I made the mistake of mentioning that I wanted to renew my basketball season tickets. Understand that this is something that is important to me — one of the ways I promised to reward myself for working so hard. My mistake was that I’d “forgotten” to mention it to my wife sooner, and it didn’t get added to our budget when we set our yearly goals. Now payment was nearly due, and that’s when the crap hit the fan.

“You want to spend HOW MUCH?!” was my wife’s vociferous, but fair, reaction.

So it wasn’t a good start to the weekend. I’d probably picked a bad time to bring up the subject in the first place. We weren’t exactly looking forward to the effort that was going to be involved in “simplifying our life.”

But then I got an idea.

“Suppose those basketball tickets don’t cost us anything? Then it wouldn’t be a problem, right? I can sell a lot of this old stuff. And whatever I make, I can put toward the tickets. We were going to throw out half of it anyway.”

“If it gets this mess cleared up, it’ll be fine with me.”

So it was settled. I set some goals. I would do one room at a time, one each weekend. Anything we hadn’t used recently or that had no sentimental value was fair game. Big items would go to charity or a yard sale. Other things, I’d put up on eBay. I decided on a certain amount of money that I wanted to make each week.

That was about a month ago. The plan is working. By linking the unpleasant task of clearing out old junk to the reward of my tickets, I’ve become highly motivated.

We’ve already gotten rid of:

* last year’s cell phones

* reference books from an old hobby or two

* an awful but fairly valuable poster (temporary insanity– bought in New Orleans)

* various obsolete (to me) electronic gizmos

* about half a dozen horrible gifts, too tasteless to even pass on to distant acquaintances

Now my wife is getting ready for the yard sale we’re going to have in a few weeks. We’re going to take advantage of some good tips that she picked up from a radio program the other day: Only put out decent stuff, not garbage . . . sort things by category and set up separate areas (clothing, kitchen, toys, etc) . . . buy some donuts and offer them free to the first people who show up (“Free donuts, while they last!”).

Meanwhile, as a result of the eBay sales, our shelves are already starting to empty. Space is reappearing that we haven’t seen in years. My wife is delighted.

My basketball account rep called the other day to say my tickets would soon be on the way. I am delighted.

Having an emptier house gives it a lighter, fresher feeling. It almost seems to have more energy. Chuck and Laura will be down this winter to visit us. Maybe they’ll be inspired to make some changes themselves after they see our new, simpler life.

Charlie Byrne

Charlie Byrne is a former Senior Copywriter and Editorial Director for Early to Rise. Charlie spent the earlier part of his business career as a systems analyst, project manager and consultant in New York City for Fortune 100 companies including Philip Morris, Digital Equipment, and Citicorp as well as New York University and Columbia University. He then spent over ten years at Reuters Ltd and Interealty Corp designing and implementing financial, real estate and news information services. In 2003, he joined Early to Rise as a senior editor and copywriter. Since then he has helped publish over 1000 editions of ETR, resulting in gross revenues of well over $25 million. He has also produced dozens of winning sales letters and promotions, including two that brought in over $200,000 in under 24 hours, another two that have grossed over $1 million each, and a single sales letter that sold 25 units of a $10,000 product.