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#1: How I came to own less

By 2022-11-17May 12th, 2023No Comments

This is the first issue of the Freedom Letter. My feeling tells me that Friday will be the day on which I will send it. Freedom Friday? Fridays for Freedom? I hope, it doesn’t remind you too much of TGIF – “thank God it’s Friday.” Because if you’ve been longing for the end of your five working days all week, then you should seriously start looking for real freedom!

This is my conviction and my dream: that everyone finds their own freedom, whether they are employees or entrepreneurs, students or retired. Freedom does not mean doing or not doing a certain thing. Freedom is a feeling, a mindset, a way of life!

First of all, I have a very special request for everyone who saw me on stage at LEBE MUTIG last weekend. If you liked my performance, write a testimonial. Just reply to this email and tell me what you liked about the keynote or what happened to you as a result. Feel free to add your name, occupation, company etc., this gives the testimonial more weight when it is published. If you didn’t like the presentation, I would also be happy to receive your feedback and constructive criticism.

After the weekend in Munich, I drove to friends whom I met in the Taunus two decades ago and who now live in Austria. They are among those who were a role model for me when I wanted to build a nice, big house. My idea had always been to build a retreat in the country as a counterbalance to the professional jet set life in the big cities of the world – a place I don’t have to leave. I would have everything I wanted: lots of space, a kitchen that some restaurants could envy me for, a small spa with sauna and jacuzzi, a large garden with lots of edible fruit and vegetables, even a little gym (which was supposed to become a home cinema).

These were things that I had seen others do and wanted to do as well. I thought they would make me happy. As it turned out, the project would lead to the opposite. The stress of five years of planning and construction, after which everything was far from finished, permanently damaged my relationship at that time. In talking to the woman who put up with it, we repeatedly agreed that we had more fun and better enjoyed life in the simple and really not-so-great rental apartment than in the high-quality, luxurious house.

In general, looking back, I recently found that a would-be better living situation – a house instead of an apartment, owning instead of renting, upscale residential area instead of ghetto – had no significant influence on my perceived happiness. Admittedly, the neighborhood in my first student apartment was really catastrophic and I should have moved much earlier. In all other places of residence, other things played a much greater role than the living space itself: the possibilities for leisure activities, social contacts, the relationship between benefits and responsibilities.

These are the main reasons for my decision to downsize massively. When your whole life revolves around working for what you own, even the biggest dream job becomes an obligation. Your things own you! So it was only logical for me that decluttering would be the very first letter of my ABC of Freedom. As I write these lines, I look around at my friends’ possessions and am certain that there are more things in the hallway alone than I own in total. As long as it makes you happy, that’s totally fine. But sometimes I discern doubts even from them about the value of so much stuff.

Perhaps you have heard that perceived happiness no longer increases above an annual income of around $50,000. I can confirm and I’m convinced that the limit is now even lower for me. You need so little and most of it costs nothing or not much. Life doesn’t get better with more, only different! If you’re not happy with few possessions, you won’t be happy with a lot. And certainly not free!

Breaking free from an ownership mindset and from wanting more has brought me so much calm and serenity, significantly reducing the stress in my life and giving me a much greater sense of freedom. In a few days, every reader of this newsletter will receive my eBook The ABC of Freedom. The first chapter is about how you too can enjoy the benefits of decluttering. I hope you’re excited about it and in the meantime, send me your thoughts on “less is more.”


Yours, Ulrich

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